The Rapid Rate of Technological Change

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Robison Wells
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I bought my first flash drive when I was in college in 2002. It was amazing. At 32 megs, it could hold more data than 18 floppy disks. I bought it at the university bookstore for $200, and I carried it with me wherever I went. At that time I would never have dreamed that in fewer than five years, I would be given a 1 gig drive as a throwaway piece of free swag on a convention floor. And even then, after such massive growth in such a short period of time, I would never have dreamed that a decade later I’d have abandoned thumb almost drives entirely, and was now paying $10 a month to get 1 terabyte of memory with cloud-based Dropbox.

Technology is moving at break-neck speed. I recall that, when I was getting my MBA in 2007, one class required that we read the book The World is Flat, a business best-seller that was raved about by business executives and professors. It’s a book about globalization, the free spread of information, and how the world is changing rapidly. But despite the love for the book by my elders, I and my fellow students—all of us in our mid-to-late twenties—kinda shrugged our shoulders and said “Yeah. That’s obvious.” What was astounding to older generations was second-nature to us. That was ten years ago.

What do current business students think? A survey by the CEMS (the Community of European Management Schools and International Companies) reports that the rapid rate of technological advance is the biggest challenge facing business. Technological change earned 68% of the vote, easily beating out “economic and political power” and “climate change”.

“Graduates regard the most effective business leaders in the world to be technology innovators,” said Roland Siegers, CEMS executive director, “figures who are successful because they are able to harness rapid technological change and use it for social good, rather than seeing it as a hurdle.”

When I first entered the construction industry in 2003, working at a wholesale wood products company, we punched in with an antique, analog punch clock. Now, fourteen years later, employees can enter their time digitally from their phone. The world is changing. Let’s try to keep up.

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