You’ll have heard the term digital transformation many times, I’m sure. But what does it mean?
Let’s go back in time to explain the four recognised transformations society has undergone in recent history.
If you understand them individually it’ll help to explain what we’re experiencing now, and what you can do to both lead and learn from the rapid change society is experiencing.
The first transformation – Mechanisation: Understanding the power of steam (1780s)
The industrial revolution is considered to be the first significant transformation modern society experienced. It transformed the way products were made by harnessing the power of steam. Instead of human beings providing manual labour, machines, driven by steam, did.
Factories sprang up all over the country and the automation of manual activity meant machines replaced people. This had a huge impact on society, from where people lived to how they earned a living and even to how long they lived. The affect was total and virtually unavoidable.
The second transformation – Mass production: The arrival of electricity (1870 onwards)
While steam was a powerful source of energy, electricity increased the potential to produce 10 fold. It was reliable, safer and made machines work significantly faster. It brought mass production and made humans into parts of a machine by creating production lines.
People’s lives were significantly impacted by electricity: they could work longer hours in ‘artificial’ light and electrically powered devices were used in homes. The benefits were massive and the use of electricity grew rapidly.
The third transformation – Automation: Computers (1970s onwards)
In this phase what machinery could previously produce/count/store was automated and made increasingly more sophisticated. Computers rather than mechanisms or humans were now used to control the machines.
A computer was far more efficient at managing a process and made the human who used to do it, almost completely redundant.
This was a hugely disruptive era and the source of much anxiety for society as a whole. Computers were replacing humans, replacing factories and literally taking people’s ability to work and earn a living away from them.
The fourth transformation – Digital: Blurring the lines between nature and technology (2000 onwards)
The computers that were previously controlling the machines are now able to ‘think’; they have access to data in vast quantities, they’re more like us than ever before and are again changing the kinds of jobs we do.
The line between computer and human is blurring and computers make important decisions on our behalf. What we consider as natural is becoming harder to define, in this world everything is changing.
This isn’t something ‘digital people’ are doing, it’s not happening to some of us and not others, it’s something we’re all experiencing. It’s being driven by rapid exponential technological changes and impacts society universally.
What are you doing to manage Digital transformation?
There are many different approaches to digital transformation. It’s about changing the way you do things, disrupting your approach and looking for the extraordinary. It an opportunity for all of us.
So what do you need to do? Run for the hills (only with your Fitbit and GPS so we know where to find you :^))? No, this is about finding what you need and looking in different places for different ideas and solutions, expect the unexpected and just start.
- You might also like: Article: The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means, how to respond
- Video: The Fourth Industrial Revolution (11:35 mins)