It has been a fascinating week. Sometimes the world seems to stand still – whilst other times it lurches forward at alarming speed. This has been a week when the world seems to have accelerated as we saw four of the trends we are watching in the Future of Work Research Consortium lurch forward. They are part of the portfolio of 32 trends we are tracking, and which we believe have the potential to significantly shape the world of work over the next two decades.
Two of the accelerating trends are clear from the joint agreement announced this week between Nokia and Microsoft. In this agreement we can see one of our trends, the development of ecosystems really moving forward. These ecosystems are the complex array of joint ventures and partnerships that increasingly define an industry sector. The agreement between these two giants is seen to be the basis for the emergence of a new ecosystem capable of creating the sort of value that has become so much part of the ecosystem surrounding Apple and its partners. The Nokia and Microsoft agreement also shows a second trend we are watching carefully – the emergence of mega-companies at the same time as the creation of ever wider clusters of micro-entrepreneurs who have the skills and knowledge to serve these entities. The agreement highlights the speed at which these future trends are re-shaping the business and work environment. They also show the challenges and opportunities they create.
From an internal perspective, the mega-company and ecosystem that will develop from the Nokia/Microsoft relationship will bring great opportunities to leverage complementary assets. But they also bring to the fore one of the areas of internal future proofed competency we have been studying – the capacity to work in a complex multi-cultural environment and to successfully build project teams capable of spanning functional and business boundaries. If the employees of these two companies fail to build these competencies, then the opportunities the new relationship creates will fail to materialise.
These are big challenges – in fact when we recently asked over 3,000 executives from around the world to rate 20 internal capabilities with regard to the risk they posed to the future of their business – many ranked ‘working across boundaries’ as the number one area of risk. So we can predict right now that the relationship will require a great deal of skill.
What the Nokia/Microsoft relationship shows is the speed at which future trends are shaping our world of work right now. It also highlights that as the business world is re-shaped, the competencies that may have worked in the past look woefully inadequate for the future. Leading teams with a similar cultural background takes a fraction of the skills needed to lead a team made up of more than one dominant mindset. We will be watching the executives from Microsoft and Nokia with great interest – they have found their world rapidly re-shaped by the future trends that will have an impact on many others. Let’s see what we can learn from them.
And the other future trends we have seen played out this week? Well, readers of my blog know that one of the trends I am fascinated with is ever increasing connectivity and the impact it will have on work and social life. In Tahrir Square this week, we saw first hand the impact that connectivity from social media such as Twitter and Facebook had on the enthusiasm, courage and direction of people right across Egypt. It also shows another future trend we are following with interest – the rise of Gen Y and the extent of intergenerational-cohesion with Baby Boomers and Traditionalists. What is clear from Egypt is that when one generation is so far removed from another, and so unable to imagine their aspirations and hopes – then cohesion will ebb away.
It has been a momentous week for the 32 future-trends we are watching. I cannot wait to see what next week will bring.