The Disruptive Dozen

SAN FRANCISCO – History is littered with technologies that were once hailed as the next big thing. That can be annoying for consumers when they realize that, say, the quadrophonic stereo they purchased was a waste of money. But when companies bet on the wrong technologies, the consequences can be devastating for them.

In the late 1990’s, for example, the belief that B2B exchanges would prove to be the “killer app” for commerce resulted in the formation of more than 1,500 of them. Most have since vanished, taking billions of dollars in investment with them.

To help cut through the hype that surrounds the arrival of almost all new technologies, the McKinsey Global Institute examined more than 100 rapidly evolving technologies and identified 12 that are almost certain to disturb the status quo in the coming years. The MGI estimates that the combined annual economic impact of this “disruptive dozen” – which span information technology, machinery and vehicles, energy, bioscience, and materials – will reach $14-33 trillion by 2025. Much of this value – in many cases, a significant majority – is likely to accrue to consumers.

Consider the mobile Internet, with an annual economic impact that is projected to reach $10 trillion by 2025. As advanced-country consumers continue to amass benefits from constant access to an increasing amount of information, apps, and online services, more than two billion developing-country citizens could gain access to the same benefits from technological progress in the rest of the world. The value of these benefits would dwarf the value likely to be reaped by suppliers of mobile devices and Internet services.