The Digital Age, 4th Industrial Revolution

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How to Change from Long Term Uncertainty to Sustainability

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A clear pathway has been identified for the journey ahead, and it seems paradoxical there is high expectation for the short term but uncertainty for the longer term despite projections of global growth and prosperity from global gatekeepers such as the IMF and multinational consulting firms such as PwC. Technological advances clearly point to new, exciting opportunities in service delivery as well as new product development in robotics, 3D Printing, Blockchain, Drones, The IoT, Cryptocurrencies, Augmented and Virtual Reality that are all foundational technologies . With all the Blue Ocean possibilities from these, the strategic focus should therefore be about positioning to take advantage of these new opportunities that can be applied throughout civilization and beyond. Short term thinking without longer term planning is a dangerous scenario, all around, and it seems that short term thinkers and leaders are being created based solely for short term results. The short term mission related leadership is suited for the environment that requires short term results, based on short term plans and in business, that can be detrimental. For business to survive and achieve sustainability, it must relentlessly deep-scan its own horizons, but in today’s world of total convergences, it must do much more. It must scan the entire global environment to make appropriate decisions, regarding its business. Or, as Gene Hammett puts it : is there a crisis of leadership.


The IMF projects an uptick of the growth globally in 2018 of 3.9 % up from 3.7% in 2017. But despite this, there still are some places where this type of growth will not occur. In the Caribbean, Grenada GDP in 2017 was about 5% but its next door neighbors are in crises of food, crime, poverty and economic sanctions. In the wider sense Corruption, xenophobia, protectionism, and climate change are also global components of a malaise threatening to cause tremendous harm to this planet.

Transparency International points to statistics that say more than two thirds of countries measured fall in the “poorly performing” category. Corruption is a hydra-headed monster, not limited to financial matters alone, although the acquisition of money and wealth and power can cause value systems to be discarded and disregarded. It spreads throughout society when money becomes the focal point. Money lost through corruption, is money that cannot be used for the benefit of the State, and there are laws for it, but it can and will result in much fracturing, strife, poverty, and subterfuge.

The issue of these IMF projections then can be seen in the context of global benefit for people. Given the vast amounts of monies lost to development through corruption and crime, the people who work and Labour to produce this growth are being prevented from these benefits. With corruption at its present levels, confidence in the short term, but high caution about longer term prospects seems to suggest a deliberate strategy to not engage strategic thinking and planning for risk of being open and transparent. In other words who needs it when the goals are short term. Short term thinking leads to “quick fixes” or “low hanging fruit” or “high value items” the likes of which lead to short term, temporary gains, cost over-runs, corruption and little long term gains.

This is alarming as it expose a risk-averse attitude to think and plan strategically, utilizing a deep-horizon scan, and create roadmaps into the future.

That is most alarming both for business and society. Short term thinking, planning and execution are not good signs.

Global CEO Survey

The following excerpt from a PwC Global Report illustrates a focus on short term thinking, even whilst acknowledging future trends in technology.

Excerpt from PwC Global CEO Survey

You don’t have to look far for signs that we live in tumultuous times. Geopolitical uncertainty, cyberattacks, and jobs threatened by artificial intelligence are just a few of the topics that dominated headlines in 2017. But despite these, a record-breaking percentage of CEOs are optimistic about the economic environment worldwide, in the short term. That’s one of the findings of PwC’s latest Global CEO Survey.

1. CEO optimism

This year’s survey showed a record jump in the all-time highest level of CEO confidence regarding global economic growth prospects for the coming year. Since 2012, there has been a remarkable shift as CEOs demonstrated their confidence that the global economic growth will “improve”. This unprecedented optimism is global — from North America to both Western and Central/Eastern Europe, as well as Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia Pacific. Strikingly that Confidence waned as CEOs doubted their own company’s growth in the next three years. 51% said they were “very confident” about their organization’s longer-term growth prospects, only 45% shared that view this year.There might be a feeling that the future is less predictable as technological disruption and geopolitical uneasiness increasing the unpredictability of longer-term confidence. Added to that are the foreign policies of self-preservation as trans-Atlantic and European cross-border migration, causing anxiety and uneasiness. Brexit will cause severe disruption, with people losing jobs and opportunities, but the socio-Political fallout seems destined to have longer term and far reaching effects.

