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The Future of Business – Navigating the Next Horizon

By Rohit Talwar
What are the forces, ideas, tensions, developments, opportunities, and choices shaping the future of business over the next twenty years?
Charting the Future of Business

The future of business over the next two decades will not be a linear extrapolation from the present day. There are many possible scenarios – each with multiple paths to get from where we are today to an uncertain tomorrow. Those scenarios arise from the complex interplay between a range of future factors:

  • Socio-demographic changes, and the rapidly evolving values, needs, and expectations of individuals and societies.
  • Political and economic shifts.
  • Alternative possible trajectories for energy, resources, the environment, biodiversity, and sustainability.
  • New business thinking and the impacts of an increasingly globalized business landscape.
  • Rapid and convergent developments across a range of disciplines in science and technology with potentially disruptive impact.

This post examines the critical tensions and choices that are arise from the interplay of these forces and outlines the domains of science and technology that could catalyze the biggest changes in our world.

I highlight emerging business sectors that could shape tomorrow’s economy and examine the new business strategies and behaviors that these developments could enable. I conclude with an assessment of the critical decisions businesses need to make as they define their future purpose and strategy.

The central role of information and communications technology

The business landscape is being shaped by a number of major shifts that in turn are forcing us to rethink every aspect of our purpose, philosophy, culture, strategy, business model, capabilities, technology architecture, operational design, organizational architecture, HR approach, and financing options. At the heart of the story about tomorrow’s business, is the impact of the ever quickening pace of advances in information and communications technology (ICT) in particular. We are experiencing exponential rates of development and declining costs for many of the underlying fields from computer power and storage capacity to communications speeds and data transmission bandwidths. These are enabling the spread of relatively low cost mobile devices across the globe, giving ever-larger numbers access to the internet, and driving the current dialogue around digital transformation and industry disruption.

When worlds collide

The pace of digital penetration into every aspect of our world is leading to an inevitable clash between two worlds. On the one hand we have the planet populated and largely still run by those born physical. They see the world as a very tangible entity with physical outputs – whether they build houses, produce cars, or provide financial services. In this world, despite digital advances, “analog” mindsets dominate aspirations and decision making, hence growth opportunities and business problems are tackled in a relatively linear manner – with technology as an enabler.

This physical world is on a headlong collision course with the inhabitants of “planet digital”. The latter is inhabited by individuals and firms who are born digital. Instead of houses, cars, and savings products, all they see is data. They believe every challenge and problem can be addressed by finding the right software algorithm and deploying the appropriate mix of technologies. Crucially, they bring exponential thinking to business strategy. They want to break with linear approaches that typically limit them to 5 to 50 percent improvements on key measures of organizational performance. Instead, they are looking for ways to triple the number of houses built per week, reduce the time to produce a new model by 20 times or more, and quadruple the number of customers per employee.

Reworking the DNA of business

The challenge for those not raised with a digital mindset is to learn how to evolve and compete in the new environment. Can we get there by simply deploying more technology or do we need radical reframing of our way of seeing the landscape – do we need to develop a digital and exponential mindset? Some believe this evolution of their DNA can be achieved within the existing “rules of the game” – innovating within the standard industry practices, established ways of thinking and unspoken assumptions that shape the strategies of most players in the sector. Others are trying to reinvent themselves by pursuing game changing approaches. In many sectors, the biggest disruption comes from new entrants who ignore the old rules and seek to change the game itself.

For example, when Skype entered the telephony market it changed the game by taking the industry’s core product – the humble phone call – and making it available for free. Skype has captured around 40 percent of international telephone traffic with a fraction of the total workforce of most telecommunications operators. Those adopting this path have to embrace a fundamentally different mindset and culture – rather than simply making the investment in more technology.

As you read through the chapters in our first book, The Future of Business, it becomes clear that businesses trying to carve a path to the future will have to respond to a number of significant tensions that are emerging across nations, society, and business. These opposing forces are driving the need for new thinking and new strategies, creating new opportunities and unveiling a whole new range and scale of risks.

