The McKinsey Global Institute recently listed a dozen technologies with the potential to be so material as to disrupt the entire economy, over the next decade (see Disruptive Technologies: Advances that will transform life, business and the global economy):
1. Mobile internet
2. Automation of knowledge work
3. Internet of things
4. Cloud technology
5. Advanced robotics
6. Autonomous and near autonomous vehicles
7. Next-generation genomics (including synthetic biology)
8. Energy storage
9. 3D printing
10. Advanced materials
11. Advanced oil and gas exploration and discovery
12. Renewable energy.
If these developments really do have the potential to be economically disruptive, it follows that their impact on individual sectors (and businesses) could be colossal. Even on cursory reflection a number of them may have transformational impact on the travel sector (some of which we flagged up over a year ago).
Mobile Internet and cloud technology, combined with near universal connectivity, will mean that the tourist of the near future is going to be traveling with technology that knows where he is, can inspire him, entertain him and tell him all he needs to know. He’ll be accessing content that someone is providing, through channels that someone is curating.
Automation of knowledge work combined with demographic, generational advance may, amongst other things, be the final nail in the coffin for the high street travel agent. There are a number of reasons why structural decline in this segment has been slower than many expected, one of which is that the piece of wetware sitting in front of the viewdata screen turned out to be more important than online evangelists thought. OTA’s and the like have had to make some simplifying assumptions about why people have come to their site in the first place. Human travel agents are much better at diagnosing what problem the customer is trying to solve, within what constraints, and quickly suggesting flexible and inspiring (if not always objective or optimal) solutions. A smart OTA front end might conceivably provide an equivalent service to the maturing web kids. Why would they then travel to a shop to buy something they can’t even walk out with?
As next generation genomics potentially extends the travelling life of the wealthier global citizens, autonomous vehicles may have nuclear consequences for taxi drivers (and transfer reps) and revolutionise the car hire business. Meanwhile, advances in oil and gas exploration, and renewable technology, have complex consequences, but no one has yet developed a commercial aircraft that can fly on shale gas.
“Business leaders should keep their organizational strategies updated in the face of continually evolving technologies, ensure that their organizations continue to look ahead, and use technologies to improve internal performance. Disruptive technologies can change the game for businesses, creating entirely new products and services, as well as shifting pools of value between producers or from producers to consumers. Organizations will often need to use business-model innovations to capture some of that value. Leaders need to plan for a range of scenarios, abandoning assumptions about where competition and risk could come from, and not be afraid to look beyond long-established models. Organizations will also need to keep their employees’ skills up-to-date and balance the potential benefits of emerging technologies with the risks they sometimes pose.”
Well they would, wouldn’t they. But we concur.