The 21st century is as different from the 20th as the 20th is from the Dark Ages.


businessman working with virtual screen

The 21st century is as different from the 20th century as the 20th century is to the Dark Ages. We are facing unprecedented change through technology so advanced we can barely imagine it. Technology that declares man is no longer needed for any but the most advanced and sophisticated activities as well as our most human of activities. Unprecedented replacement of human effort by robots in the name of efficiency has delivered both economic and psychological poverty on all but those most prepared or predisposed and this has only just begun. Without any thought of the possible consequences of this massive change being downloaded on the peoples of the world, we are changing the way we educate, communicate, feed and repair each other. Much of humanity is being left redundant with little hope of ever finding a place of meaning in this "brave new world" without being robotised in soime way if we are to believe writer and darling of the technology set Ray Kurzweil ("The Singularity is Near"). But I don't want a lobotomy Ray!

The only areas this century in which robots are unlikely to put humans out of work are the fields of ideas and networking. It is here that humanity must focus if it is to survive an onslaught that no one has any idea how it is going to end.

From a corporate perspective, business first had to deal with off-shoring of manufacturing, then service industries and finally professional services. But this is merely an interim step to a world where technology will control all of these processes directly with the aid of advanced surveillance, 3D printing, computerised intelligent sales and survey systems, robot waiters, online tutors and coursework, medical advice, legal advice and training in just about any subject you can imagine. The businesses you run will be involved in vastly different activities including human companionship, mentoring and personal support as well as organisation of community activities and politics as well as interfaces with the technology.

The traditional business model that operated throughout the 20th century is no longer any guarantee of success. The internet and other technologies are in the process of changing everything sociologically, culturally and psychologically as well as technologically. Media usage will never be the same and media companies have no answer to the evolving tribal model of media usage. The 20th century business model was principally about product, price, distribution and sales and marketing but the world has moved on. Those issues are still important but they are not the whole story. The customer may be king but they may not be the ones deciding your future as an organisation. The challenges are more unwieldy and more diverse.

You now need to examine not only what your customers and prospects think but also what those who don’t buy your products and services think and how they might react to what you are doing. This spills over into political implications and also media considerations. By that we mean how your plans are likely to play out in the non-traditional media even more than in the increasingly less relevant and less credible mainstream media. Perhaps some of the best examples of that at the moment are happening in the area of coal seam gas and mining and energy generally; although soon to emerge will be an spectrum of other issues attached to food safety, water sovereignty, privatisation of education and health, the grocery monopoly, the potential health risks attached to wireless telephony and electromagnetic radiation generally, environmental fragility and so on.  Ultimately public trust of government and big corporations comes into this and under this umbrella are a bucketload of nasties.

Understanding the social impact of your actions as well as the attendant political considerations will be of great help in sorting out your business model in the 21st century, not to mention the way media works with both customers and detractors. MindMap is one example of this in action.

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