Let’s be optimistic!
For the first time in the history of humanity, we are less than a generation away from having solved most of the issues human has been facing since the beginning of times. And it is not science fiction!
If human kind does not mess it up, in less than 30 years and even maybe before, most of the problems we have always been facing such as access to education, energy, mobility, health and food for everyone could be (almost) problems of the past. And this will be done through a collaborative approach and putting resources in network. The third way of management can help organizations contributing and thriving, getting benefit of this formidable human adventure.
When you read or hear the news, you mostly get bad news. But there are more good news than bad ones but they are often hidden. In fact, the good news are overriding the bad. Simply, media do not report them. A year ago, Ebola was on the cover page of most magazines. Many companies or individuals cancelled trips to the regions affected, and sometime even far away by geographical ignorance. Each suspected case in Europe or the US was covered as topline of the news. Ebola was going to spread irresistibly.
Let’s not minimize the impact of the epidemics that caused the death of at least 11 000 people so far (the equivalent of 4 days of traffic accidents in the world) for the already poor countries that were the victim of this terrible disease, but the news that the epidemics was coming to its end was hardly published and the fact that an international research team identified a potential new drug was just a one line information on an inside page of any newspaper. Most had to wait until very recently, when a small resurgence of the disease took place, to hear it had almost been fixed.
Even more astounding is the news that the UN predicts the end of hunger within this generation as for the first time the number of people suffering from hunger went down the threshold of 800 millions which is still unacceptable but half the rate of 25 years ago (13% vs. 26%). Having at sight the end of the number one issue that mankind has always experienced since the beginning of times is extraordinary news that would deserve to be on the top line of the front page of all media but was hardly presented. On the contrary, there is not a week without an article explaining that with global warming we will have to face millions of climatic refugees, that there will not be enough proteins for everyone and we need to get prepared to the worst.
Let’s review some of the real problems humanity has been facing forever and how they will most probably be solved in the coming 10 to 30 years.
1) In less than a generation nobody should suffer from Hunger.
It is the UN that says it.
The number of overweight people now overweighs the number of those suffering from hunger by 1.5 to 1. As much as 30% of total food produced in the world is wasted at different stage of the supply chain from production, logistics, distribution to the end consumer.
Those 2 elements alone show that the world does not have even today an issue of quantity of food supply but rather of repartition and efficiency of the supply chain often in poor countries because of wars or political instability.
The combination of the reduction of waste, a better education on dietetics, increase of yields and the reduction of birthrate that will happen faster than expected can make humankind experience for the first time a hunger free life for all as the UN foresees it.
2) In a generation everybody will have access to cheap education.
Already access to basic education is making huge progress but it is nothing in comparison with the revolution that the digital world is bringing.
Until now education is expensive and rigid. As a result, it reproduces inequalities based on financial resources and ability to cope with a predefined mold and hence have access to the best educational resources.
Basically, children when they have access to education are enrolled in a predefined “one size fits all” program defined by and for elites.
As a result, in many regions of the world, many people do not have access to education by lack of means, knowledge or as a result of religious dictate to keep women or minorities illiterate for example. Even in more developed regions, the system is often getting more and more unfair either because some children do not have the starting background education package, live in an environment where education in not on the radar list or simply because education is becoming more and more expensive. In the US for example, tuition fees have increased in the last decade as much as 5% per year and as a result where the student loans has reached the amount of 1000 billions dollars and are only second to the house mortgage. Some are even comparing it to the bubble that preceded the Lehman shock in 2008.
But a double revolution, made possible thanks to digital is coming: The first one is the revolution of flexibility which will replace “one size fits all” classroom’s unique programs with tailor-made education tuned to each student based on his background, talents, aspiration and ability to adapt. The role of the professor will not be to teach in a unidirectional way to a class of 30 pupils, 10 of which get bored because it is too slow, 10 cannot follow because it is too fast and 10 are more or less interested as this can be done in a much more attractive and efficient way with new tools. His role will be to accompany, advise and make sure that each of the children has his own personal characteristics optimized and is not dropped out of the system. The second is of course the revolution of the content itself in a world where technology and business is in a permanent disruption. Such fantastic tools like MOOC but also a company like Piazza.com, which, with already 1.25 million students and 30 000 professors offers a collaborative approach to learning, are just examples of the beginning of this revolution.
