used with permission from Microsoft for Work
Anyone familiar with technology has likely heard of “Moore’s law,” the 1965 prediction by Intel cofounder Gordon E. Moore that the number of components in an integrated circuit would double approximately every year. (A decade later, he revised the time span to two years.)
This exponential curve he predicted can be mapped to many other technological advancements too: digital cameras and their pixel counts, machine memory capacity, and the sensitivity of sensors. It also works in reverse, with the reduced cost of 3D printers and the quality of materials they produce, plus the overall quality-adjusted prices of technology. It can even be extended to financial growth in the world at large, and the degree of social change society has experienced in the last few decades.
The exponential business
Businesses taking advantage of these exponential developments—such as Tesla, Uber, Airbnb, and Hampton Creek Foods—can be called exponential businesses. They have all figured out how to both ride the wave of tech growth (like Airbnb utilizing the trend toward vacationers renting property rather than hotel rooms) and create the wave themselves (like Uber providing smartphone users an entirely new way to call a taxi).
You don’t have to be Elon Musk to lead an exponential business. It simply requires recognizing and capitalizing on accelerated change, and then helping to lead the next phase of it.
In the 1930s, Buckminster Fuller coined the phrase “accelerated change” to define the trend of “doing more with less” in chemistry, health, and industry. If you think “doing more with less” sounds like a good business practice, you’re absolutely right. And technology is the natural enabler for this process.
Technology—and the accelerated change for technological advancements—is the cornerstone that supports the exponential business. Cloud computing allows for distributed storage and scalable power impossible with on-site computing. The Internet of Things gives us unprecedented control over objects, and provides an amount of data unthinkable even ten years ago. Artificial seed intelligence, once solely in the realm of science fiction, is approaching with alarming alacrity. In other words, these advances allow businesses to dofar more with far less.
Riding the wave is only the first element. Business leaders feed back into the system, becoming drivers of exponential growth themselves. Again, you need not be an automobile magnate (although, we admit, it doesn’t hurt); you can spearhead disruption in any industry by quickly applying the observations and insights you’ve gleaned in your research.
Are you a plumber who discovered a better way to reach your customers? Then become the agent of change in the plumbing industry. Are you an airplane tool engineer and rely on a3D printer to print your components? Then you stand to be on the cutting edge of the aerospace industry. And so on. The ability to take advantage of the exponential business will in many ways define success for the next generation of entrepreneurs and leaders. Begin by recognizing the change. Then start causing it.
Accelerated, Exponential Change
The astounding thing about exponential growth is that the evolution of technology eventually occurs faster than our ability to imagine how it will evolve. This evolution will not stop. The exponential business—the organization that capitalizes on and contributes to this change—will be poised for success in this brave new world.
As the change continues to accelerate, businesses that cannot or will not adapt will fall farther and farther behind. Those that can embrace the Internet of Things, cloud computing, always-on sensors, big data analytics, and predictive AI technologies will be the leaders of tomorrow. They will save money and be more agile. They will find ways to use technology in new ways that we haven’t dreamed of.
They will define the exponential business.