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July 3, 2013

The Chief Global Officer in an Age of Technological Disruption


Throughout the pages of this site, I seek to build the case for a new, emergent role of a Chief Global Officer today — someone I see as a global advocate, a global change agent, a curator of globally relevant content to help link events  in the face of rapid, fundamental changes impacting our world today.

Whether in work or education or society in general, I argue that changes today bring with them vast implications that point to the need for a globally inter-connected and inter-dependent wold view, something more practical  — and personal — than much of today’s mainstream discourse on  global affairs and foreign policy.

In the case of technology especially, we see how these global forces of change are both making the world more complex and bringing us as global citizens — all 7 billion of us — closer together.  These forces are today shaping our experience to an extent far greater — and a pace far faster — than anything our parents or grandparents ever experienced.

A recent ambitious study just published by the McKinsey Global Institute (“Disruptive technologies:  Advances that will transform life, business and the global economy“) inspired me to consider technology today in the context of the role of the Chief Global Officer.

“A Google data center in Council Bluffs, Iowa.”  Photo credit:  New York Times (via Associated Press).

The big picture as I see it  — and full disclosure here:  I’ve worked in the Internet world for tech companies for 20 years — can be found in how the technological advances today are playing off of each other:

1.  advances in computer automation enabled through things like cloud computing (massive scaling) and Web 2.0  technologies (CSS, HTML5, H.264)… have led to;

2.  exponentially more data processing capabilities, and with it, new ways to “slice and dice” data on the fly (read “Big Data”)… which leads to;

3.  advances in sensors and mobile hardware and the ability to inter-connet and process more data streaming out from ever more devices, regardless of geographic location, which leads to;

4.  new technologies like autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, remote medicine, robotics, and advanced genomics, and…

5.  vast new efficiencies in energy, yielding significant reductions in the use of non-renewable resources like oil and water and fostering improvements in the  development of new renewable resources like wind and solar, plus the reduction of electricity through improvements in remote measurement and monitoring, and in battery storage technology.

What’s interesting to me about the McKinsey Global Institute report is how it attempts to measure the global implications in terms of jobs, new investment, and disruptions to established ways of doing things.

If the next 5 years are going to be anything like the past 5 years, we’re in for a fun ride.  Consider that merely 8 years ago, the technologies so prevalent here in the West today were either not even around or were in their nascence:  Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, iPhones, iPads, Google Earth, Skype, and apps.

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