President's Corner

This week, we're fortunate to have a contribution from our SHARE in Denver General Session keynote, Daniel Burrus. As one of the world’s leading technology forecasters and business strategists, he has established a worldwide reputation for an exceptional record of accurately predicting how technological, social, and business forces are converging to create enormous, untapped opportunities.

I hope you find this article to be a valuable preview of what we'll be hearing from Mr. Burrus in Denver.



By Daniel BURRUS, CEO of Burrus Research

Your parents probably warned you to look both ways before crossing a street, one of life's universal lessons after Henry Ford started tinkering with the internal combustion engine. Many of us forgot that good advice, or assumed it didn't apply, when crossing from the 1970s into the 80s. It happened a second time moving into the 1990s, and again as we entered the first decade of the 21st century. The prevailing assumption was that the future would be relatively similar to the past, and that major changes only took place over long stretches of time, which provided plenty of leeway to adjust.

We stepped off the curb, looking straight ahead - and wham! Individuals and organizations were blindsided by massive changes. It happened to IBM, Motorola, Kodak, Sears and countless others. Based on this painful experience, the prevailing assumption was dramatically adjusted: Change is speeding up - get used to it.

Crossing the street of change is an exercise in advanced risk analysis. Dodging the on-coming traffic is now the name of the game. The ""game"" has already moved on. Technology-driven change spotting provides only part of the solution. Literally thousands of important high-tech breakthroughs are zooming at us from left and right. Not only do we need to carefully look both ways, it is essential to actually see and understand the ramifications of what's coming. Hopping out of the way in panic or jumping onboard the next new, new thing isn’t the answer; nor is taking a wait-and-see attitude. By reinventing the way we look at technology-driven change, it is possible to reinvent the way we think about change. Once that happens, the reinvention of how we act in response to change takes place. Look. Think. Act. These distinct steps are the key to both finding and profiting from the many new opportunities that are headed our way.

Three Digital Trend Accelerators
Three of the most powerful digital trend accelerators - computer processing power, storage capacity and bandwidth - have reached an intense new phase and are already turning business models upside down as they spawn fresh generations of procedures, tools, products and service. By focusing on the three accelerators instead of the dozens of new technologies covered by the press each month, we can get a more accurate sense of where technology-driven change is coming from and where it is likely to lead. The terms processing power, storage, and bandwidth are not new. We see the words in print all the time, but it is imperative to realize that their newfound power will have a major impact on the future.

Processing Power
Let' take the three accelerators one at a time. ""Moore's Law"" states that computer processing power doubles every 18 months. It has been that way since the mid-1970s (when the rate slowed somewhat) and, thanks to constant innovation, it shows no convincing evidence of abating again for at least another decade or more. Gordon Moore, the co-founder of Intel, first made this observation in 1965, and his name has been attached to it ever since. What's driving PC growth? Moore's Law. What’s driving the computer-like functions of cell phones? Moore's Law. The ever-increasing ability of a car to diagnose its own impending repair problems? Photo-realistic computer gaming? Moore’s Law.

The second digital trend accelerator is storage. The capacity to store digital data is doubling every 12 months, even faster than computer processing power. Think about the iPod, basically a smart music storage device, and it has a major benefit of increasing Apple computer sales.

Finally, there's bandwidth. A full page of English text is about 16,000 bits. A dial-up modem can send 56 kilobytes in 1 second. In contrast, many offices, as well as homes, have a broadband connection clocked at 1.54 megabytes a second. Screamingly fast bandwidth, which is doubling every 9 months, is primarily being generated by advances in fiber-optic technology, and implementation of new wireless broadband technology.

Sweeping Change
The relentless doubling of processing power, storage, and bandwidth form the epicenter of sweeping large-scale innovations that will transform how we live, work and play for the next two decades. Does that mean that the recent buzz about nanotechnology, biotech, robotics and the like has been a lot of hype?  Not at all! Those are destined to be extremely potent change agents, and their development will be accelerated by decades, thanks to the concentrated force of processing power, storage, and bandwidth.

A statistical model showing the doubling of the number 1 every year would display data points on a curve that rises gradually for the first 5 years, turns sharply steeper at 10 years out, then quickly blasts off toward a 90-degree ascent and goes straight up and off the chart. In the case of processing power alone, this exponential growth rate has been occurring for 40 years. For example, to go from a 5-megahertz chip to a 500-megahertz chip took 20 years; however, the jump from 500 megahertz to 1 gigahertz (1000 million hertz) took place in only 8 months, and that was several years ago. The pace is astounding. The other two technologies have been at it for a couple of decades and are racking up even hotter numbers.   For example, companies such as Motorola and Cisco have recently created methods for increasing broadband speed between 400% and 1,600%. What the resulting vertical lines on the chart tell us is that transformation is about to replace change as the business headache du jour. Disruptive change is only disruptive if you didn’t know about it ahead of time. Now that you know the forces that will drive the change curve higher, it is imperative that you take advantage of the opportunities for creating new products and services that are coming our way.

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