- What are the top 10 ways that the world is changing?
- What is the pace of these changes?
As the summary “Top Trends” suggests, we are living in exciting times, and you’re at the forefront of it. The world is changing in dramatic ways, and as a manager, you’re in the best position to take advantage of these changes. Let’s look at 10 major ways in which the world is changing; we’ll characterize the first five as challenges and the next five as solutions.
Top 5 Challenge Trends
- Increasing Concern for the Environment
- Greater Personalization and Customization
- Faster Pace of Innovation
- Increasing Complexity
- Increasing Competition for Talent
Top 5 Solution Trends
- Becoming More Connected
- Becoming More Global
- Becoming More Mobile
- Rise of the Creative Class
- Increasing Collaboration
Top 5 Challenge Trends
Increasing Concern for the Environment
We all seem to believe that the weather has been getting weirder in recent decades, and analysis by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) suggests that there have been more catastrophic weather events in recent years than 10–20 years ago (NCDC, 2008). People are seeing the growing threat of global warming, which is leading to failing crops, rising sea levels, shortages of drinking water, and increasing death tolls from disease outbreaks such as malaria and dengue fever. Currently, 175 nations have signed the Kyoto Protocol on climate change and pledged to begin the long process of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. According to McKinsey’s Global Survey of Business Executives, executives across the world believe that business plays a wider role in society and has responsibility to address issues such as environmental concerns beyond just following the letter of the law to minimize pollution. More and more companies now watch the “triple bottom line”—the benchmark of how they benefit, not just (1) profits but also (2) employees and (3) the environment as a whole. Companies realize they have to take bold steps to minimize their carbon footprint, create environmentally friendly products, and manage the company for more than just the next quarter’s profits. Managers can’t simply “greenwash” (pretend to be green through tiny steps and heavy advertising).
Greater Personalization and Customization
We’re no longer happy with cookie-cutter products. Consumers are demanding more say in products and services. One size no longer fits all, and that means tailoring products and services to meet specific customer preferences. And as companies sell their products globally, that tailoring has to meet vastly different needs, cultural sensitivities, and income levels. Even something simple such as Tide laundry detergent can come in hundreds of potential variants in terms of formulations (powders, liquids, tablets), additives (whiteners, softeners, enzymes), fragrances (unscented, mountain fresh, floral), and package sizes (from single-load laundromat sizes to massive family/economy sizes). Customization and the growing numbers of products mean managing more services and more products. For example, for just $4.99 plus shipping, you can create your own Kleenex oval tissue box (Mykleenextissue, 2008)! Managing for mass production won’t suffice in the future.
Faster Pace of Innovation
We all want the next new thing, and we want it now. New models, new products, and new variations—companies are speeding new products to market in response to customer demands. The Finland-based mobile phone maker Nokia sells 150 different devices, of which 50–60 are newly introduced each year. The new variations are tailored to local languages, case colors, carriers, add-ons, and content. David Glazer, engineering director at Google, explained how his company adapts to this fast pace: “Google has a high tolerance for chaos and ambiguity. When we started OpenSocial [a universal platform for social-network applications], we didn’t know what the outcome was going to be.” So Google started running a bunch of experiments. “We set an operational tempo: when in doubt, do something,” Glazer said, “If you have two paths and you’re not sure which is right, take the fastest path (Fast Company, 2008).”
Because we want more sustainability, more customization, and more innovation, companies face growing complexity. Nokia’s 50–60 new phone models a year all have 300–400 components, some of which contain millions or hundreds of millions of transistors. Those components have to arrive at the right manufacturing location (Nokia has 10 worldwide) from whichever country they originated and arrive just in time to be manufactured.
Increasing Competition for Talent
We need people who can solve all these tough problems, and that’s a challenge all by itself. According to McKinsey’s global survey of trends, business executives think that this trend, among all trends, will have the greatest effect on their companies in the next five years. Jobs are also getting more complex. Consider people who work in warehouses doing shipping and receiving. At Intel, these workers were jokingly called “knuckle-dragging box pushers” and known for using their brawn to move boxes. Now, the field of transportation and shipping has become known as “supply chain management” and employees need brains as well as brawn—they need to know science and advanced math. They’re called on to do mathematical models of transportation networks to find the most efficient trucking routes (to minimize environmental impact) and to load the truck for balance (to minimize fuel use) and for speed of unloading at each destination. Intel now acknowledges the skills that supply chain people need. The company created a career ladder leading to “supply chain master” that recognizes employees for developing expertise in supply chain modeling, statistics, risk management, and transportation planning. Overall, demand will grow for new types of talent such as in the green energy industry. At the same time, companies face a shrinking supply of seasoned managers as baby boomers retire in droves. Companies will have to deal with shortages of specific skills.