Disrupted – A History of the World We Live In

I’m going to start my first post by saying what this blog is NOT about.  It’s not about me.  I am not doing this for me.  Rather, I’m doing it for the thousands upon thousands of business owners who are not embracing change.  Not only are they not embracing change, they’re completely ignoring it.  They will be disrupted.  It will happen sooner than they think.

I hear it too often: “they’ve been saying things are going to change for 30 years…..I think we’ll be okay”.  No.  You’re wrong.  Wrong on so many fronts. First, disruption has been occurring at an increasing pace since the beginning of time.  That pace is to the point where people are improving off of another’s ideas in a matter of days.  Consider this comprehensive list of “big deal” inventions since the beginning of time by Chris Woodford at ExplainThatStuff.com.

From the first invention of basic tools by humans more than 10 million years ago through the birth of Christ, Woodford lists 16 different inventions of note – each disrupted our world.  That is 16 things in the first 10 million years of our existence.  Over the next 1,700 years, he lists 33 items.  Again, that’s 33 “big deal” inventions in 1,700 years – more than double what he listed in the first 10 million years of earth’s history. In the next 100 years (the 1800’s), Woodford lists 49 inventions of significance.  So…..think about it.  During the 1800’s, we had the same amount of significant inventions as we had during the first 10 million + 1,800 years!

Wait…..it’s gets better.  In the next 100 years (the 1900’s), Woodford lists 92 new innovations of significance.  That’s close to double the amount of the previous 100 years.  Finally, during the 2000’s, Woodford lists about 1 new significant invention per year.

Is this analysis perfect?  No way – and it’s not meant to be perfect.  However, it does show how fast things are changing and how our world has been disrupted increasingly over time.

So why do I care?  Easy.  I see it in my profession being disrupted every day.  I’m the Chief Operating Officer and a partner at a large accounting and consulting firm.  Technological disruption is happening all around us.   I know from talking to the leaders at “big 4” accounting firms, that they are spending millions and millions of dollars to enhance their technology in the audit and tax areas.  We see new startups promising electronic delivery of tax returns to and from clients.  We hear about software that “plugs in” to ERP systems and generates a data dump that the program scans and ultimately provides areas upon which to focus the audit.  We have demoed software that allows us to scan client source documents which then pre-populates our tax software system.

This is only the beginning.  I haven’t even talked about the changing demographics which requires (or will soon require) CPA firms to communicate differently with clients.  Very few firms have embraced the use of social media.  I’m just starting this social media thing as I absolutely see the need and opportunity to change my way of thinking.  Let me say it again…..we are being disrupted constantly!

Again, many of you may think this is all “hype”.  You may reason that IT startups are merely just creating hype to generate a scare and force companies to buy their products even if it’s not necessary.  Look, it’s not just the IT companies who are clamoring about disruption.  Oxford University published a study back in 2013 which looked at the impact of change on current industries across the world.  There is an appendix at the back of the study which lists the likelihood and ability of various occupations to be computerized.  It’s kind of a scary list….especially when I see my occupation listed at a 98% likelihood.  Check out the other occupations.  Many readers may be floored.

Look….I’m just trying to inform……and push.  Change is good – we just have to be the disruptors as opposed to being disrupted.  How can we do it?  I hope through my foray into social media, I can help.  The next 20 years will be exciting.  Will you join me on the ride?

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