In the second of our Thought Leaders series of articles, we follow up part one of our Bill Gates blogs with a look at some of the predictions he made in his 1999 book, “Business @ the Speed of Thought”.
We’ve already focussed on the concept of a digital nervous system and how it can provide a flow of information to various parts of an organisation. But Bill Gates also went on to make some prescient observations on how he saw this impacting on business.
Here are his thoughts on how companies would have to evolve in the fast-moving digital future that we now live in.
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Any number of elements, on a local, regional or global scale, can create a shift in a company’s priorities. Almost 20 years ago, Bill Gates anticipated three fundamental business shifts that could occur in the commercial world, each of which is just as relevant today. He projected that:
Bill's pre-millennial preications
After the launch of this book, and in the dawn of the new millennium, technology would advance at an increasing rate of knots. Bill Gates made numerous predictions, most of which have subsequently become reality. Here are just a few examples:
Since the book was written, it’s clear to see that the above predictions have become an everyday reality.
With almost supernatural accuracy, he managed to predict the emergence and success of social media platforms, smartphones, the Internet of Things, programmatic advertising, remarketing, streaming media and the use of mobile and tablet devices in media and digital marketing campaigns.
What can we learn from the book?
Bill Gates challenges us to embrace the concept of the digital nervous system, which unites all systems and processes under one common infrastructure. This will allow companies to improve productivity, growth and profit. Lots of examples are given as to how Microsoft and other companies have transformed their businesses, particularly in relation to customer and partner relationships, employees and business processes.
A worldwide digital nervous system
The internet has created a new universal space for information sharing, collaboration and commerce. The shared flow of data is seen as critical to the success of an organisation. One-dimensional workflows are overtaken when employees gain additional knowledge through company-wide, industry-wide or worldwide ideas sharing. In a nutshell, information sharing ultimately leads to the empowerment of employees.
Smart systems, productivity, digital webs & risk
Bill Gates was and is a proponent of the belief that the best way to differentiate your company from the competition is to put distance between you and the crowd. You can do this by ensuring that you use the information you have effectively and efficiently.
With smart systems in place, you are able to shift people away from repetitive, non-thinking tasks so that they can focus on more productive activities.
A web of partnerships is required, creating a value network where digital information flows freely and allows everyone involved to add value.
The digital nervous system supports the decision to take risks and experiment. The greater the risk, the greater the reward. Embracing risk can ultimately lead to breakthroughs and the creation of new products. Research, development and testing may take years but the end result is often worth the effort.
What does the future hold?
It’s both insightful and enlightening to reflect back on the thinking of Bill Gates in 1999 and naturally makes us wonder what the future has in store for us. The digital nervous system will undoubtedly evolve in relation to advances such as life sciences, robotics, artificial intelligence and virtual reality. Here’s hoping that he writes another book to inspire another generation.
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