2. A focus on the geopolitical positives

In the short-term, CEO optimism appears unimpeded by shake-ups such as Brexit, the Trump administration’s withdrawal from trade agreements and climate accords, and increased anxiety over North Korea. Undeterred, CEOs continue to invest in and grow their businesses. As we kick off a new year, global commodities prices have recovered from their trough and the world’s major economies are growing. Even Britain’s economy seems to be persevering despite Brexit. This upward trend is set to continue in 2018, with PwC predicting that the global economy will grow by almost 4% in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms this year.In the US, the Trump Administration’s pro-business policies — with the notable exceptions of trade and immigration — look to be fuelling a stock market boom, corporate confidence and low unemployment. With deep corporate tax cuts, down to 21%, deregulation and infrastructure spending for 2018, North American CEOs are enthused and infused with confidence as more than half (53%) are “very confident” about their company’s growth in the next 12 months.”Only time will tell how well-founded CEOs’ short-term confidence is but the economic indicators are on their side, with booming stock markets and strong predicted GDP growth in most major markets. Also, while risks seem to grow and multiply, CEOs are, on the one hand, becoming more used to high levels of multiple risks; while on the other hand finding ways of managing them. There are plenty of potential potholes in the road ahead for business but CEOs have become better at predicting where they are and navigating around them.”

3. Taking technology in their stride

Technology is affecting businesses in many ways. As the digital age marches on continuously and relentlessly, business strategies on the one hand, such as cybersecurity are constant threats, but on the other hand innovation and creativity in artificial intelligence, robotics and augmented reality, and operational effectiveness through cloud computing continue to drive growth. “Last year, 24% of the CEOs we spoke to told us they were “extremely concerned” about cyberthreats, but that number has jumped to 40% this year. In contrast, business leaders see enabling universal connectivity as the chief benefit of globalization.

There is no question that the impact of AI will be enormous, potentially transforming business and society at large. PwC’s recent global AI report predicts AI will contribute an additional $15.7 trillion to global GDP by 2030. But those benefits are unlikely to be shared evenly with the US and China set to account for 70% of the boom.

Excerpt Ends-

Employment & Job Creation

The excerpt clearly indicates widespread opportunities for growth and development. The prediction of massive growth in AI, enthuses the mind, but establishes a disconnect. The report tells of confidence in the short term, on one hand, and uncertainty over the longer term on the other, showing a distinct gap which shouldn’t be, which will lead to problems in the future. The organizations who can engage in deep-horizon planning, not just tech companies, will be able to navigate rough seas in the future because of the roadmaps they create to survive and prosper. The opportunities are there, 15 trillion of them, and the US or China or India for that matter doesn’t have a moratorium on intellectual property. Risk-averseness is a high level threat to business.

The organizations who can engage the strategic culture of innovation will not be blindsided by the shocks of changing markets, products, skill, knowledge and wisdom sets needed for the Digital Age, as they would have made gradual progress towards strategic objectives set against clearly and accurately defined trends.The question therefore is, if projections are clear and accurate, where AI is predicted to contribute and additional 15.7 trillion to global GDP by 2030, why is there this lack of confidence in the longer term. Is it the reluctance to effect change, or change? Is there a reluctance to engage deep-horizon scanning identifying trends and insights into what life will be or could be 10, 20 or 30 years from now and initiate their movement away from the comfort zone ? Is it a risk averseness to the future?

Given this impact of AI, there are opportunities for tremendous development in other countries who will be seeking to develop their own AI capability. Gaining the benefit and use of emerging platforms of IoT, driverless cars, drones, healthcare and education, energy and agriculture, are real benefits.

