Organizations that succeed in this radically changing world will not only have to adopt and sponsor new types of technology, they will also need a new management structure, a new way of interacting with suppliers, customers, and government agencies. There will also be new types of corporate governance and economic models. What this world will look like no one knows, but it is likely to feature simplification, resilience, adaptability and decentralization/localization. Success will consist of much more than simply choosing the best technology; success will depend on understanding the profound changes that are taking place to every aspect of society.
For example, our current economy works on the principle of Supply and Demand. If customers want a product or service, and if they have sufficient money, a company somewhere will fulfill that need in return for their money. In a future world where raw materials such as oil and rare metals are in short supply the fact that someone demands a product does not mean that that want can be satisfied. Nor will an increased supply of money satisfy the demand. More money in a limited supply world will simply create inflation.
A more fundamental problem is that virtually all modern institutions are built around an assumption of never-ending growth: fractional banking, pensions, interest on bank deposits, the stock market itself — all will go sideways if growth stops for an extended period of time. Yet, at the end of the day, growth relies on the availability of fossil fuel energy.
People may intellectually accept analyses such as these. But they will still have difficulty understanding that the old way of doing business is slipping away. It is so hard to accept is that we are in an ‘Age of Limits’, the 300-Year Party is coming to an end. We are leaving the ‘Church of Never-Ending Material Progress’, and we cannot go back. In a material sense, it is likely that life in future will not be as prosperous as we anticipate. But this does not mean that life has to be ‘worse’.
If companies, and the people who work for those companies, are to be successful in this new world they will have to be imaginative — the old ways of doing business are not going to work any longer. Executives, managers and employees will have to be imaginative and to visualize profoundly new ways of working.
The most important attribute for future business success will be imagination. The second most important attribute will be a willingness to give up on what succeeded in the past.