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Articles by N. Chandramouli

The Cusp Of Change

The life of a modern day leader is not easy as each action carries the potential to propel or impede the organisation substantially. The sheer complexity of businesses, information overload, unlimited potential and possibilities of overnight obsolescence add to the risks a leader is forced to take every day. A CEO friend who heads the Indian arm of a multi-billion dollar financial information multinational, analysed business unpredictability. He said he wouldn’t be surprised if a company like Google decided one morning to offer the data-service his company had been providing, completely free, making his century old business obsolete overnight.

Why is today so different from any of the earlier times? If one looks at it closely, the answer lies in one word — communication. And since this communication is so different from the way the world knew it, it would be appropriate to prefix it with modern.

The divide between the old-world and new-world has become particularly prominent. Most teens of this generation will find it difficult to imagine a world without the internet, mobile or mobile network. We’re all connected by voice, video, data, and we can hear, see and know almost anything; stuff that is moving through a maze of unseen ‘pipes’.

There are some inventions which bring about permanent change and everything else changes as a consequence. One such is the Internet. It energises information with its easy and universal access, and is totally agnostic to age, gender, geography or wealth. It has given everyone the opportunity to be a part of a world-changing idea.  The sheer volume of ‘thoughts’ exchanged, and the potential of each thought to jostle with millions of others is mind-boggling. This makes information access the first pillar of modern communication.

Though the concept of equality is considered one of the highest forms of social evolution (democracy), it is information equality that takes evolution a step beyond.  Equality is a concept of providing security to people, and by its very definition segregates society into groups of ‘givers’ and ‘takers’: government to its citizenry, one economic class to another, or knowledge-givers to knowledge-seekers.

Information equality, on the other hand, is liberating. There are no givers and yet everyone provides; there are no takers, yet everyone receives. Today, not only do we have access to any public information across the globe, but we also have access to information which traditionally was not even considered information — like the thoughts and feelings of millions we do not even know. Our learning and systems of organising information has changed completely, and we build our own towers of knowledge by borrowing readily from the already created knowledge of others. And this happens quite instantly, making use of information the primary objective, relegating assimilation to a secondary role. Information equality is therefore, the second pillar of modern communication.

Knowledge acquisition, creation and sharing, has taken on the force of exponential growth and Information equality has given rise to greater public scrutiny. Governments, corporations, individuals with power, money, knowledge and status — everyone has come under everyone else’s lens. Everyone is an auditor, and there are millions of motivated, self-driven, concerned individuals who have taken up the collective responsibility of monitoring the 'world'.  Our societies have changed forever. Information Sharing is the third pillar of modern communication.

We are at the cusp of an evolutionary upheaval that is changing the way we create, share and access information, as also in how we store, process and assimilate it. As a result, our learning abilities have changed and so has our neurological capability to absorb newer ideas faster. For a moment, imagine the excitement when the printing press was invented. Multiply that by 300 exabytes (approximately the total data storage capacity in the world, with 1 exabyte equal to 1 billion gigabytes) and we have the excited potency of the new-age technology.

The age of hundreds of millions of customers is here. Businesses only a few years’ old are giving century-old organisations a run for their money and small start-ups are now looking dangerous to large well-established corporations. As a corollary, the icons of technology are the unexpected heroes of our times, and names like Mark Zukerberg, Reid Hoffman and Jack Dorsey are the new conversation starters. These times are filled with greater flux than any time before it, and at the core of all this change is rapid communication and instant information.

Everyone is in a position to utilise their potential to the maximum, the power of which even they cannot fully comprehend. This is indeed the new world, and one that is available to all.

N. Chandramouli is the CEO of the Comniscient Group which has interests in several communication businesses. He is the author of the soon to be published book, Decoding Communication
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