Podcast: We’re getting disruption wrong. Here’s how to get it right.

Here’s what I love about hosting our “Future-Proof” podcast: I love speaking with people who are smarter than me … which, let’s face it, is pretty much everyone. And I’m OK with that. As Confucius said, “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” Surround yourself with smart people and you get smarter by degrees.

This week’s person who is smarter than me — way smarter, as it turns out — is Pascal Finette. Pascal is co-founder of be radical, an organization that teaches leaders how to create new business models for success, positively embrace disruption, and prepare their people to be future-forward and future-ready.

He is also chair for entrepreneurship and open innovation at Singularity University, which is a global learning and innovation community that uses exponential technologies to tackle the world’s biggest challenges. He previously held leadership positions at Google, Mozilla, and eBay … so yeah, pretty smart guy.

Pascal’s focus these days is what the future looks like as it pertains to the intersection of business and technology. That future terrifies him and thrills him at the same time. He says he’s living this duality between freaking out and being super excited — and that gets me excited, too.

In this conversation, we cover:

  • The difference between innovation and disruption.
  • A powerful “disruption map exercise.”
  • How, with technology moving so fast, do we pivot fast enough?
  • Pascal’s partnership with CPA.com and what he sees as the future of our profession.
  • Skills that future CPAs will need.

Listen to our conversation here:


The forces driving disruption
For the past 50 years or so, we’ve generally accepted Moore’s Law as a perfect example of exponential change — the doubling of computational processing power every 18 to 24 months.

Turns out that’s nothing.

According to a Silicon Valley research group called Open A.I., the capacity of artificial intelligence is currently doubling every 105 days or so, and has grown by more than 300,000 times since 2012.

I’m freaking out just reading that. So how do we turn that into excitement?

The answer, Pascal told me, is by asking better questions.

“You can’t predict the future,” he said. “It’s really hard to pinpoint a specific outcome. But you can ask better questions about it and create a much better understanding of what the possibilities are.”

One of the key questions to ask is this: What is disruption, really? “We’re getting disruption wrong,” Finette said at a National Retail Federation conference recently. “Disruption is this weird word. Everybody talks about it, nobody understands it, and everybody is scared by it.”

National Retail Federation Managing Editor Kristina Steward also spoke with Finette for an article about three forces causes disruption beyond retail, and he said that there are three forces driving disruption.

“First, disruption is never one feature. The smartphone isn’t a disruption — it isn’t one thing; it’s a collection of a lot of things: a glass screen, a new kind of processor, a new kind of battery and operating system. ‘It’s easy to dismiss these things — we only see incremental change when we look at one thing,’ Pascal said.

“Second, many existing skills and processes must evolve into something new. ‘This is the most dangerous part,’ Finette said, pointing to the car industry: For decades it was focused on the combustible engine, which has hundreds if not thousands of moving parts — meanwhile, the car of the future has something like 80 moving parts.

“Finally, disruption almost always reaches the tipping point at the go-to-market stage — when companies use available resources to deliver a unique value proposition to customers. When it was first released, the iPhone wasn’t better than the Nokia. It was just packaged differently — and was cheaper. There’s a ‘customer need line,’ Finette said, a quality that products need to have to be acceptable to consumers.”

So that’s where we are. Innovation, Pascal says, makes the same old thing better. Disruption makes that old thing obsolete.

And we’re in for a slew of disruption in the years to come. Singularity University co-founder Ray Kurzweil said, “We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century — it will be more like 20,000 years of progress.”

So buckle up, friends. It’s gonna be a wild ride. Luckily, we’ve got a great guide this week who’s gonna help us make some sense of all of this chaos.


Want to learn more?
Don’t miss our inaugural A.I. Innovation Summit, scheduled for Dec. 4 at the Sheraton Baltimore North in Towson. Held one day after the #FutureReady CPA Summit, the A.I. Innovation Summit brings together CPAs and business leaders interested in learning where artificial intelligence is headed, why they need to prepare, and how to leverage this new technology in the accounting and finance roles of the future. See first-hand how firms and companies of all sizes are already using this emerging technology (along with machine learning, data analytics, and automation) to improve workflow, boost productivity, and increase efficiencies across a diverse range of business lines.

Get complete details and register for the A.I. Innovation Summit here.


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