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May 13, 2018

Think different if you want to be competitive in today’s connected world, says Rainer Deutschmann

Dr. Rainer Deutschmann addresses the audience

Think exponentially and not in the time-honoured linear habit if you are to make an impact in today’s world of technology, was the sage advice Dr. Rainer Deutschmann offered to the large crowd at the Google I/O Extended Sri Lanka 2018 hosted by Dialog Axiata and Ideamart in Colombo this week.

Dr. Deutschmann, chief operating officer at Sri Lanka’s largest telecommunications service provider (Dialog), was one of the keynote speakers at South East Asia’s largest Google I/ O extension event where the underlying theme was “A connected world through IOT (Internet of Things)’. He dwelled on the Power of X(ponential).

“We live in exciting times where we have to be conscious of the power of exponential and also the threats that come with it,” Dr. Deutschmann told the 3,500-strong young and tech-savvy audience.

“We all have to leverage the power of exponential, the use of abundance, the use of fast learning, the use of constant reinvention and disruption, question existing business models, question the ways of doing things and the use of technology. We must do it not only in the lab but in the real world. The door is open and we are excited to work with you,” he added.

As part of its overall digital strategy, Dialog set up a company earlier this year called Apigate which seamlessly combines its IOT, web and digital platforms under one umbrella. This service will boost faster engagement and partnerships, opening up a new way of doing business in the digital space.

Dr. Deutschmann went out of his way to explain the difference between linear and the word ‘exponential’ as it was core to his message.

“If for example I take 30 linear steps in one direction I would have covered 30 metres if each step is a metre long. If I likewise take 30 exponential steps where one step is double the size of the next step, I would have circled the earth 26 times,” Dr. Deutschmann pointed out.

“The human brain is fundamentally unable to understand the implications of exponential growth because over billions of years we have developed in a linear manner.”

He used the famous example of Kodak to illustrate his point of why many companies had failed due to its managers thinking in a linear manner.

“Kodak used to be the dominant leader in photography in 1976. That year an engineer walked into the boardroom and showed the first self- contained digital camera. It weighed 3 and- a- half kilograms. When they (directors) saw the camera, they discarded the chance of developing it further as they felt the camera would not disrupt their business. In 2012 Kodak filed for bankruptcy,” Dr. Deutschmann related.

“But the implications of an exponential world offer a tremendous opportunity for all of us, companies and individuals alike. This is due to a number of reasons one of which is abundance. Computing power rises exponentially, connectivity speeds broadband coverage, every mobile generation has doubled the spectral efficiency of the previous one and information can be accessed at the remotest part of the world by anyone.

“Secondly, in an exponential world the only constant is change and change is only increasing. Look at the world today. Only 14 per cent of Fortune 500 companies that were there in 1955 exist today. At the same time new companies are rising at an increasing pace.

“A typical Fortune 500 company took about 20 years to reach a market capitalization of US$1 billion. Google which started in 1998 took eight years. Facebook started in 2004 and took five years. Uber and Whatsapp both started in 2009 and took only two years. Snapchat which began in 2011 took just one year to reach a market capitaliza- tion of $1 billion.”

Another facet of today’s exponential world was disruption. Businesses were constantly evolving with many cutting out the middle man – the hotel and the taxi industry being prime examples. Blockchain would see many new companies coming into the scene a c c o rding to Dr. Deutschmann who added that “small is big” was the new mantra – Whatsapp when it started in 2014 had only 35 engineers.

“We held this event for the first time last year and since then the world has changed tremendously. There are 250 million new Internet users and for the first time more than half the world’s population is connected to the Internet.

“There are 360 million new social media users who have joined the community, the majority of them from only four countries – China, India, Indonesia and Iran. A massive 170 billion apps have been downloaded through App stores which is a 60 per cent increase Year- on- Year. This has generated $68 billion, 100 per cent more than the year before. This all shows the amazing growth of the Inter net community,” Dr. Deutschmann revealed.

The young generation at the Sri Lanka Exhibition and Convention Centre listened rapturously. They were probably dreaming of creating an application that would change the world upside down.

The 12- hour long event also showcased a talk by Kumar Sangakkara who focused on insights of leaderships – “Leadership is a journey. You are not born or made a leader” – as well as the latest products from Google including Google News which will use AI (artificial intelligence) to help you learn more about stories that matter to you; the new voices to Google Assistant which will also help you draft emails as you type and best of all Google Lens where you will be able to browse the world round you just by pointing your phone camera on the object and answer any questions you have.