Recently, I had the opportunity to hear Edie Wiener, author of the book Future Think, speak about the future and the opportunities for business as our society evolves. She challenges the perception that our economy is merely experiencing another cyclical recession. To the contrary, she opines that society is going through a fundamental global economic transformation. This transformation is similar to previous ones from the Agricultural Era to the Industrial Age, to the Post Industrial Era and now to another type of economy she refers to as “The Emotile Economy,” a combination of emotions and motility.
She suggests the time frame that separates major transitions are collapsing from tens of thousands of years (Agricultural Age) to hundreds of years (Industrial Age) to decades (Post Industrial Age). Transformations are generally brought about by the convergence of new technologies that create efficiencies in existing businesses, create whole new ones, replace manual work and workers, open up entirely new opportunities and shift traditional and structural underpinnings of societies. According to the author, this transformation is giving rise to a new economy with 10 major growth areas that will increasingly shape, define and influence the future.
Much has been written about “disruptive innovation,” an innovation that completely renders a business or business model obsolete. Usually, these innovations are relatively isolated. Weiner’s concept is a much broader evolution of the marketplace that offers tremendous opportunities but also deadly traps for those who lack vision and flexibility.
For example, one trap for business leaders is what she described as “educated incapacity.” She says many business leaders are so knowledgeable about the business they operate that they are unable to see it any differently. This ultimately hinders growth, innovation and creativity. She suggests giving up relying solely on the best practices of others in reviewing your business and stop trying to fit every opportunity or challenge into an old framework.
Clearly seeing patterns, weighing choices, understanding trends (and countertrends), making good innovative decisions about the future and influencing what the future will be are a necessity for business leaders of the future. According to Weiner, the most important thing to remember is that both trends and countertrends present tremendous opportunities. To learn more about integrating these principles into your business, check out her TED Talk, “Not recession but transformation.” You won’t be disappointed.
Column by Fred Morgan, President and CEO of the State Chamber of Oklahoma, printed in The Journal Record on March 17, 2017