The emergence of Artificial Intelligence has fueled the debate about automation and the loss of jobs that will be caused.

It is no different from the turn of Industrial Ages prior to Industry 4. As each iteration occurs, there are transformations. This present one is no different. The skills needed are to be developed, sharpened and distributed extensively, so as to usher in new benefits and living standards, as innovation, creativity and perhaps inventions are achieved. Already, the world is witnessing and experiencing tremendous developments, at blinding speeds as exiting new tech products come available, and that’s the difference that sets apart this Industrial Revolution.

The pace at which changes are occurring has made driverless cars, battery powered cars, drones, robotics, medical services almost commonplace already. There is still the last wave to hit, and it seems to out there on the horizon lurking, and that may really be something to see and experience.

Given this massive shift in technological application, I submit that the roadmap is there for all to see, but is it the traditional that is holding on for dear life and not allowing the new age of design thinking, strategic thinking, platform designed organizations to flourish?

Thinking, Planning & Acting Strategically

Throughout history, in our darkest moments on this planet, we have been able to devise strategies to recover ourselves from great adversities. It was and still is simple. Survive.

During those world wars, famine and natural disasters the Vision was clear : survive at all costs. Thus we thought and planned and executed with that vision of victory over the antagonists. Those victories came at tremendous costs : time,money and people. When victory was achieved, we then started to plan recovery and sustainability. In other words, the vision, mission, strategies prior to victory were clearly understood up to the point of victory and What happened next was a matter of survival from then on. So that there was still tremendous hardships after victory. All sorts of plans then had to be created, for instance The Marshall Plan, tried, tested, kept or discarded, before global prosperity assumed a sense of universality. We still ended up with the Cold War, dictatorship and societal ills we face today.

Today, however, the Vision, is quite clear, with technology leading the roadmap journey. Climate change, cyber-terrorism, geo-spatial conflicts are still real threats and it’s possible to empathize with Global CEO’s expressing lack of confidence for the longer term. But with the massive trillion dollar market in AI looming, there is reason to think, Plan and act strategically.

There will be new models emerging and these will threaten traditional ways of thinking, but the fact is, new model will emerge.

The essence of strategic planning then, is to be visionary to be able see over the hills and mountains and seas, take action, so that tsunamis which appear from time to time are repelled and hardships ameliorated through the early warning systems of thinking, planning and acting strategically. A strategic thinker will not only understand the trends, but possess the ability to prescribe the necessary adjustments needed, and execute those so as to position the organization for growth in a new environment of high tech and increased people power.

To accomplish this, the traditional structure that seems to be producing short term leaders at the top, are required to adjust and remodel that traditional hierarchical top-down structure. It requires a concerted, deliberate strategy to achieve collectively, embracing all within and without the organization to create a uniqueness that can be developed into a competitive advantage. The circular, agile, platform organization is needed for this new world, that continuously pushes its boundaries to develop new markets through innovation and creativity in an open environment which can be anyone, anywhere, anytime.

The new Digital Age is dismantling old structures, as a shopfront moves from being open just for a specific number of hours a day, to being open for business 24×7 Online, as CyberSecurity becomes entrenched at the front of the organization, as Customers no longer have to wait to purchase. To accommodate this, new supply chain structures and processes must be constructed to meet demand and supply, delivery and new management models in marketing, and sales. This agile framework dismantles the hierarchical model and it is an imperative for today’s environment.Working hours are changing as automation and online access set in, new behaviors, and more leisure time to spend on the creative. New skill sets to be managed and new opportunities all become part of the ecosystem required for the Digital Age.

The age of creativity and awareness is upon us and there is no need for limited, short term thinking. In a world so filled with opportunities to improve it, it is difficult to accept the notion that the longer term is uncertain. If these opportunities are pursued actively, there is great reward. Just ask Elon Musk!


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