Economic, political, and social tensions

As countries wrestle with the complex questions posed by a fast changing and highly interconnected world, the decisions they make have a fundamental bearing on the choices made by both national and international businesses.

  • Econo-Political Consolidation versus Fragmentation. Some groupings such as the European Union, ASEAN and the Gulf States could see greater convergence on a range of economic and political policy issues. At the same time, a range of smaller and struggling developing nations may seek to merge. In both cases the drivers are the need for economies of scale and consolidated policy making in the face of an accelerating pace of change. These forces drive the need for nations to create critical economic strength, attract the investment required to serve their populations, and compete in the hyper-connected era. In parallel, we may see many regions seek to break away from countries in pursuit of economic and political independence.
  • Closed versus Open Flows. Those who seek to control economic activity will be challenged by a relentless pursuit of the opportunities presented by globalization. Network technology in dismantling artificial barriers to the free global flow of information, knowledge, people, money, assets, services, and physical goods. A more dynamic, instantly responsive and rapidly evolving system will introduce new sources of opportunity, uncertainty, and volatility.
  • Ageing versus Youthful Societies. In many nations, an ageing population with a declining birth rate will pressurize government finances and care systems. Developing nations with faster growing and younger populations will face the triple challenges of upgrading education models, creating employment and providing effective health and social systems.
  • Masculine versus Feminine. Male-dominated power structures and systems in governance, business, society, and the family will continue to come under pressure. Females now outperform males at every level of the education system across the planet. Women’s income levels are rising, as is the proportion of total national assets that they own. Together these developments will accelerate the drive for equal access to workplace opportunity, advancement, and rewards and be a transforming force in many economies. These in turn will challenge organizational thought processes, governing assumptions, dominant cultural metaphors, and workplace practices.
  • Power versus Profit. Global energy demand is expected to outstrip supply for many decades to come. Warnings around the dangerous climatic and environmental impact of fossil fuels are ever-more frequent. Trillions of dollars of investment is required to ensure adequate and continuous power for a growing global population and the underlying infrastructure and business sectors that serve it. Massive growth is inevitable and necessary in the use of alternative energy sources from solar to wind, tidal, bio-waste and geothermal. The sheer level of financing required to develop and scale up this new global energy grid will require participation from governments, and the willingness of investors to accept lower returns than those traditionally achieved in the energy sector.
Commercial pressure points

Business will be reinvented as sector incumbents are challenged externally by brash new entrants and internally by a generation demanding change. These upstarts are embracing new ideas – fueled by technology advances, different generational attitudes, and shifting global perspectives on what emerging nations are capable of. This will be test each of the pillars upon which we have built modern business, global trade, and its governance systems.