We will move from an education, in a comparison with classical theater, where the dominant model was the three unities, action or what subject or science you study, time or how long, generally just after high school and place typically a university to a world where education will be multi subjects, lifetime and coming from many origins in a collaborative manner.
As a result education will become much less expensive, with many second chances for all and more egalitarian. The result of having more educated people will be an acceleration of welfare globally.
3) In less than a generation, access to mobility will be a given and this mobility will be cleaner, safer and cheaper than ever.
Today’s mobility is in a dilemma: on one hand, increase of welfare in emerging markets raises the demand for mobility and this mobility is generally individual. On the other hand, public transportation can only cover a marginal part of the needs and with rare exception is either heavily subsidized or very expensive for final users and sometimes both. Individual mobility is effective but inefficient and current model is getting to a dead end. Traffic fatalities, local pollution and resources utilizations, costs and congestion show the limit of the current model if we want everyone to access to mobility particularly in emerging countries. Car sharing and autonomous driving are going to be a reality and will give access to mobility to all at a much lower cost than today when individual cars are used on average 4% of the time. It is difficult to predict exactly what the new landscape will be in 15 or 30 years but no doubt it will be very different from today.
Of course car ownership might remain for some type of usage and massive public transportation will continue to exist in big metropolis but we will see new types of mobility, vehicles optimized for some types of usages, some technologies like EV will become relevant for lighter cars heavily used. Accidents and traffic jams will be eliminated through the usage of software saving heavy and expensive passive safety features and avoiding energy and time waste. The positive impact on the economy will be in thousands of billion dollars. The consequence is that eventually New actors will emerge and those in the denial will disappear. Some like taxis, traditional car dealers or driving schools will have to reinvent themselves or change activities. The question is not if it will happen or not, the only question is when and how.
We could continue the list of other key issues that will be potentially solved in the next decades or even next decade such as access to cheap medical service, which will be enabled with big data and individual treatments or energy through smart grids, new generation of bio-fuels or smart homes for example.
The common point to all those elements of this revolution, apart the fact that it will constitute an unprecedented change is that it cannot happen the way things have happened until now.
A lot of literature has listed the jobs that will disappear and those that will appear. Some economists, who have more logical talent than common sense, predict that this digital and collaborative revolution will create a lot of poverty. It seems they have calculation for that. How a revolution that will bring cheaper energy, mobility, education, medical care and nutrition for all can bring poverty is a mystery for me. But those bad auguries have existed in all times.
What is sure is that such a quick disruption in all fields of economy has never happened so far and that having it happening smoothly involving all actors will be a real challenge.
The governments or big companies will not manage from the top those revolutions and decide like in the past when Emperors, kings or CEO’s could impact by their sole decision. It will be a collective revolution where the actors will be involved and understand what is at stake. All those changes are coming from everywhere, often from very young and independent entrepreneurs, dreamers, artists or trendsetters. All those changes are also global and often leapfrog existing models. Still they need a well understood guidepost.
What are the consequences for governments, international organizations and companies?
First, they need to participate to this revolution and define, if it is not yet the case, what their purpose is.
Second, they need to think global, not only international but globally with operations that are connected and understanding how they interact.
Third, they need to empower and trust operations to lead this movement that cannot be managed in a top-down way and let these operations conduct it freely.
This is what the third road of management is about.
Define collectively a strategy following a purpose, assign to operations the leadership and development of global solutions based on their expertise and eventually give the trust to the regional operations and businesses to implement is the best way to participate actively to this optimistic vision.