Preparing for The Third Wave

By Peter Prestipino, Editor-In-Chief

My first exposure to the Web, like many millions of others, came thanks to a shiny compact disc from America Online. Only a handful of very forward thinkers knew at the time what access to the Internet would provide the world.

Suffice it to say, pretty much everything changed with the rise of the Web; entire new industries emerged (and many established ones were fundamentally and forever changed) and as a result fortunes were made and lost. If you or your enterprise were not an early adopter of the 'Net and believe you've fallen behind as a result, however, you're likely interested in ensuring that doesn't happen again, right? There is, of course, dramatic change coming (as it always does) to every industry, career and facet of existence - and those ready for it will be those positioned for the greatest success in the future.

One of the most intriguing characters during the last wave of true technology and business innovation was AOL Co-Founder Steve Case (now founder and partner of investment firm Revolution Growth). In many ways, it was Case's vision and drive that helped develop the 'Net as we know it today. And when an entrepreneur/technologist like Case speaks, it's not a bad idea to listen.

I was fortunate to receive an early copy of Case's new book "The Third Wave," which addresses what the super successful billionaire expects from the future and the technological changes that he believes will ultimately reshape the economy and the world. If you, like I, are intrigued by what's next, Case provides both an informed and rather enlightening collection of insights and stories as well as some experience-based context for the years, decades and perhaps centuries ahead for those looking to build transformational businesses and change the things that truly need changing (from healthcare to education).

Part manifesto and part history book, Case argues in the "Third Wave" that success in the future, particularly for entrepreneurs, will increasingly demand focus on three areas: partnerships, policy and, as much or more than ever, perseverance. While the book is somewhat safe in its prognostications, it does offer some practical insights for those looking for the next big idea that can change the world. After discussing his book at the Union Club in Chicago, I had the opportunity to speak personally with Case about the book, discuss the opportunities he sees, and receive some valuable guidance for those seeking partnerships and expertise on policy.

Case also had some interesting things to say about how the next generation of workers should prepare for the inevitable shift. One of the major issues that entrepreneurs have, according to Case, is whether they have a truly big idea. That wasn't necessary a core part of the "Third Wave," but it does reveal just what's at stake - those "ideas" that are genuine game changers will transform the way business and people do things (and what venture capitalists want most to invest in). For those looking for a big idea or to confirm they have one, Case suggested to focus on the fundamental problems and try to figure out if and how it could be solved, how broad of an impact is required, and whether the right team, the right technology and the right timing is in place - sound thinking for any enterprise in any wave or age.

When it comes to forming partnerships, Case had another interesting perspective to share - make sure you have diversity in perspectives. It's not uncommon for founders to be specialists in a particular area but with so much required to thrive in industries that need transformation, it is essential to have a team with expertise in areas that were once, if not unnecessary, at least less important than they are today (for example in education or healthcare policy). Enterprises with a broader level of expertise will only be those capable of success in this third wave.

Make no mistake, Case's book can be somewhat unsettling - bringing to light all those fears that you may ultimately be replaced by a robot and showing how that future might come to fruition. So how should the next generation of workers prepare?

"Everyone will need to be more independent, managing their own career path and destiny," said Case. "Think differently and to the future."

That's not very comforting and perhaps Case himself worries about what's next - emphasizing that the world is changing and business as usual simply won't work.

Case provides a compelling playbook for the third wave that provides a strong foundation, but, of course, no guarantee, of success. For that, you'll need a big (and good) idea, diversity in perspective and dedication to partnerships and policy, persevering until change manifests. Sounds like a reasonable place to start every project.