So here we are, four months into Lockdown, with a slow reopening of the UK economy but with rising cases of Covid19 around the world – particularly in the US.
It would be fair to say that Coronavirus has been the most significant challenge facing businesses since the 3-day Week in the 1970s or even the Second World War. However, it is only one of four major challenges which will affect most organisations in the coming decades. Let’s take a look at each of these in turn.
Physically closing down towns, offices, places of leisure and schools has forced millions of us to turn to digital communications. Zoom has become the tool of choice for meetings and events, whilst working from home has become the norm for the majority of workers.
Only time will tell what will happen once the virus has disappeared completely. However, what we do know is that even those companies who were digital ‘dinosaurs’ have had to change their working practices to adapt to this new reality.
This means that hundreds of thousands of staff will need to be retrained so that they have the necessary skills to work within ‘digital-first’ organisations.
Winners: Businesses agile enough to move online quickly
Losers: Companies with low digital skills knowledge and rigid business processes
Next up is Brexit. No one knows for certain what our trading relationship with our former European partners is going to look like from 1st January 2021 onwards. Nor do we know how we will trade with the rest of the world. Throw in a US election in November as well as the gathering storm with China over trade and Huawei and you’re looking at a whole lot of uncertainty.
As we’ve seen with Coronavirus and indeed any other major disruptive event, there will always be opportunities. New markets, new trading relationships and more agile thinking can offer innovative businesses and risk-takers a wealth of new prospects.
Winners: Companies forging relationships with new markets through direct approaches to suppliers and better international marketing
Losers: Businesses who have left it too late to make the adjustment to being outside of the European Union
Like it or not, the climate is changing. Hot summers, wetter winters, more extreme weather have all been forecast for the coming decades. These will not only have implications for how we run our companies but also where we do business. In addition, the next generation of workers are much more in tune with protecting the planet so business owners and leaders will need to do more than apply a ‘green wash’ to their corporate strategies.
Yet even here there are lots of opportunities. Green technology is a massive growth area with huge benefits in terms of investment, lower costs and less impact on the planet.
Winners: Companies looking invest in green technology or create a green culture within their organisation
Losers: Those who don’t make any necessary allowances in their risk register
We finally have AI. Along with climate change this is perhaps the biggest disruptor we as humans and business professionals are likely to face within our lifetimes. Whole swathes of industries and processes will be replaced by machine learning and algorithms. Even professions such as medicine, legal services and accountancy could be massively disrupted over the next few years.
As 5G technology continues to be rolled out, we’re going to see the introduction of an ever more connected world with autonomous vehicles, smart homes and factories as well as even faster access to the internet and apps.
There could be profound consequences for the world with perhaps millions of people made unemployed. However, we may instead see the introduction of a Universal Basic Income – a variant on the furloughing schemes we’ve seen during Lockdown – which could lead to a seismic shift in the way that humans exist on a day to day basis.
Winners: Creative industries and those organisations looking to explore new horizons and change their business models completely
Losers: Those industries who wait for change to happen and don’t plan for a long-term future
No one has a crystal ball or a monopoly on radical ideas. However, if you run an organisation today you know that in the 2020s, the only real certainty is uncertainty. Maintaining 'business as usual' is therefore no longer an option. Be bold, be brave and be agile.
If you would like to know how you can better prepare for this uncertain future, why not drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 01892 531485.