How fast is our world becoming obsolete?

If you were born any time before the last century you probably grew up, worked and died without ever noticing a significant difference between your first day and your last. Managing change during a lifetime is a modern phenomenon. Nowadays change doesn’t occur over a lifetime or even over years but rather months. Today if you complete a computer science degree, what you learned in your first year of study is obsolete by year 3. And this is not only a problem for individuals but for businesses too.


The speed of change now means that the advantage of production innovation can only be guaranteed, again, in terms of months and not years. As you sit reading this article, the world will never again be this slow. The pace of change will only get faster.

The driver of this change is technology advancement but that is not really the interesting part. It is the business models which are truly transformational. In 1991 the following items were advertised by RadioShack:

  • All weather personal stereo: $11.88
  • AM/FM clock radio $13.88
  • In-Ear Stereo Phones: $7.88
  • Microthin calculator: $4.88
  • Tandy 1000 TL/3: $1599
  • VHS Camcorder: $799
  • Mobile Cellular Telephone: $199
  • Mobile CB, $49.95
  • 20-Memory Speed-Dial phone, $29.95
  • Deluxe Portable CD Player, $159.95
  • 10-Channel Desktop Scanner, $99.55
  • Easiest-to-Use Phone Answerer, $49.95
  • Handheld Cassette Tape Recorder, $29.95.

To buy all of these items would have cost $3,054.82 in 1991 (approximately $5,100 today). We can do all of this on our phones today which leads to the equation:


So what can businesses do to compete? The above products were all delivery mechanisms of something people wanted. The companies that failed were not able to realize that their products were merely delivery packaging of their core value..“Deluxe Portable CD player” delivered “high-quality music anywhere”. The core value was "high-quality music anywhere" not the CD player package. Of course if that was attractive then that would always help. But attractiveness will never beat the simplicity of not being needed or not having to buy it.

Approximately 10 years ago Nokia was worth about $245 billion – approximately the same value of Apple today. Last year the company was sold for $7.4 billion, which is consequentially less than what Microsoft paid for Skype. Ten years from now do we see a world without Apple? I am sure Apple wakes up with that thought every day. And for that reason I predict they have a better chance than most.

So what is the lesson here? Open your mind and look at the world through a different lens. Throw away the habits of yesterday, especially the ones so deeply ingrained you don’t realize you have them. Do for both work and personal life.

And the only additional request to all of us from a personal point of view. Make sure every day to go offline and slow down, there is more to life than ever increasingly technology driven change. Some things have never changed and will never be obsolete…

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At the Ericsson Blog, we provide insight to make complex ideas on technology, innovation and business simple.