The global acceptance of the world wide web opened up huge opportunities in the way we conduct business. Terms like e-commerce, disruption and disintermediation became the keywords of this new ecosystem.
We are once again standing at the dawn of a new era, as the mobile internet is about to bring about a new set of threats and opportunities. This time however, the impact will be larger and more comprehensive.
Not only is the internet portable, easy to use and always available; social networking, crowd sourcing and a new generation of digital natives are also changing the way we interact with business and with each other. A new set of rules is required to understand the changes facing us, as is a deeper understanding of this new generation of internet users.
Having seen the internet growing up in front of my eyes, I recall a time when I could not connect to everything and everyone at the touch of a button. I had to shake off the limiting mindset of having been brought up in an unconnected world as I joyously embarked on the journey to join the connected one.
The sad fact is that I grew up in an unconnected world, and will forever be a dgital immigrant. Even with the best of intentions to change my mental DNA, I still had to adapt to this world of instant connectivity. I am a land mammal that had to learn how to swim.
The digital natives have never known a world without the internet. They do not distinguish between commerce in the real and virtual worlds. They do not distinguish between communication in the real and virtual worlds. Via their mobile phones, they view the real and virtual world as literally one and the same. And they are not wrong. They are the creatures that grew up in the water.
To make a fuss of this connected world is truly foreign to them, as they know no other reality. The touch screen interfaces of the iPad are part of their mental DNA, as is the ability to connect to everything and everyone in the blink of an eye.
Social networks, apps, crowd sourcing, human mash-ups, complex social interactions, memes and digital artefacts are as natural to them as reading and writing is to the rest of the population.
It is the user patterns of the natives of this digital world that will become the disruptive force that will forever change the rules of business as we know it. Welcome to the world of business unusual. Welcome to a new new era of commerce. Welcome to an era where the real and virtual worlds become one. Welcome to a whole new era of disruption.
“It is life, Jim. But not as we know it” – Spock
Thousands of small businesses have seen the future, and have embraced the new interconnected reality. In doing so they have not chosen to make established business models more efficient or chose to bypass a process in the value chain as with the traditional e-commerce business models.
They are busy creating new business models that unbundle, liquefy and re-bundle the components in the traditional value chain to create a higher degree of value. In a hyper-connected world, the new players use a mind-set based on the continual change of velocity, tangibility, granularity, agency and density. They are re-writing the rules of value chains in a hyper-connected world.
Pieter Geldenhuys is a futurist and technology strategist at the Innovation Agency. He is also vice-chair of the Innovation Forum (ITU-T) at the International Telecommunication Union. He passionately believes that the only way to predict the future is to create it.