Familiar things are disappearing before our eyes. Remember photo albums, audio CDs and DVDs? Maps or road atlases? Even the trusty GPS unit has been replaced by an app that navigates our way. In the last 20 years, we’ve witnessed gradual “vaporizing” – what business futurist and innovation expert Robert Tercek has termed the transformation of physical objects into invisible software and data. The trend is picking up pace, and it’s set to transform every sector in unimaginable ways.
Digital technology has upturned entire industries, and irrevocably altered the way we live, work and do business, explains Tercek, one of Hollywood’s most prolific creators of interactive content, and former Oprah Winfrey Network and MTV executive. Media products were the first to be vaporized by the rise of digital technologies – think what Amazon did to books and Apple to music – but they are not the last.
It’s a dematerialized economy, and it’s just getting started. As Tercek commented in a recent keynote talk to technology entrepreneurs, more than 1 million apps have replaced products in stores; they’ve been vaporized.
“The entrepreneurial attitude today is to reinvent everything as a software-defined service,” he says. For consumers, the changes are as bewildering as they are exhilarating. But for CEOs of old-school firms, it’s terrifying. Every executive must understand the impact of digital media on operations, supply chain, product design, marketing and retail.
This is the rallying cry of Tercek’s forthcoming book, “Vaporized: Solid Strategies for Success in a Dematerialized World” (LifeTree Media, September 2015), which delves deep into the relentless and all-pervasive process of vaporization, and provides an essential guide for navigating and mastering it.
“What banks and pharmaceutical manufacturers and even insurance companies need to know is that they too have a lot of information in their business, embedded in products and services,” he explains. “Once they go digital – and all of them will – that information is liberated. If you don’t organize it, manage it and control it, somebody else will.”
Companies and their leaders need to learn how to identify their data assets, evaluate them, and protect them so they don’t get stolen. Data privacy is a primary concern, especially considering nearly 50 percent of U.S. companies were affected by data breaches last year. Yet, the biggest impediment leaders face as they lead their businesses into the vaporized era is cultural.
“You need profound charisma in order to persuade, cajole, convince, demonstrate, and lead others to accept the new technology and the new way of doing business,” cautions Tercek. “Be prepared for some resistance. Trust me, most of them won’t want to go there with you.”