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2018: Business Moving from Readjustment to Response
If 2017 was the year of readjustment brought on by speed and change in business, 2018 will be the year of sensing the shifts and responding with a way forward for the future. It is time to confront the hard issues and embrace the opportunity to initiate change.
Leaders are asking timely, tough questions: How will we drive sustainable growth? How will we respond to automation? How will we augment the skills of our people? What new ways of engaging talent will drive us toward further innovation? How do we empower a more diverse and inclusive culture? How can we build a culture beyond our four walls?
As we head into 2018, I predict:
• An inflection point around automation and AI. The year ahead will be a turning point in which individuals see more optimism in the opportunities of their roles with emerging technologies. As I mentioned in my 2017 mid-year report, the conversation this year has shifted to human with machine, instead of human vs. machine. While there will still be challenges, and we will be working through them for some time, the doom and gloom will moderate in 2018 as talent starts to experience the benefits and companies embrace the important role that essential human capabilities still have to play in the work of the future. There’s a better way to understand and use today’s profound changes: to see technology forces as complementary, working in harmony.
• Deliberate action around education from 8 to 80.
The work of the future, automation and AI, means we need to address learning beyond our own organizations—and step up to provide enhanced STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education at a foundational, elementary level. It also means the need to retool and reskill those that are already in the workforce so that their work can be augmented with and not replaced by the deployment of new technologies. And, finally, it likely means a greater skills gap across the globe, whether 8 years old or 80—and businesses, government, and NGOs (non-government organizations) will be on the hook to help close that gap. Not everyone needs to be STEM fluent, but most need to be tech-savvy.
• The continued rise of public-private partnerships.
The uncertainty of public policy caught leaders “waiting around” in 2017. As we saw mid-year last year, one of the emerging thoughts was to solve complex societal issues with public-private partnerships. 2018 will bring an even greater number of public and private organizations coming together more often to implement solutions—like collaborating on infrastructure, education, diversity and inclusion, workplace reform, and societal change. We can no longer operate in silos as businesses, government, and NGOs, but rather we need an interconnected ecosystem reliant on collective action.
• The joining of businesses to create holistic experiences.
Last year at this time, I predicted a focus on mergers and acquisitions—viewing it from the perspective of innovation and growth opportunities. This year, M&A and arrangements between “competimates” will be driven by growth focused on how business caters to the end user experience—with new ways of adding value and creating platforms in the digital ecosystem. The creation of new digital ecosystems will serve consumers in many new and innovative ways.
• A greater push for businesses to do real good—beyond talk.
As our physical, digital, biological worlds continue to collide—and our work and lives become even more integrated—there will be a greater push for businesses to do real good—and to show measurable results and accountability. Companies will need to contribute to diversity and inclusion outside their four walls. Actively give back to more than just their communities by addressing the tough issues, like closing societal gaps. Be there in times of need. And, that will go for individuals too. The end of 2017 gave way to the rise of having a voice and taking action. 2018 will be about using that voice to make real, impactful change.