Disruptive technology is everywhere in today’s digital economy, changing every aspect of business as we know it. I believe exponential thinking is one of the keys to success in being disruptive; in fact, it might be the secret of Silicon Valley.
We’re all familiar with the exponential function: 2x. But we may not know that some of the most disruptive technologies taking the world by storm are based on exponential growth. Disruptions like 3D printing, autonomous vehicles, and self-healing code have all experienced exponential growth.
A few years ago most people had only heard of self-driving cars as creative concepts in labs like Vislab, Tesla, and Google. Now, virtually every carmaker — and others in adjacent industries — are not just talking about, but delivering on the promise of self-driving cars. The primary purpose of self-driving cars used to be mapping the world. Now, a self-driving bus wanders the streets of Las Vegas. A year or two ago the talk was only about cars, now, sometime this summer, a self-flying taxi is planned to operate over Dubai and later, Dallas. Disruptive technology takes us by surprise because the numbers are small — but then the growth rate is phenomenal.
When I talk to customers, they tend to have a common question: How can I change my thinking, what can I do to prepare? My answer is invariably: exponential thinking. In the past, innovation was hindered because of the limited knowledge available, limited natural resources, or lack of money. In a world where almost 3B people have instant access to knowledge that was only accessible to elites 100 years ago, and computing power in your phone is ~100 times as strong as in the Apollo moon program, the possibilities become limitless. Knowing and believing that the old boundary conditions no longer exist is the mindset of abundance that makes exponential developments possible.
Those who can think exponentially and believe in a future of abundance where everything will increase quite rapidly, are more likely to be the disruptors, rather than the disrupted. That’s why I’m so excited to announce that we’re expanding our relationship with Singularity University (SU) today, and will be co-founding SingularityU Germany in Berlin.
SAP is expanding its relationship with Singularity University and co-founding SingularityU Germany
SU is an innovation think tank that was founded in Silicon Valley in 2009 with the mission to educate, inspire, and empower leaders to apply exponential technologies to address humanity’s grand challenges. That’s a big goal. But it’s one that resonates incredibly well with SAP’s own vision to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. While SU has a strong presence in Silicon Valley, Europe — particularly Berlin — is a hub of innovation, too. With global headquarters in Germany and the top technology company with 45 years of deep roots in Europe, SAP is the perfect partner to help establish SU in Germany. In particular, SAP Digital Business Services EMEA and SAP Digital have teamed up to expand the relationship with SU into Europe. (A shout-out to my colleagues Robert Rabe, Thomas Struzek, and Stefan Schoepfel for getting us to this day with SU.)
I’m incredibly excited about the work that SU is doing in a variety of its research areas, from artificial intelligence and machine learning to robotics and autonomous vehicles. As we extend our relationship from the U.S. to Europe and beyond (stay tuned in the future), there will be opportunities for SU practitioners to get involved in customer-facing events as well as custom-created courses in exponential thinking and technology for SAP employees and joint thinking.
Tomorrow, I will have the honor to discuss Exponential Organizations in a fireside chat, together with Salim Ismail and hundreds of others in the audience at the SingularityU Germany Summit in Berlin.
So, why is this so important?
There are two main reasons: First, by teaming with SingularityU, SAP is bringing exponential thinking to the rest of the company and our customers. Arming SAP employees at every level with the knowledge of abundance and exponential thinking can have a profound impact on the rest of the company. If SAP employees believe it, our customers will in turn benefit from a world of exponential thought. Both SingularityU Germany and SAP will be closer to the European and German market needs, and better able to identify great new ideas and turn them into new exponential thinking, challenging the status quo even further with our customers, ecosystem, and employees.
Second, exponential thinking is critical for Germany — and the rest Europe. This collaboration will accelerate Europe’s move into the digital economy. According to a June 2016 McKinsey article, Germany has only captured 10% of the country’s potential from digitization. And Europe wasn’t far ahead at a mere 12% of captured digitization. SingularityU and SAP will ensure the region keeps up the pace to thrive in the digital economy.
Jonathan Becher is chief digital officer at SAP and head of SAP Digital