The new competitive advantage: There’s an app for that

There seems to be this new genre of media out there meant to scare the crap out of you.  The techno music starts to pulse and then these animated slides whiz these amazing facts at you like “Did you you know that the average worker now spends 26 hours a day on Facebook?” <next slide> “And that rate is growing at a rate of 1,120%” <next slide> PER MONTH??”

These “scare slides” are meant to impress you with social media’s omnipotence and power. Through the pounding music they want you to think that change is coming at you so fast that you might as well just call it a day … unless you buy their consulting services.

I don’t know where they come up with these facts, but here’s one that caught my attention: “For a college freshman, half of what they have learned will be obsolete by their junior year.”

While that “fact” seems improbable, it did make think about the accelerating rate of change and the impact on indivudals as we try to remain effective leaders.

A hypothesis:  Personal “technological adaptability” is going to be an increasingly important life skill.

Here’s what  I mean.  The rate of technological change is occurring so fast that an ability to quickly assess, process and deploy new apps will be a source of competitive advantage not only for companies, but for individuals.

Let’s say we had two employees, equally educated and experienced. Both are given a task. Employee One begins the task, as assigned by the boss. Employee Two first assesses free tools on the web that can sort, organize and automate that task.  Ultimately that employee will provide a better, faster and cheaper result for the company. And get a promotion!

Even two years ago this would not have been an issue. Both employees would basically have access to the same company-issued and approved technology — Excel, Access, Word, etc.  But now, for almost any work task, somewhere, there’s “an app for that.”  The ability to find and apply these free and useful ideas will become an increasingly critical skill.

So what does this mean for me and you?   How do we keep our edge at this incredible rate of change?   Where do we find the time to do explore and learn new applications?  How do companies enable this skill in employees?

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