  • Corporate Power versus Youthful Ambition. Up to 50 percent of the Fortune 500 in 2025 probably doesn’t exist in 2015. Many more traditional “linear thinking” companies may struggle to reinvent themselves with an “exponential mindset” for the digital age. They will be challenged by so called “hyper-growth companies” seeking “triple digit plus” rates of improvement and growth. These challengers could emerge in sectors like alternative energy, food production, genetics, driverless cars, 3D and 4D printing, and goods and services that we can’t even conceive of today.
  • Old Money versus New Finance. We’ll still have financial services but not as we know them. The notion of public stock markets could be transformed by transparent blockchainpowered (see below) trading platforms and more efficient online crowd funding solutions. The widespread use of distributed digital currencies like Bitcoin, could effectively create a single global monetary system and eliminate currency markets and centralized regulation. By 2025 we should expect the industry to have been reshaped by open markets and crowd based solutions that bypass existing providers of everything from savings and insurance to equity investment and commercial financing.
  • Consolidation versus Distribution. There is an increasing prospect of “winner takes almost all” in many technology-enabled markets and online services. As a result, unemployment could rise and the disparities between the rich and poor could grow – driving the rise of a global hyper-rich segment. Automation is decoupling economic growth from job creation and driving technological unemployment. Joblessness levels of 50 percent or more could become the norm without radical shifts in national economic strategies. This will drive down average income levels and increase demands for some form of guaranteed basic income for the whole population.
  • Safe Havens versus Wild Frontiers. Business attention, investment, and talent will be attracted to rapidly growing emerging market mega-cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, Dhaka, Sao Paolo, Kinshasa, and Lagos. These cities are typically characterized by burgeoning populations and an increasing middle class. However, they often have fragile physical infrastructures and under-developed civil society frameworks. The opportunity will test the capacity of more rigid thinking Western corporations. To survive and thrive in these new arenas, they must learn how adapt and behave like water in the face of myriad obstacles. Will this shift in focus happen at the expense of slower-growing but better-understood mature economies that are struggling to adapt to a new world?
  • Manual versus Automated. Advances in AI and robotics in particular could drive the replacement of humans by machines in every walk of life from retail assistants to airline pilots, accountants, and doctors. Businesses will increasingly have to make philosophical choices between continuing to employ people for the benefit of society and automating for profit maximization. Science and technology choices Rapid progress in existing domains coupled with the emergence of new fields of discovery will continue to excite and challenge governments, business, and society. Issues will arise over the extent to which we should seek to control and regulate research endeavors – and whether it is even feasible or realistic in the modern age. As, the boundaries between humans and machines continue to blur, and technology is increasingly embedded in our bodies, business will be forced to reassess how far it is prepared to go in pursuit of profit.
  • Human versus Machine Intelligence. Battle lines could be drawn between those wanting to preserve the sovereignty of flesh over silicon, and the innovators keen to experiment with the possibilities created by Artificial Intelligence (AI), collective intelligence, and deep learning systems.
  • Enhanced versus Unenhanced Humans. Our notions of what it means to be human will be challenged by advances that enable the chemical, genetic, electronic, and physical augmentation of our brain and bodies. The use of smart drugs, genetic modification, direct brain stimulation, and exoskeletons could see the emergence of a new modified breed of Human 2.0 with far greater capabilities than their unenhanced counterparts.
  • Info versus Bio. While most expert commentators expect information technology to be the centre of the economy for the next two decades, others believe the emergence of the biological era could have even greater impact. From gene therapies and gene editing to new materials and energy sources from synthetic biology – there is huge potential. The promise of DNA-based computing and could transform the information and communications technology (ICT) sector and see the human body become a computing platform.
  • Physical versus Virtual. With everything from money and education to policing and governance moving to the digital realm, greater focus will be placed on virtual assets. The physical will become increasingly ICT enabled – with sensors, computing, and communications capability being embedded in everything from clothing to wallpaper. For example, the proportion of ICT functionality in the value of a new vehicle could rise from 30 to 50 percent today to 80 percent by 2035. The boundaries between physical and virtual will continue to blur through augmented and virtual reality.
New leadership capabilities

To navigate a coherent path through the choices being thrown up by these tensions, businesses will need to learn new decision making approaches. Central to the new leadership agenda will be the ability to master complexity, systems thinking, scenario planning, predictive modeling, collaboration, experimentation, and discovery-led innovation approaches. A clear challenge here is to develop the intellectual depth and resourcefulness required to address such a complex and fast-changing agenda. In response, an increasing number of leaders are turning to spiritual practices such as mindfulness meditation to help them tap into the capabilities of their subconscious mind and tune into their intuition. A range of research studies have demonstrated the positive impact of such regular practices on health, wellbeing, mental outlook, and performance.

The revolution will be intelligent, automated, synthesized, and broadcast

A range of transformative science and technology developments promise to revolutionize old industries and give birth to new sectors. Summarized below are fifteen areas of development with significant disruptive potential over the next two decades.

