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Small Business + Technology = Exponential Potential

The environment in which small businesses operate is changing dramatically – or to use a phrase that is entering our vernacular - exponentially.

The concept of exponential growth is a little daunting. According to Salim Ismail, a past keynote speaker at FEI and the founding executive director of Singularity University, “An Exponential Organization is one whose impact (or output) is disproportionally large – at least 10x larger – compared to its peers because of the use of new organisational techniques that leverage accelerating technologies”. In laymen’s terms, where once we were dependent on the physical interactions to bring change and knowledge, the democratisation of knowledge through the internet has placed the potential for accelerated growth into the hands of everyone.

We often don’t understand the nature of change and when this happens we can be taken by surprise. Homo sapiens have always experienced growth, so the fear around change should be surprising. What is evident and likely to feed current fears is the increasing rate of change.

Every organisation that has experienced success has used the latest in technology to improve operations and assist clients. Companies such as Netflix, Amazon and Zappos utilised the internet to create online retail stores that are still evolving and changing.

Open sourcing has afforded cheaper options for users since the 1950s and 60s. In 2015 colleagues Dr Jamie Flynn, Antony Martin and Will Palmer from HMRI, a medical research organisation in NSW, Australia, assembled a 3D imaging device that delivers clear three-dimensional cellular images. They built the Clarity light-sheet for $70,000 using plans, parts and technical advice sourced from the internet and collaborators around the world. The commercially available equivalent is priced at one million dollars.

Today technology gives us access to knowledge and tools that historically have been inaccessible to all but the largest corporations. Technology can now be used to turbo charge a small business in ways that have historically been unimaginable.

With SMEs willing and able to take calculated risks, they hold an advantage over larger organisations. For a corporate to change their systems, KPIs and shareholder expectations, the turnaround is a rather difficult and lengthy process. With the technologies currently accessible, SMEs can source genetic modification techniques, artificial intelligence expertise, and online capabilities to the level of a PhD. There is almost no limit to what small businesses can do armed with the appropriate knowledge and a case study or two.

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