It isn’t technology itself that creates change. Change comes from the way we organise our lives, communities and economies in order to use technology. And the societal and economic backdrop from which technology emerges generates profoundly differing scenarios for how businesses could function in the future.
Many elements of these scenarios are already evident. For example, we can see how scale has ceased to be a source of competitive advantage, and that the human being is no longer the factor of production that drives value – two shifts clearly demonstrated by the employee-to-value ratios of digitally-driven businesses. It’s also evident that social media is not just a channel, but a fundamentally new and different way in which people organise their lives and their relationships with other people and with information.
We believe that the interplay between two critical pathways will shape our future world. First, will innovation increase or decrease? And second, will the structure of society become more centralised or decentralised? Mapping these two pathways gives us the four scenarios we describe here.
Our view of the future that we think is the likeliest to come about – the Local Hero scenario – is essentially optimistic. It’s a world where we advance technologically – but not in a centralised fashion where the algorithms are owned by the few and inequality reigns. This scenario moves in the opposite direction, towards a highly distributed, highly decentralised economy. Power passes into the hands of people who are innovating and creating, forming a phenomenal opportunity for growth in both individual productivity and the market for their output. What does your organisation look like in such a scenario? And how does it fare in the others?
All future scenarios that we have projected give rise to risks and opportunities, though not always in equal measure. What matters is understanding the forces at play, anticipating their impacts, and your organisation’s role in shaping the future. If you can’t or don’t do this, then you’re flying blind. So it’s time to turn on the radar – and start plotting your optimal course through the disruptions to come.
Putting technology into context