It was the year 1823, in the gallows with the noose around their neck were fourteen people to be hanged. Amongst these condemned men was a 16 year old boy crying out to his heart-broken mother in the watching crowd to help him.
But the boy’s mother was powerless to do anything that could save her son. She could only wail in despair and watch-on with a broken heart, as the final orders where given and her son struggled to fight with his last strength, the suffocating and biting pains brought by the rope around his neck. In no-time, the boy hung lifeless, his body swirling slowly from side to side as if to wave a final goodbye to a world he could not seem to understand.
The crowd looked on in helpless grief at the fourteen lifeless men, some of them fathers, husbands and lovers, brothers and uncles. This sentence to death by hanging was issued from the highest place of government, the crime committed was that these men where luddites.
Their jobs and means of livelihood were under attack by advancing technology, and they fought back the best way they knew. And so ended their tragic heroism; their story forever a testament that; technology and automation has the power to disrupt both positively and negatively.
Whenever an article about job loss due to technological advancement and automation is written, the Luddite story is always used as the perfect exemplum.
So who were the luddites and what crime did they commit really?
The Luddite movement began around the year 1810, it was made up of men whose profession at the time was in the textile industry. This included weavers, stocking makers and embroidery specialist. These were high paying professions at the time, but soon, new types of machines were invented. These machines could automate the work of making stockings and textile making with very little human input.
This resulted in entrepreneurs with access to huge capital to set up big factories, which in turn led to more and more handcraft workers going out of employment. These former craftsmen formed themselves into groups called the luddites and went about destroying the new machines, burning the factories and even killing some factory owners.
The issue escalated into a national threat, which involved the British parliament passing legislation against luddites who destroyed machines or burned down factories. Thousands of soldiers were deployed to the towns where the Luddite movement was prominent, and after a number of clashes, the Luddite revolution was eventually subdued by force and a show of public execution by hanging as the one described earlier.
The looms that marked the Luddite movement are today weaving threateningly around our world at a global and existential level. Our only safeguard is to learn and adapt the lessons from this momentous historical face-off between man and machines; as they contend for supremacy in the job market.
Just like the Luddite narrative where different stakeholders (workers, factory owners, & government) had a significant role to play in the final outcome of the story, the job disruption face-off we will experience going forward into this new era will also require the pro-active harmonization of thoughts, policies and end goal for all parties. From the individual, to the employers of labor, to regulatory government bodies; all will need to reconcile to the fact that they face a common threat, and that they must be united to defeat this common enemy.
Duriing the Ludite revolution, one of the very few legislators who advocated for the Luddites was Lord Byron. Coincidently, Lord Byron’s only legitimate daughter Ada Lovelace would become the first computer programmer by combining the technology of the Analytical Engine with the Jacquard loom.
This ironic thread has stretched even to our times, and is woven with the looming job-loss predicament we find ourselves today. For AI and Automated Machines need programming which to a great extent can be traced back to Lord Byron’s daughter — Ada Lovelace.
In the coming chapters of this book, I will be discussing some of the possible ways workers/individuals, employers (soon to be employers of robots & automated machines) and government through its legislative arms and agencies can avoid the tragic route of the Luddite-type scenario.
From the one end of the individual laborer to the farthest end of Government policy makers, everyone needs be involved in finding the most agreeable means for dealing with this encroaching robot and AI automated army.
By being futuristic and pro-active, Government will have little need for anti-riot police. On the other hand, owners of industry and employers of labor will have no fear of being stigmatized or attacked by disgruntled workers. And most importantly, the worker whose job will be swallowed up in the robot and AI automation deluge will find solace in the fact that they had anticipated such a scenario and prepared for it long before it could affect them negatively.
With the right Digital Transformation strategy, your business can weather almost any storm & become positioned for long term success.Kelly Idehen
So how do you bring about Digital Transformation for your business, whether new or old? Below I will share with you 7 key strategies you must consider.
7 KEY STRATEGIES
1. Don’t be afraid of New: Don’t be afraid to try something new outside the old traditional way of doing things. Phones were supposed to be designed for call alone, but one day somebody decided to put a camera in a phone. Today, a phone without a camera cannot be considered as a phone, today, a phone is rated by the power and quality of its camera. So, to succeed at digital transformation you must first remove fear, learn to break and decouple things. Learn to try out new ideas and explore new processes.
