Briefing #1 – Chessboards, wheat and disruptive growth
Let’s set the scene for this first briefing with a short (two minute) video that was originally made by IBM back in the 60′s:
The fable of the chessboard and wheat is a story of surprise. Why is that important? It’s important because industries and businesses get disrupted precisely because they get taken by surprise – hit by changes beyond the bounds of what they were expecting.
The fable describes a phenomenon known as exponential growth and draws out one of the most important features of that phenomenon; namely that, in an exponential setting, what appears at first like an insignificant trend can very rapidly escalate into something beyond all imagining or control. As a result, exponential growth can be explosively disruptive.
That was certainly the experience of the Indian king. He initially took comfort in the modest amount of wheat required to meet his promise on the early squares of the chessboard. But that comfort soon turned to horror as he found himself overwhelmed by the meteoric growth in the grains of wheat required to meet the vizier’s request.
The concept of exponential growth is one of the most important building blocks for developing an understanding of disruptive technology. In our next briefing, “More and more of Moore’s law”, we’ll explore a little of how the story of the chessboard and wheat is alive and well today and wreaking havoc in the world you and I live and do business in.
In the meantime, take a moment to reflect on the story of the chessboard and wheat and what it might mean for your business or industry.