Have you ever felt like the world is moving at a faster pace than, say, a decade ago? Well that feeling is a reality. In fact, we tend to check our phones at least 74 times a day, as opposed to 33 times a day from just a few years ago in 2013. And, we’re even walking 10% faster than we did 10 years ago. Thanks to recent technology advances, we’re constantly on the go and always connected.
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This increased connectivity is designed to make our daily lives simpler, but for the physical world — whether it be transportation, energy or manufacturing — it seemingly adds more complexity. As industrial IoT begins connecting more machines, complexity goes up exponentially. For example, we’re seeing legacy equipment come online and communicate with new machines. Trying to keep pace with these faster processes leaves them open to new and oftentimes unchartered vulnerabilities.
This complexity is eclipsing man’s ability to manage it. We are even seeing spontaneous restructuring across industries, much like we did when technology was first applied to music and media industries, when people traded in their DVDs and newspapers for content on their handheld devices.
It is at this intersection — the nexus of the virtual and physical worlds — that meaningful transformation begins ushering in an entirely new era: The Emergent Era. This concept explains how complexity can arise from a set of simple rules, and how order can sometimes emerge from chaos when we leverage data from machines.
Connected machines transmit massive volumes of data, which requires running new insights through feedback loops and preparing industrial organizations for the emergence of unexpected situations. It’s here that we discover how the capabilities of machines and infrastructure systems extend much farther than their intended purpose. In essence, the collective micromotives of billions of connected humans and billions of soon-to-be connected machines will grow new macrostructures.
A real-world example of this is the traffic and navigation app Waze. What was set out by developers to provide users with the most efficient driving directions based off user-generated data is now tapping into the collected insights of users to help cities optimize traffic flows and signal cycles, making it a critical infrastructure management service simply by allowing data and feedback to drive behavior. This is just one instance in which the framework that emerges is greater than the sum of its parts.
How can you prepare?
The only thing constant is change, of course. And while change can often happen incrementally, it doesn’t take much until it becomes a disruptive force in an organization. But unless you understand the nature of emergent change, you will not understand how to capitalize on it.
Building an industrial organization on information flows, letting go of the idea of “absolute certainty” and listening to feedback, it’s easier to anticipate where the Emergent Era will take you. Success in this arena means leveraging data analytics to drive key insights for predicting and reacting to real-time changes in industrial operations.
Another key to the Emergent Era is collaboration. A good objective should bridge the larger vision of an organization with the tactical intent of individuals and teams, and an effective leader should provide direction without prescribing a path. Relinquishing the illusion of control will not only empower teams to work together to pave their own way, but it will allow plenty of room for experimentation and discovery. The organizations that will thrive will be the ones packed with strategic individuals capable of inventing tools as they go — and using them to solve the problems that have not yet been imagined.
To do this, feedback is imperative. It allows teams to fail early and small, before the stakes get high. Incorporating feedback in the process increases the chances that the products and process are driven by the real needs of the customer, as opposed to what you perceive them to be.
Welcome to the new era
Companies that combine transparent, reliable information flows, continuous feedback systems and meaningful intelligence will see solutions to their challenges consistently and spontaneously emerge. Our increasing access to more data at a faster pace is serving up more options and helping eliminate the idea of “absolute certainty.” It’s here where the immense possibilities the Emergent Era will become apparent across industries.
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