‘Watch out, they’re behind you!’ How success is no longer enough in the future of business

‘Watch out, they’re behind you!’ How success is no longer enough in the future of business

Check the FTSE top 10 and the same well-known companies appear through one decade to another:

Unilever, Rio Tinto, HSBC Holdings, Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Glaxo Smith Kline, American Tobacco.

Nothing particularly inspirational or ground breaking there you might think. But push the clock on 10 years. Will the list still be so predictable? Will the breathless rate of change seen over the past 25 years accelerate further and remodel the economy?

 

We seem to have passed the tipping point already.

Disruptive technologies have overturned notions of work, careers, expectations and everyday life. As A.I, advanced robotics and rapid connectivity, wearable tech and telematics continue to develop, what place will there be for traditional work, let alone stalwarts of the current FTSE?

Networked global talent may upend the notion of a traditional company structure.

 

What are we looking for in the successful companies 10 years?

Companies now will and continue to need:

  • Agility, flexibility and creativity
  • Personalised offerings
  • The ability to metamorphose quickly and respond rapidly
  • The capacity to adopt fresh approaches and become demand-led and responsive
  • A stronger sense of ethical standards and localism
  • To reject patriarchal strategies
  • Regular review of opportunities and markets
  • A Chief Innovation officer that will constantly scan for disruptions, disruptors and risks
  • Fully integrated customer solutions
  • Lean customer-focused approach

 

New broom – clean sweep?

Newly emerging business landscapes may mean the current 2015 FTSE companies might even become extinct. Companies such as Kodak, Woolworths, Enron, Standard Oil, RCA, Compaq and TWA were household names but failed. Will 2025 see a clean sweep achieved by young upstarts?

 

There will be Digital Dinosaurs

After all the concept of Digital Darwinianism threatens organisations large and small no matter what niche or industry. The future is unforeseeable. Society and technology is evolving so quickly it is almost impossible to keep up organically. Therefore dynamic strategies to cope with internal and external influences are essential. Opening debate up to all employees may well offer unexpected but vital solutions. Certainly new forms of management are required.

 

No future FTSE list predictions seem outlandish

If the top 10 FTSE companies at the beginning of 2015 focus on oil and gas exploration, mining, tobacco, consumer products, comms, pharmaceuticals and banking; what companies will supercede these? If you check what future technologies might well be on their way it might suggest the type of companies expected to flourish. A.I personal assistants, unseen but ubiquitous computers, virtual animals with digital minds, an interplanetary Internet, anti aging and home grown organs might well be the stock in trade available. No list can sound too outlandish bearing in mind what progress has been made since the millennium.

 

Changing lives, changing expectations

Yet, not only is this rapid change revolutionising the way we live, it is also realigning our expectations. Over population, increasing urbanisation, environmental concerns, pressure on food production, unsustainable fishing; air quality, global health and the use of fossil fuels; ageing and increased global connectivity will require far more agile solutions. Companies that provide innovative solutions to new and more urgent problems will succeed.

 

What came first?

If you look back 15 years from today the question: did behaviour drive change or digital revolution drive behaviour, is apposite. What impact does that have on companies. By 2025 will tech be like electricity? Less visible but more deeply embedded? Will the trend for people to choose by context not necessarily loyalty be totally embedded with its inevitable resulting impact on every company?

 

Consumer behaviour is fuelled by urgency and about the ‘now’

Dynamically updated information already means demand is 24/7. Companies will need to reflect and adapt to this and not just pay lip service to the notion of global personalisation that’s no longer an oxymoron. As ‘now’ is ‘in this moment’ and because the only person in this moment is ‘me’ then individual needs will be central. Consumers’ needs, sentiment and fickle loyalties will impact on companies. The ‘take it or leave it’ company philosophy where large corporations, by and large, ignored customers will be a characteristic of ‘historic and rejected’ practices.

Already seemingly robust companies such as Nokia, Marconi, Atari, Amstrad, Blockbuster demonstrate how ignoring demand, being slow to innovate and simply not predicting trends, spells the end of companies, however seminal they might appear to be.

