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The convergence of convergence

Where to start

Here’s a simple yet powerful guideline to keep in mind: Don’t even think about what a technology can do for you until you first determine what it can do to you. Here are three steps to help you not only make that determination, but use it to your advantage.

  1. Review and refresh your strategic plan through the lens of convergence. This must go beyond making probability-based predictions to applying foresight as well (see the May/June 2018 installment of this column).

Take inventory of your current and planned technologies, along with anticipated changes in the social, political, economic, and other environments. Determine the potential positive or negative impact of each major trend, along with an estimate of where each is currently positioned on the traditional “S” curve. Is it in the early buildup, exponential growth, or leveling-off phase? Put together a prioritized list of trends representing the greatest risks and opportunities for your enterprise.

You can do this at a high level by building a matrix for each trend, with impact factors (cost, environmental, legal, political, reputation, etc.) as rows, and the various stakeholders (investors, customers, community, etc.) as columns. Since the number of cells in the matrix can quickly grow to a hundred or more, prioritize them by using a color code such as “green” to indicate strong capability and opportunity, and “red” to indicate a stern warning that you need to avoid or mitigate the risk. Step back and look at where the reds and greens might cluster together to form either a potentially dangerous or opportunistic convergence.

  1. Develop scenarios for each major convergence you’ve identified. Look at past history—what worked, what didn’t work, and why? Use the scenarios to envision a series of development road maps to the future, and select those that best fit your organization’s capacity and appetite for risk vs. opportunity.
  2. Re-balance your strategy along with the resources needed to execute. Be sure to apply the enterprise of the future principles and practices we’ve been sharing in this column, such as anticipatory business intelligence, Theory of Change, agile methods, and engagement of all stakeholders.

Pay particular attention to the HCI—the all-important point where humans and computers intersect. Not just the human-computer interface, but the even more important HCI: human-convergence implications. One example is the social amplification of technology, where a seemingly innocent decision gets blown out of proportion as it goes viral across the social media sphere.

Don’t forget that you’re dealing with complex, adaptive systems. But it need not be overly complicated. There are simple metrics you can use to measure and manage the degree of complexity. The McCabe cyclomatic complexity metric typically used in software and communication networks can be applied to almost any complex system, including the human physiology and biological ecosystems.

Here’s an added bonus. Large bodies of expertise across a wide range of cultures, disciplines, and industries are available right in your own backyard, namely, our global KM community!

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the moving parts. These three steps will help you get above the noise and see the big picture for what it truly represents: creating opportunity in a world in which others only see danger.

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