On the 20th November 2018 I attended the CILIP Employers Forum. One of the talks was by Terry Corby on “Avoiding the Toaster! Meeting the challenge of disruptive innovation”. The toaster in the title was alluding to the idea that if we fail to deal with disruptive innovation, we will become “toast”.
Terry argued that automation is already here:
- “60% of occupations could have 30% or more of their activities automated with current technology”
- 20% of a CEO’s activities could be automated now
- The cost benefits are between three and ten times the investment. Only human factors prevent it happening.
- AI solutions tend to work best when they have a human element as well.
Examples he gave of good disruption were:
- Augmented reality apps in supermarkets, filtering for offers, allergens etc.
- Volvo using Hololens to design cars
- Walmart using shelf-scanning robots
- RICOH Clickable Paper
- Amazon Prime Air (still in development)
- Maersk and IBM using Blockchain to better manage global shipping
- 3d printing for automotive and medical devices
Many companies foresaw future disruption but failed to capitalise:
- Kodak invented digital photography
- Xerox invented the Graphical User Interface and the computer mouse.
Among Terry’s suggestions for how to operate in this environment were:
- Seek out stakeholders who will insist on innovation.
- Find out what your customer really wants and values.
- Work on many innovations, expecting that most will fail, but some may greatly succeed.
- Create a culture that encourages innovation and learning.
- Completely master new skills if you can, or recognise when you can’t.
- Be an outsider in new areas, not just an insider in your own.
Established companies are often at a disadvantage because they don’t recognise the threat and fear cannibalising their business
The challenge Terry laid down to librarians was that we had allowed search engines to roll over us, would we do the same for artificial intelligence? He doesn’t know our field and so had no answers, but he did call us to think these issues through for ourselves, and then we will avoid someone “eating our breakfast”.
Now over to you: what do you think? Leave a comment below.