 

Success will equal disruption

Ideas will be bought and sold like commodities. Start-ups will also be bought, sold then subsumed. Disruption in adjacent areas and agile development will mean investment in innovation; teams, ideas and agility will differentiate the winners and losers. Take a company such as Facebook. They may well be a world leader but audiences are fickle. To subsume predators their mergers and ‘talent’ acquisitions include 40 other platforms, the latest being WhatsApp. What is clear is that companies cannot afford to stay still to maintain success.

 

Divide and rule in the 2st Century

Big corporations might even be segmented into separate entities that can respond to change far more rapidly. Segmentation and precise targeting will succeed. The planet is mobile and consumers will view the world through mobile, portable, wearable or embedded devices.

With social media playing such a large part of brand management, reputation, risk management and customer service companies that move swiftly to offer something bespoke or respond to problems will thrive. Current examples are: GE Aviation that utilise multiple networks depending on what arm of the business is being marketed. Ciscos, the global technology leader reinvents its offering depending on target audience. What you see on YouTube will be very different from what you see on Twitter for example.

 

Small is power-packed

Ironically the focus on small communities will, most likely, increase their dominance. They may well be as important as cottage industries were in the 18th century pre-Industrial landscape. Leaner organisations, stripped for action and offering highly personalised products, brands or services will inevitably grab the lion’s share. However, the spirit of adventure for companies like SpaceX may well optimise the thirst for space travel propels them through a meteoric trajectory.

 

Boundaries blurred and seamless offerings

Emerging economies will impact dramatically on the FTSE as they acquire a more significant and robust representation in the global production chain. Interestingly with tech developments blurring the boundaries, companies will strive to offer more all-encompassing solutions. Sectors may well merge while business structures will network more seamlessly.

 

Network orchestrate is another new skill

Inevitably this will impact on supply and demand, completely remodelling global labour markets and skewing demand. Therefore companies offering solutions to an ageing population, that adapt to a different work life balance, cross-disciplinary skills and the ability to ‘network orchestrate’ will most likely succeed and float into the FTSE Top 10.

With regard to the types of sectors that are likely to be represented in the FTSE by 2025 it is worth considering the construction industry, retail and logistics, creative and digital, health and social care, manufacturing and alternative fuel technologies.

Another exciting contender might be geo-engineering projects. Simple weather control systems are already in place. Reversing potentially catastrophic carbon emissions is essential to counteract climatic and resultant economic changes.

 

Saving the world might meet resistance

However, those companies who will be looking to cash in on ‘saving the world’ may well meet resistance. Air capture technologies mean companies such as Carbon Engineering, backed by Bill Gates and billionaire N Murray Edwards will go up against Shell and ConocoPhillips in the geo-engineering field. Potential investors will have to consider whether polluters running with the hare and hunting with the hound are an appropriate and ethical way forward.

 

Investor sentiment, morality and philosophy alignment is important

As Generation C moves further into positions of authority sentiment alignment will be essential. Clive Hamilton, professor of public ethics in Canberra’s Charles Sturt University states that if money is to be made as a result of global warming investment should be sunk into energy efficiency and also renewable energy companies. This is contrary to the notion that if geo-engineering diminishes political incentives to reduce carbon emissions and climate modification will endorse polluters’ abilities to continue as they are.

 

No staff may want to work for you

However, these are examples of technological opportunities being seized. Certainly, businesses whose R&D is robust and who spot opportunities emerging from disruption will most likely flourish. Disruption will be paramount. Shifts in employee/ employer alignment, where workers seek employment with companies that are aligned to their philosophies might leave unethical companies without staff.

 

The Banking crisis prompted unprecedented outrage.

Tax evasion and uncharitable business methods will most likely have an increasing impact on investment and public confidence. The growth of social media and other platforms for debate and criticism give consumers more power to shape a company’s success or orchestrate a boycott.