Information and Communications Technology
  • Exponential Technologies. The power, capacity and functionality of a range of technologies will continue to increase. For example, some experts believe that by 2025 we could see computers capable of operating at the speed of the human brain – roughly 10,000 trillion cycles per second.
  • New Computing Architectures. A range of initiatives are underway to replace silicon as the base material of our computing devices. Developments in areas such as Optical, Quantum and DNA-based devices could deliver massive leaps in performance using radically different concepts and models of computing.
  • The Hyperconnected Internet of Humanity. The internet could reach five to seven billion people by 2035. The content of the web will be available to all – mainly via their mobile devices. Anywhere from 50 to 250 billion devices could be connected to the web, along with a trillion or more sensors embedded in those devices and other objects such as furniture and product packaging. Cisco estimated this hyperconnected Internet of Humanity could generate $19 trillion8 of value through better use of assets, increased employee productivity, elimination of supply chain process inefficiencies, improved customer experiences, and technology innovation.
  • Blockchain Technology. The blockchain is a highly secure protocol that enables the direct digital transfers of information without an intermediary. It can be used for money (Bitcoin), personal data, stocks, transaction records, and contracts. The distributed and secure model that underpins blockchain based systems could transform financial services, eliminating the clearing house role. It is already facilitating the creation of smart self-activating contracts and driving the idea of Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs). These largely automated entities would combine blockchain approaches and AI to conduct the business of the organization according to a precise set of business rules. Some say blockchain and what it enables are the basis for a transformation of the economy and could have an impact bigger than the internet.
  • Immersivity and Mixed Reality Living. Our physical environment will have ever-greater capability to identify and interact with us – tailoring the experience to each individual based on the information we are willing to share. Multi-sensory stimulation will take augmented and virtual reality to the next level. Online retail could be transformed when we can add touch, taste and smell sensations.
  • Artificial Intelligence / Conscious Technology. We are entering a phase where advances in AI could yield systems that come close to matching human capability. The next evolutions could see the development of so called strong AI, Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) and SuperIntelligence. These tools could exceed human reasoning capabilities and outstrip us in every intellectual endeavor – potentially behaving in ways beyond our current comprehension. There is widespread disagreement within the AI-community over whether and when such advances could occur. If they do happen, these developments could be just 10-20 years away. Over the next decade we will definitely see the emergence of more highly intelligent and adaptive personal ecosystems. Our intelligent agents will learn from our behaviors, act on our behalf in the digital realm, anticipate our needs, provide us with timely information, and guide our choices.
Advancement of Humanity
  • Healthcare Transformation. Wearable and embedded sensors and devices could transform everything from condition monitoring to drug delivery and treatment. Big data and AI will enhance diagnosis and care planning. Telemedicine and robotic surgery could enable improved life expectancy in remote areas. Low cost 3D printing, stem cell treatments, and new tissue growing capabilities will make reliable organ replacement safer, faster, and cheaper.
  • Human Augmentation. Humans will increasingly “upgrade” their brains using a combination of nootropic cognitive enhancing smart drugs, and electronic brain stimulation. Our physical performance could be augmented through gene editing and gene replacement, physical modifications, 3D printed electro-mechanical replacements, and exoskeleton body strengthening attachments. We could see genetic treatments to eliminate conditions such as rage and obesity. In their chapters, B J Murphy and David Saintloth suggest we could see the emergence of high street Body Shops and treatment centers offering a range of such augmentations.
