Strategy + Business inteview

A Long-Wave Theory on Today’s Digital Revolution

Historian Elin Whitney-Smith looks at previous periods of disruption to understand what companies (and people) are going through today.

Art Kleiner, editor of Strategy + Business had this to say in the introduction to the interview:

    According to Elin Whitney-Smith, executives facing technological and economic change have a major decision to make: Will they handle disruption like the Spanish grandees who dominated the 17th-century economy or like the English weavers who supplanted them by embracing the printing press? This is only the sixth time since the dawn of civilization, says this long-wave theorist and economic historian, that human societies have faced a wave of change similar to the one that humanity is going through today. Each time, the disruption has been triggered by an innovation in information technology, which prompts a new form of organization. Today’s leaders have an advantage over the old guard in the five previous waves of change: They can see what’s happening more clearly. But whether they will heed the lessons of the past remains to be seen.

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