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Leading Change in the Digital Age – Part Two: Beware Complacency!

By Adam Stanley,  Global CIO and Chief Digital Officer

Being an early adopter has its perils, but sitting on the sidelines thinking no major action is needed can be the kiss of death for any company navigating disruptive waters.

In my last blog, I reviewed the magnitude of change swamping commercial real estate and how our firm has established four goals to keep our teams focused on delivering the most practical systems and tools for our buck, while also embracing the best cutting-edge innovations.

We touched on the speed of change (in case you haven’t noticed) and I raised the specter of quantum computing, which will make even millennials feel like dinosaurs in the digital age.

Search “quantum computing” and you’ll find out what I’m talking about. For the purpose of this blog, think of it as computers teaching each other to analyze problems more like humans. Quantum computing is to today’s computing what the IPhone 10 is to a pocket watch from 1920. All of the big players in tech, including IBM, Google and Microsoft, are in the global race to build the world’s first practical quantum computer, and the prestigious journal Science said Google expected to have a 50-qubit quantum computer by the end of this year.

Once quantum computing is made widely available, it will spark the next industrial-super revolution, which will be many times bigger than that caused by the birth of personal-computing in 1984, or the rise of the searchable internet in 1995.

Meanwhile, while we wait for this seismic shift to occur, the digital revolution is quickly gaining momentum. Take data for a moment (bear with me; it really is interesting): In 2010, you might have produced a gigabyte (1,000 megabytes) of data in a week or two – or even a month. That’s the equivalent to about 200 songs, 10 episodes of the Game of Thrones, or roughly 34,000 emails.

Today, an enterprise user produces 60 gigabytes per hour! So, before lunch, the average employee produces about 400 gigabytes. Multiply that by the hundreds of millions of people creating data every day and you can see how 90% of the world’s data was created in the last two years.

With such mind-blowing speed of change in mind, think of companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon. They only got started in the mid-90s, not long ago considering their ginormous size and power. And, just as these new giants rose up, other iconic brands were taken out by disruptive change, including:

  • Kodak, which had more digital photography patents than any other company;
  • US Steel Mills, with the highest quality and tremendous customer loyalty;
  • Many national hotel brands that had consultants hooked on their points and rewards, and;
  • Blockbuster, which is perhaps everyone’s favorite story of a giant that was killed by a fledgling startup.

As we move deeper into the information age, the forces of change will continue to broadside unlikely companies. No matter what period in modern history we’re talking about, what’s always separated winners from losers is what leaders do at critical inflection points that demand change.

Will we be Blockbuster or Netflix? That’s top-of-mind question for Cushman & Wakefield leadership, which refuses to fall into any complacency traps (not in our DNA!). Should we be worried? Not if we focus on value, which to our firm means: a strong bias for action and results; value created by insights not transactions; and giving our people the right platform to drive growth. That, and always keeping an eye out for the next big thing!

A version of this blog appeared on CIO.com.


Adam Stanley provides strategic and operational direction for Cushman & Wakefield’s client facing and colleague technology systems and infrastructure across all global business lines. Drawing on his more than 20 years of industry experience and as an integral member of the global executive team, Adam is a change agent with proven success driving growth, performance, talent retention and innovation.

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