Once upon a time, well, not so long ago, you would have had but one option to buy something: physically reach a marketplace or a store and pay with cash. If you could not reach it by yourself, you would have had to ask someone else to do it for you, or simply wait for another time. This was the model for a very long period.
Luckily, though, alongside those brick-and-mortar marketplaces and stores, mail order businesses were created, grew, diversified, and so did the payment methods such as credit cards. The choice of products was somewhat limited, but if whatever you wanted to purchase was available in one of these catalogues, you had the option to buy it using regular postal services for a delivery a few days or weeks later.
In a more recent past, the internet emerged. In 1990, the first website was created near Geneva in Switzerland at the European Council for Nuclear Research (in French, Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire) better known as CERN. The same year, the first search engine, Archie, was created at McGill University in Canada. Three years later, the CERN put the term “World Wide Web” in the public domain, allowing anyone to use it. Then, in 1994, the World Wide Web Consortium or W3C was created at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the USA in collaboration with the CERN. Their mission to this day? “Lead the World Wide Web to its full potential by developing protocols and guidelines that ensure the long-term growth of the Web”. And growth there has been; and going stronger by the day.
So much as changed in our lives since those milestones. Stores and catalogues of products available for purchase at a distance grew exponentially. Remote services became readily available too. Nowadays, one could say that almost anything can be bought from anywhere. Among the enablers of this development was the evolution of payment methods which have become widely available such as credit, debit and prepaid cards, as well as online payment services. Another enabler was the improvement of delivery services, especially their speed.
When we look more closely, we see that one of the common denominators to this dramatic evolution is the overall development of technology. The point is that we are now on the verge of another even bigger leap forward than the advent of the internet.
Many major consulting firms are focusing more and more of their attention on various aspects of the so-called fourth industrial revolution or 4IR or Industry 4.0. We could mention, Accenture discussing that 4IR drives competitiveness and sustainability or Deloitte highlighting that 4IR is at the intersection of readiness and responsibility, or PwC simply asking if organizations are ready, or KPMG which recently released “The 2020 Fourth Industrial Revolution Benchmark” where they reported that 47% of the business leaders they surveyed mentioned that building the necessary staff and skills’ capability was the top challenge for their organization adopting 4IR technologies.
Indeed, the scope of 4IR is wide: big data, quantum computing, artificial intelligence (AI), 3D printing, autonomous driving, robotic, virtual reality, extended reality, blockchain technology, cryptocurrencies, predictive medicine, 5G, nanotechnology, internet of things (IoT), internet of everything (IoE). But there is a lot more in 4IR than just its sheer scope.
Think about this: each one of these aspects has the potential, at the very least, to disturb or disrupt entire business sectors as we know them today. And each one of them has also the potential to create extensive new sectors of activity which were unrealistic a mere decade ago. So, imagine what is possible with all of these technological advancements emerging together at the very same time, which is exactly what is happening right now. The potential is humongous.
To succeed tomorrow, or simply to survive, businesses should not use yesterday’s playbooks. Old approaches and old models are for the past, for the third or last industrial revolution. Instead, businesses must adapt, innovate and transform themselves profoundly, or they risk being left behind, if not disappear. The change has to happen; fast.
In every risk there is an opportunity. Yes. Here, this is the opportunity of a generation. Probably more than ever before, there is an unprecedented possibility to create entirely new business models opening up ground-breaking avenues.
Themes like creative problem solving, innovation management, digital transformation, strategic leadership and entrepreneurship have never been as relevant. This is about dealing with complexity and this is not easy. This is precisely when new leaders emerge, and the American University in Switzerland is ready to make today’s students the leaders of tomorrow.
We are waiting for you.