Looking Back to Look Forward

Every time there’s a discussion on disruption in the industry, I’m reminded of a time I was visiting Bangalore. It was about eight years ago and I was working for IBM. We wanted to make a really big statement about how important India was to us. So we rented the palace grounds, erected a building in the grounds, got all the production bells and whistles and invited all of the 10,000 local employees to attend. We even hooked up satellites and connected an additional 40,000 employees so they could participate.

Everyone was excited that our MC was Dia Mirza, a well-known Bollywood actress, model and producer. Even our CEO of the company at the time, Sam Palmisano, was there and he announced we were going to invest $6 billion over the next three years in India.

I remember standing on the stage in front of 10,000 people. It was one of the most electric, exciting and inspiring times of my life. It was 2006 and this was the golden era of technology, India, and emerging markets. Everything was going right. Businesses were growing. Technology was exploding. Companies were hiring. All the economies of the world were going in the same direction. Up!

However, so much has changed in the eight years from then until now. We’ve gone through a financial crisis, economies around the world have shifted and, all of a sudden, they’re no longer on the same trajectory.

It’s been proven over time that technology industries change every time there’s an economic recession. And if you look at what’s happening here, there’s no doubt the technology has shifted in major ways and we’re entering a completely different period of time.

I believe we are in a transformative period that, in my opinion, is as great as anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes. What makes this change unique is that there are not only disruptors across the industry, but they’re accelerating and happening together.

Business leaders need to ask what this means for R&D, product engineering and innovation. While the answers may not be immediately apparent, understanding the forces at play will help leaders adapt, overcome and navigate the new era of technology innovation.

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