Scientifically, the speed of light, traveling through a vacuum or space, is clocked at about 186,000 miles per second; computers run about 10 billion bytes per seconds and in the brain, the speed of neural transmission is estimated at about 1000th of a second, a nano second, slower than light and computers.

Human have always liked speed; as children, we wanted to be pushed faster on the swing; we asked dad to drive faster and in adolescence, we raced our cars. As adults, we are generally impatient with how slowly things pan out.

Then came the Covid-19 pandemic. AI jumped into the fray and things switched to high speed technology. This was the collision of exponential growth with traditional systems. Companies like Mass General Hospital in Boston had to override their silos with digital transformation; Verizon’s 135,000 employees switched to working from home and their 10,000 service technicians reformatted their calls to virtual visits. “During the two weeks between March 14 and March 30, the United States may have experienced more digital transformation than it had witnessed during the previous ten years” (p. xv of Preface, Competing in the Age of AI: Strategy and Leadership when Algorithms and Networks Run the World). The exponential growth of the 2020 Coronavirus has been overwhelming our hospital systems and driving small companies out of existence as well as forcing large businesses to go digital.

Marco Iansiti and Karim R. Lakhani’s 2020 book[1] is a MUST read in today’s lightning transformation to AI technology. They had already published their book and were beginning a world-wide book tour when news of the explosion of Covid-19 met them landing in Italy. Without hesitation, they caught a ride to Zurich for a flight back to Boston.

Using multiple examples of businesses dealing with the “collision of AI-driven/digital and traditional/analog firms”, they outline a “framework for rethinking business and operating models”. Their book likewise explains “the reshaping of competition, altering the structure of our economy, and forcing traditional companies to reformat operating models”. Leaders of today’s digital and traditional companies will have new challenges and responsibilities, especially those offered by digital opportunities and risks. The book could be a guide for companies navigating their way through this era of Artificial Intelligence. It’s a whole new game with new rules and outcomes.

Our authors end their preface with a plea. “As the pandemic continues, it unfortunately underscores another basic lesson: that without enlightened leadership, the best data and analytics will not lead to wisdom. … Our leaders will need a deep appreciation of the ethic of digital scale, scope, and learning and will need to deeply understand the adverse economic and social impact of getting transformation wrong.”


[1] Iansiti, Marco and Lakhani, Karim R. (2020). Competing in the Age of AI: Strategy and Leadership when Algorithms and Networks Run the World. Harvard Business Review Press, Boston, MA.

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