The fourth industrial revolution is the current and developing environment in which disruptive technologies and trends such as the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) are changing the way we live and work. We are on the cusp of the age of disruption which poses many challenges for governments, companies and individuals.
On 31 January 2018, Mr Inderjit Singh, CEO of Solstar International and Chairman of the Board of NTUitive, discussed the different types of disruption businesses will face, and elaborated on the strategies businesses can adopt to survive the disruptive environment ahead.
Mr Singh began by highlighting four current megatrends and how they are affecting everyone: rapid urbanisation, changing demographics, accelerated innovation and hyper globalisation.
The main challenge presented by disruption is that organisations are unable to react fast enough to, and cope with, the rate of change. It has been projected that 75% of today’s S&P 500 companies will not survive the next 15 years. Recently, Singapore has also seen a record number of companies shutting down in all industries. Such accelerated changes will cause job disruption, affecting the society and is a matter of great concern.
Mr Singh then discussed how the megatrend of globalisation has affected the world, giving rise to populism and increased income inequalities. In reaction to this, the trend has reversed and shifted towards deglobalisation and increased protectionism.
He then examined disruption in technology and how this has, in turn, disrupted jobs. The rise of automation put many jobs at risk, with jobs such as retail salesperson likely to be made redundant in 15 years as humans will not be necessary to perform transactions. Businesses would need to adapt to these changes accordingly. Apple for example transformed its business by using platform technology, which also ended up killing off the standalone platforms of its competitors.
Hence, to survive and thrive in this age of accelerated disruption, Mr Singh asserted that organisations would have to be open to disruptive business models. Management that prefers to conform, avoid risks, are in denial of changing circumstances and do not think for the long-term, have no place in today’s disruptive world.
To counter this, Mr Singh argued that within their present conventional structures organisations can encourage new ideas, challenge conventional wisdom, energise the “frozen” middle management, and create safe spaces that allow people to make mistakes. Organisations should also think like start-ups which are more agile and adaptable in the face of disruption. Rounding up his presentation, he provided examples of companies that succeeded and failed to ride the wave of disruption.
The talk ended with Mr Singh addressing the audience’s questions which included the kind of skills and mindset CEOs need to survive disruption, and his views on Singapore’s SkillsFuture programme.