It was probably a $200 billion mistake. After that, we made a rule: No more meetings in the bathroom.
~Michael Eisner, former CEO, Disney
Recently, my book club was discussing the merits of the book “Exit West” by Mohsin Hamid, which portrays the adventures of a couple (and a world) escaping from a war-torn and brutally oppressive regime through a series of mysterious “doors” that appear more or less randomly all over the world, allowing people to leave their current lives behind—but without knowing where they’ll end up. And, of course, without any warning to the people who are already living where they end up.
Science fiction, it was not. (“They might just as well have been carried around by dragons and elves,” I said, disgusted, frustrated and acrid.) But fascinating societal commentary, it was. After I stopped fruitlessly trying to figure out where the doors came from, why they appeared, how long they lasted, etc., etc., I started thinking about how the increasing mobility of our society has changed the nature of this country; and what the nature of this planet might be if people were able to relocate by stepping through a door. It’s globalization on an utterly personal scale. And it’s technology that doesn’t have to be understood to be used.
Lately, I’ve been writing about a number of broad and sometimes seemingly contradictory topics: Will automation, IoT and Industry 4.0 mean fewer jobs (and fewer consumers to buy), or different kinds of jobs? What do trade restrictions really mean, when people can order products from anywhere in the world from their computers? When automation is not possible, can workers be found, trained and paid enough to do skilled labor by hand? Which is likely to be more of a challenge: working with (or for) millennials, or selling to them? When it comes to innovation, which is more important: developing and using technology, or finding the customers for it first?
Traditional boundaries seem to be dissolving. In the April issue’s Perspective article, entrepreneur Amy Poe commented: “You pretty much need to be able to do everything.” In this issue’s report on IFAI’s 2018 Smart Fabrics Summit, Dr. Qaizar Hassonjee comments on why many small businesses seem to fail to successfully commercialize new technology because they haven’t also determined (or created) a market need: “You have to work on the business part of it, not just the technology.”
Today’s business plan isn’t just last year’s revenues and next year’s budget projections: It’s staffing concerns, automation and new technology, modern marketing techniques, customer and competitor research (when customers and competitors can come from pretty much anywhere), sustainability, community relations, and industry and economic trends. For a start.
I think I just outlined Review’s 2019 editorial calendar. We’ll soon have some doors of our own.