NAPLES, Fla. We are in the midst of an information technology revolution. And while that may feel disruptive, it should not be surprising as we are always in the middle of some form of revolution, according to opening keynote speaker Mark Zinder.
However, understanding the processes that unleash and the stages such revolutions go through can arm leaders with the ability to better navigate them.
Zinder identified five individual revolutions that have occurred in the U.S. over the past 100-plus years, including the Industrial Revolution, Railroad Revolution, Electrification, Mass Production and Information Technology. Each of these, he noted have traversed the same eight steps, and as each came to its conclusion, yet another revolution was set in motion.
The steps Zinder identified included: Idea, Exotic Curiosity, Early Adoption, General Acceptance, Frenzy, Collapse, Final Build Out and It Becomes Invisible.
He noted that the Idea phase often consists of an Aha moment borne of necessity and lasting 25 to 50 years. Zinder used the now ubiquitous electronic strike zone that baseball fans see today on any major league telecast as one such example.
While many think of this as a quintessentially current technology, Zinder noted that the first electronic strike zone was tested in 1950 and quickly led to the second stage of a revolution: Exotic Curiosity. This is often characterized both by early success in demonstrations and a corresponding fear of the new technology.
During the third revolutionary stage, Early Adoption, a transition occurs from what may be possible to what is possible. At this stage, Zinder noted, new businesses are started based on the new idea.
The next stage, General Acceptance, is characterized by a technical free for all, in which government regulations are largely absent. One of the most recent examples is evident in the early days of the Internet, a stage that has since passed.
During the so-called Frenzy stage, the number of successes mount, the public starts to speculate, and new technology becomes an engine of growth resulting in wealth creation. This is followed by what Zinder described as the Collapse, a period where the stock market starts to fall and fortunes are lost.
It is in the Final Build-out stage where jobs are lost. Here, new technology is no longer a novelty, and profits reflect the real return of the new technology. It is this stage we find ourselves in today when it comes to information technology, with the final becomes invisible stage on the near-term horizon.
Zinder noted that each of these revolutions typically lasts between 45 and 60 years, and we are now approaching the last stage of the microprocessor or information technology revolution. So what happens next?
Zinder cited several possibilities, including things like biotechnology, artificial intelligence, the creation of entirely new materials such a graphene or even 3D printing. Anyone of these things could be the spark that ignites the next revolution, he noted.
The one thing that is certain, according to Zinder, is that when one revolution ends, the next one quickly begins.
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