 

Every successful company will need ‘smart creatives’

In the future, education providers who offer ‘learning just in time’ solutions with a focus on peer-to-peer learning will be useful. Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt who has already rewritten the agenda calls his workers ‘smart creatives’. It’s the smart creatives who will have FTSE in their sights. Take a software company called Rainbird Technologies who have already reached the EDP Future50 and pitched at 10 Downing Street. The company, from Norwich, is an artificial intelligence platform. It allows businesses, large and small to capture human expertise in software. In fact Real Business states on its website that UK tech firms are expected to grow 4 times the rate of GDP during 2015. Paving the way for new names to grace FTSE in fifteen years time.

If you look at current trends, in the UK, already 1.46 million people are employed in digital technology companies with digital growth forecast to run at 5.4% even by 2020. Half of digital companies have been formed since 2008. Add another 15 years or so will see increased dominance.

 

Find your disruptors, beacons and pathfinders

Core companies that embrace the ideas of having catalysts, mentors, recognised thought leaders or beacons working alongside disruptors or pathfinders; who have ideas that are likely to be transformative but as yet un-recognized, will be those to claim status.

 

Dencentralisation and autonomy are the future

Those companies that make it to the FTSE in 2025 will more than likely make a tangible difference to the lives of the people their products, brand or services touch. They are likely to be charismatic and inspirational. Being physically present, being in proximity to end-users will be pivotal to success. Being global, having the appropriate leaders to be accepted everywhere will affect success. This leads to a more autonomous and decentralised approach based on global perspectives but allowing risk and managing it and allowing connection that is quite different to the way many companies are still operating in 2015.

 

Transparency and explanation will also be important

With more information available, consumers and investors will want to know why decisions are made and leaders have to be authentic in every sense to win trust in a deeply digital epoch. Therefore leaders that see the bigger picture that engage with the full 360 degrees are essential. As complexity continues and change is the only constant it is likely people may feel under represented by global companies, organisations and traditional platforms. It is possible they will look to tribes to speak for, with and about. It will take a very special organisation to focus on profit without losing the consumers or users who made them profitable in the first place.

 

Firms that reject male dominated business will find business improves.

A Deloitte study showed that females contribute to 85% of decisions regarding purchases. Therefore $4.3 trillion of a total US consumer spend of $5.9 trillion. So women are more than a significant economic force. This figure puts them in the top position globally. Will companies in the top flight reflect this after another 10 years have passed? They should.

 

So who is going to make it?

Will companies such as Rio Tinto be replaced by geo-engineering companies? Will Vodafone find themselves a part of new A.I .complete solutions? Or will they be replaced by entrepreneurs who have grown up with digital and see it as something that needs remodelling like Play-Doh into something that’s essentially the same but wholly different?

Will we see Glaxo Smith Kline providing the ultimate health care systems that maintain aging populations around the world?

Will Unilever be part of the 4D food printing phenomenon?

Perhaps companies who have featured in The Top 10 most improved FTSE 100 boards in recent years will continue to do well: Old Mutual, Aggreko, Glaxosmithkline, Wolseley, Land Securities Group, Associated British Foods, Capita, Petrofac, Weir Group, HSBC

Yet there is a feeling that young start-ups may well supercede the old guard. YPlan, MyParcel Delivered and Flubit who have already been subsumed into Barclays are tapping into the zeitgeist already. Flubit’s plan is to resemble Amazon in five years.

Technology has made ambition more attainable.

YPlan also have their sights firmly set on the summit. As the ‘world’s first ticketing app users can browse lists of last minute events and purchase discounted tickets in just two taps. With personality backing they have already ‘gone global’ within just a couple of years to become a household staple.

Other companies such as Adzuna, a classified ads search engine have racked up more than 4 million visits per month and are already in more than 11 markets. It seems just a matter of time before they will be a global phenomenon.

Platforms that enable entrepreneurs to succeed will themselves become powerful and underpin the whole notion of commerce. Sensecarft has done just that and covers at least 10 countries. Oculus Rift outliers in immersive cinema are another name to watch.

What many of these companies have in common is a customer-centric model that is ideas driven and aiming to simplify life in an increasingly complex world. Expect to see more of them in the FTSE index by 2025.

If you enjoyed this post, subscribe to our newsletter

About Hugo Pickford-Wardle