How to conquer tomorrow?

The accelerating nature of progress in our era makes the challenges and tools required for achieving success quite different from what was relevant 10 or even 5 years ago.

Generic Core Tools for the Future

In general terms, the two core tools that will be essential to individuals and organisations, for attaining success, in the 21st century seem to be:

  1. The ability to continuously learn, connect and adapt.
  2. The ability to nurture a culture of Creativity and Innovation that keeps the value proposition ahead of the competition.

Talent, Tools and Expectations Redefined.

It is apparent that the competitive landscape is changing very fast (e.g. see what happened to Nokia among others, even Apple is starting to show weariness).

It is also becoming apparent that the Customer is not interested anymore in Customer satisfaction as, this is considered a minimum standard “everyone” delivers. As Tom Peters observed, the Customers are now interested in who can guarantee their Success instead.

As a consequence, we are witnessing the Product life cycles dwindling and companies that were thought invincible to wax and wane at a faster pace than ever before.

As the markets evolve allowing, more or less, uninterrupted access to labour and materials, the changing landscape also forces:

  1. Individuals to compete in the talent market on a global scale. Each professional is now competing to be successful in the Talent pool, competing against highly skilled and highly qualified professionals from the developed and the developing world. Furthermore, competition is also against the automation of processes that is eliminating tasks that until now were done by blue or white-collar workers.
  2. Organisations to continuously compete on three fronts: R&D / Innovation and Strategic Cost Management.

Talent

The Talent pool is expanding with ample numbers of highly skilled professionals joining it especially coming from the developing world. Moreover, due to enabling technologies, these professionals are now able to compete on global platforms (see www.elance.com and plenty of other such services).

Moreover, the outsourcing or automation of blue-collar work we have been witnessing for a while is followed fast by automation and outsourcing of white-collar work as well. Outsourcing to developing countries that have lower labour costs is only one example.

Another fast evolving trend is the development of Artificial Intelligence which in its most simplified form consists of the programs we now use and in its most complicated the conceptual models of Ray Kurzweil (now Google’s New Director of Engineering) and others, as suggested by various futurists and thinkers e.g. Juan Enriquez, Andrew McAfee, Rodney Brooks. These new models will most probably shape the paradigm in the years to come.

Moreover, it is viewed that in the future we will not be discussing about the competition between individual companies but about the competition between Supply Chains. This is a trend that in a form was employed e.g by Toyota, already. The integration of Supply Chains as a strategic competitive advantage for an Organisation will only strengthen and new alliances will be formed with focus on efficiency, effectiveness and cost management.

We also now see COO’s such as Tim Cook becoming CEOs (interestingly Tim Cook also headed Compaq’s Procurement before). It becomes apparent that the growing need to manage cost is fast developing. The Procurement sector is thriving and its tools and thinking constantly evolving.

Interestingly, the developing collaborative nature of Supply Chain partners focus on management of costs to a large extent. Furthermore, the need to continuously innovate and remove cost in becoming an element of modern RFP’s adding to the now more established demands for Sustainability  and Corporate Social Responsibility.

Porter and Distortive Technologies

The strength of the company’s supply chain will provide the Cost Leadership required for the company to compete. The other two forces from Michael Porter’s famous scheme described in his classic book Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analysing Industries and Competitors, i.e. differentiation and market segmentation (or focus) are in the process of been redefined as well.

Differentiation and standardisation were incompatible trends until now. In the future though, the developing technologies e.g. 3-D printing, will make it possible to highly customise products and, at the same time,  achieve standardisation through materials used, versatile designs, programs used etc. This follows the markets demand for having unique products of high quality at the lowest price, instantly. Additionally, the consumption styles are evolving with the definition of success now becoming the creation of a platform e.g. Google, Apple, youtube, alibaba.com This new paradigm expands the market expectation and allows for maximum differentiation within limits e.g. smart phone technologies and apps.

Evidently we also view the rise of a growing number of SMEs that through technological advances are now empowered to compete with the status quo. The playing field has been levelled as Thomas Friedman suggested some years ago. New niches are being created every day. This century may become eventually the century of the SMEs. Considering that technology enables SMEs to enter previously capital intensive industries e.g. manufacturing, and enable individuals to become Home CEOs, the number of industries that will remain with high barriers to entry will most certainly lessen over time. Eventually, as Thomas Friedman eloquently put it:

When the world is flat, whatever can be done WILL be done.  The only question is whether it will be done BY you or TO you”.

In support of these trends we are witnessing two disruptive technologies that will again revolutionise the way we think and act. These are:

  1. IBM’s Watson which is a cognitive system that is learning through interactions and delivers evidence based responses. This development could well revolutionize the way we think about medicine, legal as well as, a variety of other specialist services which we until now thought that would be immune to the evolution of technological change.
  2. 3-D Printing which is fastly becoming accessible to a wider customer base. Actually, the news now is the concept of “4D printing, where the fourth dimension is time. This emerging technology will allow us to print objects that then reshape themselves or self-assemble over time”.

Conclusion

Nobody can accurately predict the future. I think though that Peter Drucker describe it best when he declared that:

“The best way to predict the future is to create it” – Peter Drucker

It seems that the only way to navigate the uncertainty of what is to come is to seize the opportunity of change.

Hence, through the two core tools i.e. a) constant learning and adaptation and b) creativity and innovation, to create the future as we dream of it.

In future posts, I will be discussing about specific tools that can be used to better organise learning, continuous improvement and innovation.

Below are some of my favourite quotations from visionaries contemplating the same concepts:

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” — Alvin Toffler

“The job isn’t to catch up to the status quo; the job is to invent the status quo.” – Seth Godin

“People can be divided into three groups: Those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those who wonder what happened.” – Anonymous

What are your thoughts about what the future brings?

What additional skills have you learned or plan to learn this year?

 

[Image credit: shutterstock.com]

Welcome to my Blog

Hi there, my name is George Vrakas. You can find a bit more about me here. This is my personal blog.

Over time I have spent considerable time developing, discussing and reflecting on material that relate to Procurement, Team Development, Personal Development, Productivity, Leadership, as well as, deliberating on the impact of future technologies and trends on the future of supply chain and the future of procurement.

Discussing on these concepts with friends and colleagues I found that there was much interest for information and concepts that are less commonly known. Tools developed were thus shared in an adhoc way. Hence, I thought that by creating a blog, I could upload some of the most interesting information and share my journey, experiences and tools (past and future)  so, as to possibly benefit others.

If you want to learn more about these concepts then this blog is for you.

My goal is to create insightful, relevant content that is drawn from my experience and also to share tools that you can put to work in your personal and professional life.

I intend to blog at least once a week. To make sure you don’t miss my newest posts, you can subscribe via RSS.

I am looking forward to making this journey with you.

Thanks,

George