2. Re-align Your Business Model: Most businesses are currently operating without a dedicated business model. Many business owners don’t even have an idea what a proper business model canvas should look like; this is dangerous. If you want to have a safe and successful digital transformation, then you must ensure you first develop a well-structured, flexible and modern business model. Develop a clear view understanding of all the small important moving parts in your business, only then can you properly plug-in digital transformation into it.
3. Shift from Survival to Thrive Mentality: A lot of businesses are merely ‘just’ existing; hoping that someday things will miraculously get better. This is a very dangerous hope to assume. For some business, all they can think of and plan towards is how to survive the current month and pay their workers salary. With this kind of mentality, your business will not go very far. Do what you must to move away from the survival mentality, reinvent your business in such a way that the general attitude and focus is how to thrive and blossom instead of merely surviving. Innovation is the key to beat this stagnancy where many businesses lie and wither away.
4. Retrain, Retool & Re-kit: Many businesses are stuck with the workforce and mindset of older generations. They still use outdated technologies and operate in the same ways and models since the company was founded. In this fast paced and easy to disrupt business environment, every business must ensure they are stocked with a dynamic, creative, and well trained workforce. They must always be on the search for tools and technologies that can give their business the additional advantage.
5. Float like a butterfly, Sting like a Bee: Most of the successful business in Silicon Valley used this strategy. The strategy of lean operation, the strategy of accepting and learning from failure. In fact, failure was almost celebrated as a culture. This attitude, coupled with lean and flexible operational models allowed for different kinds of iterations which helped many Silicon Valley businesses grow fast, and grow fat. So to succeed at Digital Transformation follow the Muhammad Ali model of floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee. Make your business operation lean, be flexible enough to iterate on new models, strategies and tools. Move fast, fail faster, but most importantly develop a structure that can allow easy scaling of your business.
6. Go Beyond Customer Management – Deepen customer experience and customer relationship: As the competition becomes stiffer and profit margins become tighter, customers will be the ultimate deciders for whether your business thrive or not. To remain relevant, every business will need to find creative ways to add value for their customers. The best way to achieve this is by deepening customer relationship, fostering customer engagement and optimizing customer experience. In a world where the United States president can without protocol, Tweet at anyone and in a world where a dissatisfied user can bring down your brand reputation with a viral Instagram video; every business needs to understand the importance of making themselves available for active engagement on digital platforms. The goal is to by whatever means, ensure that the customer knows and see that your business is always willing to listen to their concerns and that you care deeply about their unique challenges. Don’t just build a customer base, build a loyal customer community.
7. Keep your eyes on the horizon – Develop your own emerging technology strategy – R&D: In the year 2007, Nokia had over 50% of the market share for mobile phones. They were the undisputed champion when it came to the phone market, but by 2013 (less than 7 years later) they only had about 3% of the mobile phone market which was now being dominated by the Apple through their IPhones and Android phones from SamSung, Sony et al.
Today, technological platforms like social media has disrupted print advertising, crypto-currencies are threatening old financial institutions, ecommerce platforms like Amazon, Alibaba and Jumia are threatening physical shopping done on brick & mortar stores. As the cliché goes, “The only thing that is constant is change”. Preparing your business for change before it happens is the smart way to go.
Every business needs to have an emerging technology strategy; your business needs to be active in research and development of new service channels or products that will add value for you and your customers. You need to explore possible ways in which emerging technologies like AI, Blockchain, Virtual Reality, 3D printing etc. can be integrated into your business processes to optimize value for your product or service offerings.
To survive the business landscape of the future, you will need to have a digital transformation strategy. I have shared 7 key points you should take into account if you want to make your business resilient and digitally sturdy to weather the storm of disruptions that will come upon every business now and in the future.
Like the bible story of the 10 virgins, 5 were wise and brought extra oil for their lamp, the other 5 were classified as foolish, they didn’t think it important to come prepared with extra oil. At midnight when light was most needed, only the 5 wise virgins were prepared with lamps burning bright.
This analogy fits perfectly into the business clime today, the question is, will your business start the preparation today to add in the much needed extra oil of digital transformation?
Or you want to wait till the midnight of crisis and run around in panic looking for extra oil? This is the great call for every business today.
In my book, 2020s & The Future Beyond, I share some very revealing insights on what the future for business will look like as the fourth industrial revolution (#4IR), Artificial Intelligence, Robots and other emerging technologies bear down on us. Click here to learn more.
2020s & The Future Beyond, is a book that dives deeply into what the future of this decade and the ones that will come after will look like; especially as it relates to the development of AI and other emerging technologies. Click here to learn more.