Take a Deep Breath SMBs the Fourth Industrial Revolution is Here

In Business Advice by Marcy FieldLeave a Comment

The future does not lie in our past. It emerges from it.  Since the introduction of steam powered machinery in the late 18th century, industrialization continues to propel civilization forward. The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), along with the Internet of Things (IoT) and Internet of Systems (IoS) garner attention globally.  What changes can we anticipate?

The world as people knew it for centuries changed dramatically during the First Industrial Revolution, when machines facilitated the growth of factories and the introduction of manufactured goods. Henry Ford ushered in the Second Industrial Revolution in the early 20th century, when he mastered the moving assembly line and began the age of mass production.

The Third Industrial Revolution appeared in the late 20th century, as manufacturing went digital. Things became more economical with increased flexibility and lower labour input, thanks to new materials, electronics, IT and automated production.

Now technology moved from a supporting role to the spotlight. World leaders meet to discuss and prepare for a future of disruptive change.  Assumptions about growth models are overturned; the international balance of power frays, and scientific and technological breakthroughs stand poised to transform economies and societies. Thus enters the Fourth Industrial Revolution evolving exponentially due to growth in digitization and Internet connectivity.  The velocity and scale of change are unparalleled.

The World Economic Forum “Future of Jobs” study predicts that 5 million jobs will be lost before 2020 as artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology and other socio-economic factors replace the need for human workers.

During the Annual Meeting of the New Champions held in China in June 2016, the Honourable Navdeep Singh Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development for Canada participated in a panel discussion on the Impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. He mentioned government’s ability to convene all the major players indicating the need for government, business and education to collaborate.  Instead of leading from the top, during uncertain times leaders need to watch from the background and guide large groups to do interesting and innovative things. The Minister further spoke about innovation becoming ingrained as a core Canadian value. He believes that diversity is at the core of innovation and stated that as that is one of Canada’s strengths it provides a competitive advantage.

Increasingly it is difficult to predict what working futures hold.  In light of technological advances, an ageing workforce and the rise of the sharing economy new jobs appear as fast as others vanish. Learnability is vital for future employment. Various studies show that although technical ability may get you a job, they provide only half of the picture. Social skills form the other part of the equation.

Several possibilities exist for small and medium businesses to thrive during this technological transformation thru a customer centric focus. Daniel Newman explores some of these in his post 6 Transformation Opportunities for SMBs. Their size allows them to shift quickly as they utilize digitization to respond and provide better customer service. The ability to compete with big companies increases as they embrace new technologies. Technology and fast failure leads to rapid success and holds the promise of better bottom line success.

Futurist Alvin Tofler said, “Change is the process whereby the future invades our lives.”

To capitalize on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, entrepreneurs must embrace, adapt to and incorporate coming technological, societal and economic shifts. The benefit is, as they actively participate, they shape what the future looks like instead of being invaded by it.

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