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The future of business

In the 1960s, we imagined future of public transport based n elevated monorail systems, and private transport with personal helicopters, r ven spacecraft, for everyone. Today, the future looks more like the past than we imagined it would. Development has been continuous in many ways. For example, the r has become mundane object, but with technology far in advance of that available even 20 years ago. However, its future source of power, discontinuous development that will replace petrol, is still uncertain.

Futurology, with its futurologists r futurists, is haphazard activity, despite attempts to formalize it.

There is the Delphi method, where experts make their forecasts about subject independently, and referee circulates each forecast to the other members of the group, who comment n each other's observations until they reach consensus.

This n be one element of strategy, where companies make long-term plans about future activities.

r, they have to anticipate competitors' activities as well as trends in the general economic environment. Very large companies work n scenario planning, imagining different ways in which the current situation may evolve, and their place in it, including ways in which they may 'encourage' it to develop in their favour.

The main course unit makes number of social and economic predictions. As the Success business brief mentions (see Unit 4), future successful products r notoriously hard to predict, as r the subtle combinations of social, cultural and technological circumstances that mean that something may succeed at one time but not another. The -commerce business brief (Unit 7) looks at some of the trends in -commerce and Internet use in this context.

n of the social predictions made 30 years ago was that people would work less and have more leisure time, but the opposite has occurred. No one foresaw how the computer would evolve away from the mainframe and facilitate social development like working from home and while n the move, thanks to laptops and, in parlll development, mobile phones. Similarly, the Internet may have social effects that we cannot envisage, let alone predict.

powerful force 30 years ago was protest at the way society and the economy were organized, for example against 'faceless multinationals'. After long period where youth shed its rebellious reputation, in this context at least, there r signs that activism outside traditional political parties is re-emerging as social force, this time organized n global level- witness the regular violent demonstrations against recent meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization, with planning of protests co-ordinated over the Internet. This trend may intensify.

Another factor that will certainly affect the way the future of business develops is global warming, which is now, after ten years of debate over whether it is happening or not, n incontrovertible fact. Some possible consequences of the greenhouse effect have been predicted, but there will certainly be others we cannot even imagine.


Read on

Charles Grantham: The Future of Work, Grw-ill, 1999

Hamish McRae: The World i 2020, HarperCollins, 1995

Jonathan Margolis: Brief History of the Future, Bloomsbury, 2000

Michael Zey: Future Factor, Grw-ill, 2000


Date: 2015-01-02; view: 1375

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