Thursday, 3 March 2011

Big Rethink: global economic trends and connectivity


  I’m at the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Big Rethink conference today (at least this morning) and we’re talking about ideas and innovation.

Why?, well as Robin Bew, the EIU’s Editorial Director has explained, the strategies which have worked for business in the last 20 years are unlikely to work in next 20 years given the rate of change in the business environment. Robin took us through what he sees as the main structural mega trends (vs short-term interest rate changes etc) in economics:

1 Debt has grown rapidly and is acting as millstone on growth.

2 Emerging markets have issues but also there are also significant opportunities. China’s economy will be as big as the US’ by 2016 and India is also coming up and will potentially be more dynamic because of China’s one child policy and consequent future aging population.

3 Greening up - the rising price of commodities and raw materials will help individuals face up to the green crisis.

4 The aging workforce, again primarily in rich countries. The average age of people in the world today is 28. By 2020 it will be 32 and by 2050, 38.

5 Urbanisation – the urban population is increasing but family units are getting smaller, more people are living on their own so there is more demand for housing.

6 Multi national companies based in emerging market are breaking out of their own markets and attacking companies based in developing economies.


It didn’t come out in Robin’s presentation, but the other big theme we’ve covered so far (for me) is connectivity.

Julie Meyer at Ariadne Capital has stressed that the world now has a profound network orientation. Companies can dictate to people in a traditional, linear way. For example, Julie has suggested that no-one under 30 believes they are going to work for anyone any more - “They enjoy it, recognise that it’s a great place to work and so on, but they still talk about the businesses they’re going to set-up in the future”. So organisations need to think more about things like ecosystems now. Julie thinks that people and companies that understand this are going to be the winners in the future.

Iqbal Quadir from MIT made two related points that progress involves the dispersion of power, and that connectivity is productivity.

And we’ve now got another session on connectivity coming up…


Update: well, I was planning to post on the next session from Cory Doctorow from Boing Boing which was supposed to be on connectivity and imaginative business.  Unfortunately this turned out to be a rant about digital rights management so I’ll pass on this.  Keep reading this blog for more of my own insights on connectivity!



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