  • Brain Uploading. A number of major research initiatives are working on mapping how the human brain stores information, which could be achieved by 2025. Technology companies will compete to “back up” our brains online.
  • Transformation of the Food Chain. Global food demand is increasing at more than double the growth rate of food supply. Radical solutions are required to feed a planet with rising incomes and consumption aspirations. A range of innovations are being explored to meet those demands over the next two decades. These include genetically engineered crops, saltwater agriculture, open-sourced food research, vertical farming, precision agriculture, 3D printed food, and organic crop management. On the next horizon are robot farmers, bioprinting of meat and other foodstuffs – combining tissue engineering and 3D printing, localized food production, plant-based meat alternatives, personalized nutrition, AI-designed foods and recipes, and low-cost foodstuffs developed for nutrition rather than taste.
Domestic Infrastructure and Manufacturing Systems
  • Robotics / Drones. From driverless cars to construction and elder care – robots and their drone cousins are entering our world in large volumes and the price is falling dramatically. The speed, dexterity, balance, reasoning capability, and emotional intelligence of robots could increase to the point where robotic companions could be commonplace by 2030.
  • 3D / 4D Printing. The speed, functionality, choice of materials, and range of applications for 3D printing will continue to increase. Everything from blood vessels, to food and buildings are already being 3D printed. Neighborhood maker centers could become increasingly prominent – allowing individuals to download product design “recipes” from the internet or create their own designs and then fabricate them using these shared community facilities. The evolution to 4D printing will enable the manufacture of objects that can self-assemble and change their shape and properties – for example producing limbs that could reinforce themselves as we age.
  • Nanotechnology and Atomically Precise Manufacturing (APM). Nanotechnology is the manipulation of matter at the atomic, molecular, or nanoscale – working with particles roughly 1 to 100 nanometers in size. Advances in physics, chemistry and biology have enabled us to engineer materials and nano-systems. Already in use in many sectors such as chip manufacturing, the next big stage of development could impact many industries. The goal is to build products with atomic precision – literally assembling them atom by atom to give the precise properties we desire and eliminate waste in the manufacturing process. This could deliver low-cost, high-performance components and systems. APM would enable the production of stronger, lighter, safer, lower emission, and more efficient physical structures, engines, medical devices, drugs, energy sources, and foodstuffs.
  • Synthetic Biology. There are a range of developments that could result from applying engineering disciplines to biology. This could enable development of low-cost drugs, new materials, foodstuffs, chemicals, and energy sources. It could provide tools to clean up toxic spills and remediate environmental pollution. The potential to engineer entirely new lifeforms is also being explored. The so-called NBIC convergence between nanotechnology, biology, information technology and the cognitive sciences could in future yield smart, adaptive and self-healing materials and entire biological systems.
  • Energy Innovation. Energy demand is rising driven in part by a mobile device-enabled web-connected population – driving concerns over the environmental impact of fossil fuels. The argument is building for increased investment in alternative sources of energy supply. The debate over nuclear safety will rumble on but a significant expansion of global nuclear generating capability seems inevitable. A range of cleaner alternatives such as solar, tidal, geothermal, wind, and bio-waste will take a larger share of total energy supply. However, governmental inertia, corporate hesitancy, lack of investment, and continued debate over the right energy mix could hold back alternative energy development. Later in this book, Devin Daniels and James Lee highlight the potential of space-based solar power and tapping into fields of methane hydrates (crystallized natural gas) trapped below the arctic permafrost in our oceans.

