Welcome to the Exponential Age


The years since the Millennium have been described as a period of “creative destruction” as old ways of doing things change radically and at a pace never seen before.  Welcome to the 4th Industrial Revolution. Welcome to what is being called the Exponential Age and collaboration is the key.

Airbnb and Urber don’t own hotels or taxis.  They are essentially ways of collaboration, as are Facebook and Wikipedia.

In 1998, Kodak had 170,000 employees and sold 85% of all photo paper worldwide. Just a few years later, their business model disappeared and they were bankrupt. Did you think in 1998 that 3 years later you would never take pictures on paper film again?  Who saw that coming?  Not me.

So how do you “see it coming”?  If I could answer that question I’d be like Bill Gates!  Talking of which, we are increasingly being dominated by a small number of massive corporations that operate beyond international boundaries.  I boycotted Tesco for a decade because they wouldn’t give me £50 for the Christmas lights when I was a TCM (I’ve given in – a bit)!  But it’s really hard NOT to use Microsoft, Google or Amazon, for example.  Starbucks is easier.

What on earth can individual towns do?   Even smaller towns and High Streets can harness the Power of the Collective by working together; and we do need to work together.  So, I am thrilled to have been asked to work with smaller centres across Warwickshire over the next few months.  They will have the opportunity to take advice from Retail and Digital trainers in order to look at their business and make adjustments to win more custom.  But you can have the best business in town, but if the environment in which they trade and their neighbours don’t also adapt then all will be held back.

The power of the collective is helping businesses in a given area understand how, by working together, they can “join up the dots” and create a new picture of the future and influence the development not just of their area but also their business.

In my November blog on parking I wrote about how a “driverless car can automatically find the most convenient space and, through a chip in the parking space/car to automatically bill you for the time parked in that space.

I didn’t go far enough according to Robert Goldman who says, “in 2018 the first self-driving cars will appear for the public. Around 2020, the complete industry will start to be disrupted. You don’t want to own a car anymore. You will call a car with your phone, it will show up at your location and drive you to your destination. You will not need to park it, you only pay for the driven distance and can be productive while driving. Our kids will never get a driver’s license and will never own a car. It will change the cities, because we will need 90-95% fewer cars for that.”

So, how is the local authority going to respond to a massive loss of income from parking and fines?

The Exponential Age will turn everything on its head, but we get through it best by working together, at a local, regional and national level.  We do that because we have a shared interest and a shared culture.  The term ‘culture’ means different things to different people. In this context, for me, it means shared, values and norms, customs, roles, knowledge and skills, and all the other things that people learn that make up the ‘way of life’ of any business community.  Those in business, especially independent businesses, will have much more in common than they might realise.  The effectiveness of active and engaged businesses can be powerful.

There is a lot of debate about what the “collective” for place managers, BIDs and others should look like.  This is the time to be part of the “collective”, whatever that might be.  My crystal ball is malfunctioning, so I can’t tell you exactly what this will look like but we must find a way to stick together, to collaborate.

2 thoughts on “Welcome to the Exponential Age

  • Good article Martin. Observations around the collective for town centres underscore the importance of two way communication and government hosted frameworks that enable collective decisions to be made on an ongoing basis, taking into account ‘impacts’ both threats and opportunities from tech, whatever they may be

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