The New Normal

I was fortunate enough to attend the PMI EMEA Leadership Institute Meeting in Milan a few weeks ago. The keynote speaker was James Bellini. According to his website he is a leading futurologist and author with a considerable reputation as a thought-provoking speaker and moderator at top-level management conferences and business schools around the world. His speech was definitely thought-provoking and set the tone for three days of leadership meetings.

One of his main statements was that the future is here now! Here is a short synopsis of his speech and I want to challenge you to think outside of the box how this is impacting your work and life right now.

The pace of change that we are seeing today has not been seen since the industrial revolution. People make two basic mistakes when they think about the future a) they think it happens to someone else and b) that it happens at some time in the future. The fact is we are in the future. It is happening right now.

Technology is and has been changing and forming the behavior of people. A good example Dr. Bellini used is “flash mobbing”. This is by using the internet, texting, facebook, etc. a message is broadcast to show up at a certain place at a certain time, to do something and then leave (read more). Without the internet or mobile phones this phenomena would not exist.

So what is the New Normal we are living in? It is a demographic revolution where there is strong population growth in the developing world and shrinking populations in part of the developed world. More and more people are living in cities with the expectation that by 2050 up to 80% of the world population would live in cities. The world is aging significantly both due to a lower birth rate as well as people getting older and older. The economic shift to the East has been going on for several years and will continue and even accelerate. This will dramatically change the size of markets as well as bring a flood of new brands from these new markets. The magazine “The Economist” had a very interesting special report on innovation in emerging markets and its impact (read more).

So what does this all mean for us as current leaders? It means we are faced with rapid and far reaching technological change. We will have to deal with accelerated globalization and knowledge as the central factor of business. The current economic recovery in the USA is already showing this last point. The unemployment numbers are stubbornly high since most jobs were lost in the “old” production economy and new jobs are appearing in the knowledge industry. This means there is a famine in skills. We will also have to integrate sustainability in our day to day work since the world’s bio-capacity is beyond its tipping point.

What does this all mean for how companies will operate in the future? The future business models will be distributed and flat with greater mobility across and in between organizations. Organizations will be a lot smaller since the competitive force will lie in collaborative and shared leadership. Think: powerful networks and online communities. For all this to work smoothly TRUST is the essential glue of it all. Managers who do not trust you if you are not physically present will not survive in the New Normal. Challenges for the current leaders are how to manage networked enterprises, drive collaboration and sharing, and think beyond the fixed work place.

As Dr. Bellini very visually worded it: the current leaders are digital immigrants and the upcoming generations (from 1993 onward) are digital natives. As with any immigration, for us to survive in the New Normal we will need to adapt. We will have to start building high trust organizations. I am looking forward to the New Normal. I hope you are as well.

1 thought on “The New Normal”

  1. My work takes me from my home in the San Francisco Bay Area to Japan every month, and I can tell you that the future is upon us! While “experts” back in the US are still telling me how conservative Japanese businessmen are, I’m working with some of the most creative and innovative (mostly) men I can imagine – yup, Japanese businessmen are wildly creative and innovative! At least they are in global companies, and these companies are investing heavily in globalization and global leadership in the form of transformational professional development of their people.

    And Japanese companies are hiring people from all over the world, putting yet another myth to rest – that Japanese people do not embrace outsiders. In fact it is a survival tactic, because Japan and Germany will both face the greatest shortage in skilled working age population in the whole developed world in the coming decades – – – over 20% shortage according to one report I read!

    While many US citizens and businesses continue their US-centric focus, waiting for the US economy to take an upturn and the jobs to come back, the rest of the world is working furiously to assure that they have a place in the global economy.

    Time to get busy and get global! – Kimberly in Tokyo (for the moment)

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