Viewed collectively, these developments could drive significant shifts in every aspect of our world in 2035. The impacts range from what it will mean to be human and how health and wellness services are delivered through to future energy supply, the cars we drive, the homes we live in, and the ways in which goods are produced.

Industries of the future

The transformative tensions and developments outlined above will in turn spawn a range of new industries – many of which are discussed elsewhere in this book. The likes of Mckinsey, Volans, and others have done extensive research on emerging sectors that could drive the next wave of $100 billion to $1 trillion plus global industries. The three lists below identify thirty existing and emerging sectors that we believe could account for 50 to 60 percent or more of the entire global economy over the next two decades. These will become an increasingly focus for innovators, entrepreneurs, investors and those who might provide products and services to these sectors.

  • Critical Sectors – Technology, Citizen and Domestic
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Citizen and Domestic Mobile Internet – Devices, Infrastructure, Commerce and Services
  • Healthcare Innovation
  • Next Generation Intelligent, Personalized Internet
  • Elder Care
  • Cloud Based Applications, Infrastructure and Services
  • Human Augmentation / Body Shops
  • Internet of Things / Internet of Everything / Internet of Humanity
  • Clean Domestic Water and Sanitation
  • Big Data, Data Mining and the Automation of Knowledge
  • Smart Homes – Intelligent Devices, Air Conditioning, Waste to Power
  • Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning
  • Green Vehicles / Electric Cars / Autonomous and Near-Autonomous Vehicles
  • Blockchain-Based Systems and Distributed Autonomous Organizations
  • Education Systems Transformation
  • Critical Sectors – Production and Societal Infrastructure and Services
  • Production Technologies and Systems
  • Societal Infrastructure and Services
  • Advanced Robotics / Drones New Food and Agriculture Solutions
  • 3D and 4D Printing and Advanced Materials
  • Sharing / Circular Economy Solutions – Repurpose Recycle, Reuse, Repair
  • Genomics and Synthetic Biology Smart City Infrastructures and Services
  • Biomimicry Applied to Design of Products and Engineered Systems
  • Intelligent Transport Systems
  • Rapid / Green / Sustainable Construction
  • E-Government
  • Critical Sectors – Industry Transformation, Energy and Environment
  • Industry Transformation Energy and Environment
  • Global Infrastructure – Roads, Transport, Energy, Water
  • Alternative and Renewable Energy / Energy Storage
  • Automation of Professional Services – E.g. Accounting, Legal,
  • Consultancy, and Architecture Advanced Oil and Gas
  • Exploration and Recovery – Including Fracking, Methane Hydrates
  • Financial Services Technologies Geo-Engineering, Climate / Environmental Protection, Disaster Recovery, and Remediation
New business strategies and behaviors

So how might businesses respond in the face of these forces of disruptive change and the potential opportunities and risk they could create? Here are ten types of response that might emerge and which – in some instances – we can already see evidence of. Some of these behaviors will become strategies in their own right; other firms might form their strategies by combining a range of these behaviors.

