Every Company is a Tech Company Now. The Disruption is Just Beginning

7 min read
The world is in the midst of an unprecedented reset, one that is already transforming the economy and what employees, customers and communities expect of companies.
In March 2020, as businesses across the world sent non-essential workers home to slow the spread of the coronavirus, a 2.6 million-sq.-ft. General Motors plant in Kokomo, Ind., sat idle. At the same time, ventilators—the breathing machines essential to keeping critically ill COVID-19 patients alive—were in frighteningly short supply. And so within a week of pausing the plant's operations, GM CEO Mary Barra launched it back into action, quickly transforming a dormant engineering building into an assembly line that delivered 30,000 ventilators in five months.

Barra says that approach, incubated in the crisis of the pandemic, is now a permanent cultural shift that has already led to faster timetables for GM's bet-the-company push to sell only electric vehicles by 2035. "Now as we approach different projects, we say, 'You know, we've got to go at ventilator speed because we know we have the capability to do that,'" Barra says.

Amid the disruption, pain and loss of 2020, the global pandemic provided a rare window into the future of business as it unfolded in real time. As governments in the U.S. and elsewhere stumbled, business loomed larger than ever: developing vaccines at record speed; providing the technology that enabled remote school and work; and keeping millions of people fed, clothed, entertained and in touch with ramped-up digital services.

The scope and speed of change was unprecedented, accelerating digital adaptation by as much as five years in a 12-month period. Disruption ruled, as legacy companies imploded. Everything that could be digitized was, from education and exercise to currency and cars. Nearly every business has become a tech business, one reason stocks have soared even as the pandemic devastated lives and livelihoods across the globe. Meanwhile, inequality also soared: almost 1 in 8 American adults reported that their household didn't have enough to eat as 2020 headed toward its close; 9 million U.S. small-business owners fear their…
Edward Felsenthal
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