Will there be more or less adventure in the future of business? Definitely more. In 2010, The Future Laboratory predicted how this decade, The Turbulent Teens, would be erratic, unpredictable and challenging. And in the 2020s, business will become even more adventurous for those brave and able enough to take advantage of what the future holds.
Old certainties about the aim of business will crumble over the next decade as a powerful new wave of social, cultural, economic, political and technological disruption sweeps across the world. Job security and tenure, longevity, motivation, remuneration and many of the other basic assumptions about how, where and why we run businesses will be challenged, and in many cases, rejected.
From centralised to decentralised
New technology is forcing old financial, cultural and democratic models to adapt or desist and in the innovation space, CEOs now consider themselves as innovation architects within a centralised framework. They include all staff in the innovation process. Anyone at Ford – from a first-year entry-level research assistant to a managing director – can bring an idea to the company to have it patented.
Letting go will also become the norm. In the face of huge challenges, brands will throw open their doors to allow anyone to become a collaborator. Tesla will no longer initiate patent lawsuits against anyone using its technology in good faith. Meanwhile, Toyota made almost 6,000 patents available free of charge to drive innovation in hydrogen fuel-cell technology.
From profiting to platforming
The rise of the gig economy will inspire many consumers to use brand-funded self-actualising platforms to counter economic volatility. Topshop is a prime example of this as it has joined forces with investment firm L Marks on an innovation incubator programme to foster innovation for fashion forward technology, wearables and smart accessories.
With the rise of a decentralised society, physical retail has the ability to redesign its purpose to be about connecting like-minded people via temples of conviviality, culture and convergence. Starbucks’ latest outpost in Queens, New York, offers educational opportunities and on-site training to young adults from the area.
Employers to educators
A highly educated workforce is crucial for future-facing brands. The shortage of skilled workers in the UK increased for the fifth year in a row in 2016, according to the Hays Global Skills Index, and this has prompted businesses to take control of the talent supply chain.
Sir James Dyson is investing £15m in The Dyson Institute of Technology as part of its plan to double its engineering workforce to 6,000 by 2020. Indeed, the company acknowledges that the UK’s skills shortage is holding Dyson back, as it looks to increase the amount of technology it develops and exports. It is taking matters into its own hands, and interestingly, students at the institute will not pay fees and will receive a salary of up to £16,000.
From hard to soft measures of success
An impressive salary will not be enough to attract and keep tomorrow’s best and brightest. A fresh work culture understanding will emerge. Employees will accept an always-on status demanded by an ultra-connected working world but will expect companies to provide resources, support and technology to handle soaring levels of stress.
Aetna, Intel and Keurig Green Mountain incorporate mindfulness as a leadership practice and have seen benefits for both the company and individual employees in terms of improved employee health, productivity and job satisfaction.
Human-driven to human- and bot-driven decisions
By the mid-2020s, many workers will have built symbiotic professional partnerships with the artificial intelligence and intuitive software technologies they once feared would replace them. As a consequence, the enhanced worker will be able to work faster, more efficiently, and most importantly, more creatively than today’s counterparts.
Imagine a world in which we can focus more of our time on getting to know our fellow humans to better solve their problems with them.
Rigid and operational to flexible and adaptive
Tomorrow’s workers will construct their lives in a very different way to yesterday’s workforce, who had more linear lifestyles. Steady career progression over a number of decades with one or two companies will be a distant memory of a largely unlamented past.
Bricolage working, or the construction of a modular work style across a range of disparate locations, cultures and time zones, rejects the traditional nine-to-five office-based business model as archaic, outdated and unnecessary. These workers will want fulfilling, ultra-flexible and on-demand careers, and they will be fierce challengers of the status quo as they remake work culture to suit them.
Amazon’s Mechanical Turk matches 500,000 portfolio workers in 190 countries to employers that need them for on-demand projects, while rival Upwork does the same for 10 million freelancers across 180 countries.
Short-term tactics to long-term strategies
Nearly a decade after the start of the global financial crisis, in a world ravaged by climate change and buffeted by political instability, it is impossible to ignore the damage done by short-term thinking.
More and more leaders will think and plan in decades, even centuries, by exploring cathedral challenges (problems that require a multigenerational solution), long-near strategies (the tricks that subvert our inherent short-termism) and uberlescence (products that go beyond obsolescence).
It is clear that big business adventures will lead to greater economic, environmental and social growth tomorrow. Are you prepared to venture into the next decade and make the most of what the future holds?