Salim Ismail is a strategist, entrepreneur and authority on the impact of breakthrough technologies on business and society. He is the founding executive director of Singularity University and author of “Exponential Organizations,” which explores how companies must adapt to cultural change. Earlier, Ismail founded several tech startups and ran Yahoo’s internal new-product incubator. His last company was sold to Google in 2010.
Q. HOW DO DEMOGRAPHIC SHIFTS IMPACT COMPANIES’ INNOVATION STRATEGIES AND DISRUPTIVE IMPULSES?
It is imperative today that companies take into account demographic shifts. Perhaps the biggest one is the increasing gap between generations. A thousand years ago, one generation’s members led exactly the same lives as their parents and the generations before that. The lives we lead today are quite different from our parents, and the lives of our kids are much different from ours. So companies have to, by definition, create disruptive products and services. For example, in just a few years the demographic shift has upended the value model of the Internet. The first generation of Internet companies—AOL, Yahoo, Google—stored information. The next generation, including LinkedIn and Facebook, shared it for users. But the latest generation of Internet users on Snapchat and similar apps wants to share the information itself. We think this type of sharing will happen in many other industries, and companies will have to respond.