By Faye Chua, head of future research, ACCA
Labels such as ‘constant flux’, ‘change’ and ‘uncertainty’ have often been used to characterise the global economy over the past few years. And no matter what course of action is taken or the level of appetite for public sector intervention, it seems that volatility is here to stay having become the new normal.
Over the next decade, the global landscape will constantly be reshaped by a number of drivers. Those that will have the greatest influence are market volatility, continued globalisation and innovation, shifts in wealth and power, economic uncertainty and political transitions. These trends will be magnified by rapid advances in science and technology, demographic changes and the emergence of new business models.
So how flexible and agile does one need to be to weather these shifts and volatility? Businesses will need to do more than simply adapt. They will need to be constantly innovating and re-inventing themselves in order to survive and thrive.
You will remember, back in the old days of dial-up modem, when ICQ was one of the coolest internet instant messaging services available. It was then overtaken by MSN Messenger when broadband became conventional. A few years later and large strides in mobile technology raised the stakes and brought us Facebook and BlackBerry messenger 24/7. And today the majority of us are ‘tweeting’ and ‘pinning’ as well. The pace of technological advance has led to the demise of many businesses while a handful of survivors have prospered.
There is no doubt that technological developments are dominating strategy discussion for many businesses of all sizes. As businesses will need to pursue technological leadership, embrace IT advances and leverage technology effectively as well as develop the capabilities of their employees to work with, adapt to and getting the best out of a multi-location, multicultural and age-diverse workforce. Additionally, new mindsets and approaches to technology management are also crucial in maximising value in the next decade.
But there’s more. Technology isn’t the only answer.
Businesses will need to assume and plan for volatility. They will need to account for turbulence as a very real possibility and develop strategies for a range of different economic and market scenarios will become essential. At the same time, they will need to improve their scanning skills to prepare for a wide range of possibilities, tolerate uncertainty and ‘seeing around the corners’. At an operational level, development of a truly global model is becoming a real priority which will require business to prepare for true globalisation. Finally, for companies to be successful in a fast-changing and increasingly complex environment it is essential to develop a curious, experimental and adaptable mental attitude – a critical success factor.
All this is much more easier said than done. But one thing that I’ll bet on is that the rate of change will only increase quite literally at an exponential rate and definitely beyond historical levels, and this can be scary and inspirational at the same time with difficult to envisage effects across the global economy.