  • Exponential Thinkers. A growing number of firms are already looking to apply exponential thinking to the design of their organizations – driving 100 per cent or more improvement.
  • Intimacy Freaks. A growing number of businesses will begin to understand the power of the information they hold about their customers. Using big data, predictive analytics, and AI they will be able to forecast customer intentions and behavior with unerring accuracy. This will drive the desire to increase the frequency of contact, and extend the relationship with customers. The providers of the most popular devices and services such as Apple, Samsung, Google and Facebook already own the customer interface to large numbers of customers. They will fight to deepen these relationships, increase the dependency upon them, and erect barriers to prevent others from stealing away customers.
  • Barbarians. As data becomes central to the understanding of any market, challengers will be ever-more willing to enter a sector, ignore the existing rules of combat and adopt approaches that effectively change the game and savage and paralyze the incumbents. This is happening already in the home delivery market where digital brands with deep customer intimacy are able to offer a range of products and services from other retailers. By positioning their own brand as the purchasing portal, they are effectively diminishing the power of the underlying brands. To whom do born digital customers have greater loyalty – Amazon, Google and Facebook or Target, Wal-Mart and Home Depot from who the intermediary might be buying the items?
  • Aliens. In the face of digital transformation and market disruption, established industry players may choose to adopt strategies that break ranks, ignore established rules of engagement and change the game. Such strategies will be pursued with the aim of pre-empting external challengers and seeking a first mover advantage over existing competitors. China’s Broad Group has pursued such a strategy using rapid construction approaches to overturn traditional industry timelines by pre-fabricating the sections in the factory prior to onsite assembly. For example, they have erected a 30-storey hotel in just fifteen days.
  • Magicians. Rapid automation is driving the potential commoditization of many products and services. In response, businesses will be challenged to differentiate themselves by creating moments of magic in the customer experience that deliver a genuine wow factor. What aspects of your offering and customer experience exceed expectations and have customers telling stories about you?
  • Adoption Agencies / Buy a Future. Some organizations may begin to recognize that they are ill-equipped to succeed in the emerging landscape. Their survival strategy may be to effectively “adopt” the players who they think can create that future for them – investing in firms who can drive the necessary internal and market-facing metamorphosis. These might be smaller and more nimble rivals in the sector, bold new competitors, or consulting firms who truly understand what it takes to win in uncertain times. Others may deliberately target their corporate venturing arms to buy into firms that could change the game and destroy the core business. Indeed this is already becoming more commonplace in the venturing sector.
  • Business Light. The challenges of refocusing and aligning large organizations can be slow and painful. In response, some may feel the best way forward is to strip the organization back to its bare bones. Such business light entities might comprise a small core staff that frames strategy, creates key ecosystem partnerships, and manages finances and stakeholder relationships. Literally everything else from product design and manufacturing through to marketing, sales and distribution would be delivered by a network of outsourced partners and service providers.
  • Trekkies. Bold ambition is becoming fashionable. Competitions like the X-Prize, moonshot initiatives such as Google’s “We Solve for ‘X’”, and institutions like Singularity University are all focused on deploying radical science and technology ideas to address global problems and challenges. Investors, entrepreneurs and innovators are increasingly focused on the pursuit of the seemingly impossible with venture ranging from low cost sustainable housing and universal education, through to hypersonic travel, colonizing space, and asteroid mining. This desire “to boldly go” where others dare not tread will drive a constant stream of ever-more ambitious initiatives. These will go well beyond normal corporate agendas and blur the boundaries between the roles of the public and private sector.
  • Automation Junkies. The promise of the entirely automated enterprise will be a magnet for many entrepreneurs attracted by the notion of establishing a Distributed Autonomous Organization (DAO) that can eliminate the uncertain human element and exist almost entirely in software and silicon. This in turn could give rise to the notion of companies as technologies and corporate conglomerates and investment funds as platforms for the aggregation of multiple DAOs.
  • The Non-Owned Enterprise. In the same way as no one can lay claim to ownership of the outputs of the open source initiatives in software development, plant research or car design, we may see similar non-owned open source models of organizations emerge. These could be DAOs where some form of rewards are given to those who write the rules and house the distributed infrastructure for the business, but where no one actually owns it. We could see a growing movement towards firms which seek to compensate those who provide services or infrastructure but have no shareholders. They may recycle any profits to fund operations and future developments. They might also make voluntary contributions to national guaranteed income funds to help those who have little or no chance of employment.
Conclusion – choosing a future

A range of high-impact forces are reshaping the business landscape. The central role of ICT is accelerating the collision between the physical and digital worlds and driving choices around how we rework our organizational DNA. Changes in the economic, political, social, commercial, scientific, and technological domains are transforming every aspect of society. The change process is surfacing fundamental tensions and shaping key choices facing business over the next two decades. A range of critical science and technology developments is creating the potential for disruption of old sectors and the emergence of new ones – these could form the heart of the global economy over the 2025-2035 timeframe.

In response to these forces, a range of new behaviors and strategies are starting to emerge for the conduct of business in the decades ahead. Our response to the underlying tensions, technology developments, behavioral options and strategy choices will shape the course of organizations. I believe five key sets of decisions will drive those responses:

  • Being – What kind of organization do we want to be in the future? (Purpose, ambition, societal impact, stakeholders, values, ethics, behavior, governance, products, services, and markets)
  • Behavior – What strategies, operating structures, and organization designs do we need to achieve our purpose?
  • Financial Orientation – What business models will we use to fulfill our ambitions? (Profit orientation, ownership, asset and infrastructure financing, innovation funding, revenue models)
  • Talent – What human resources models could best deliver our people ambitions? (Balance between humans and machines, levels of employment, critical roles, leadership, development, enhancement opportunities, rewards, community engagement)
  • Delivery – What mindset, capabilities, and technologies do we need to ensure we can survive and thrive in a rapidly changing world?

 

This article is excerpted from The Future of Business. You can order the book here.

 

Images: https://pixabay.com/images/id-3979196/ by geralt

 

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