May you live in interesting times
Welcome to 2022. May you live in interesting times. While there is conjecture as who authored this quote, it remains true today.
This edition of the Martin Haese Report explores the relationship between change, evolution and progress and given that these have been the hallmark of the human condition for ages past, let’s first consider what history has taught us. The most tumultuous periods in modern, medieval, and ancient history are filled with upheaval. Ironically, discomfort and disruption have been the catalyst for progress on many of these occasions. Although stories of plague, insurrection and war can provide compelling reading, those living through these momentous events were undoubtedly experiencing considerable trepidation and pain.
It was however those experiences that built resilience, not always by choice but more often by necessity.
As a student of political history, I am fascinated by how nations have evolved. Russia is case in point as one could be excused for thinking that it epitomises the very definition of upheaval and change. With the Tsars ruling Russia from 1547 to 1917, followed by the Russian Republic from 1918, Soviet era from 1922 and the Russian Federation from 1991 until today, the Russian people have defended their homeland from invasion on more than one occasion and have suffered and prospered at the hands of their own leaders. Russia is however only one example of a nation that has been shaped by upheaval, yet has endured and prevailed. There are many others.
French Emperor Napoleon invaded Russia on 24 June 1812. After waiting for a surrender that never came, Napoleon’s starving troops faced the onset of a Russian winter and retreated out of Moscow. There was no victory here for the French, only a devastating long march in perilous conditions.
Two years into this global pandemic there have been few victories either. However, one thing is for sure, we are still living in interesting times. How have you endured and prevailed? How has the uncertainty of the last two years impacted upon you personally? Have you processed the relationship between security and change?
I encourage you to watch this short video which contends that “you need to dispense with the idea that you have any permanent security outside of your ability to content and adapt.” It’s a confronting statement, but nonetheless quite true. As counter intuitive as it sounds, the truth of the matter is that the only real source of security we have is our ability to adapt.
Now that we acknowledge that change is at the core of evolution and progress, let’s consider why.
In his book first published in 1859, On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin wrote that the theory of evolution is the process of natural selection by which nature selects the fittest and best-adapted to reproduce, multiply and survive. While some have debated Darwin’s theories over the years, they are a plausible explanation for explaining that evolution is far from stagnant and that nature, the environment and everything that lives in it are in a fluid, constant state of flux.
Come for a ride with me, my entrepreneurial friends, and let us now look at some developments that will shape 2022 into a year not looked upon with trepidation but with giddy anticipation.
The lessons are learned, it’s now time for implementation.
2020 and 2021 were years of reaction and pivot, years where some innovated and some faded away. Every one of us has done something new, many for the first time. 2022 is the year that we put into practice the lessons learned over the last two years.
By very definition, an entrepreneurs’ glass is always half full and 2022 is a year to dispel the voices trying to sell you on the idea that the glass is half empty. Let’s remember that luck is nothing more than preparation meeting opportunity. The last two years of this pandemic have prepared the entrepreneur, and 2022 is the year to claim your opportunity.
Trends for 2022
Having spent the last couple of weeks reading widely about the most likely business trends for 2022, I credit Bernard Marr, contributor to Forbes, as authoring the following insights. In sharing these with you, I have added my own anecdotes.
Trend 1: Sustainable, resilient operations
“Every organisation must seek to eliminate or reduce the environmental costs of doing business. Decarbonising the supply chain is a sensible place to start, but forward-thinking businesses are looking beyond the supply chain to improve sustainability across all business operations. And of course, sustainability is linked to resilience, as resilience means being able to adapt and survive for the long term. Any business that ignores sustainability is unlikely to do well in this age of conscious consumption.”
As Chair of the Premier’s Climate Change Council, I see firsthand the competitive advantage that South Australia has in climate change adaptation, mitigation, renewable energy and circular economy. However, what is sometimes overlooked by entrepreneurs is the megatrend of the low emissions economy that is being driven by customers, financiers, insurers, policy makers, regulators and governments. This is an opportunity rich environment for entrepreneurs and business owners.
Trend 2: The balance between human workers and intelligent robots
“We now have increasingly capable robots and artificial intelligence systems that can take on tasks that were previously done by humans. This leaves employers with some key questions: how do we find the balance between intelligent machines and human intelligence? What roles should be given over to machines? Which roles are best suited to humans? There’s no doubt that automation will affect every industry, so business leaders must prepare their organisations – and their people – for the changing nature of work.”
Having spent some brief time in Singapore over Christmas and being served by a robot in a restaurant, I can certainly relate to this. The future has arrived. Are you ready?
Trend 3: The shifting talent pool and changing employee experience
“The way we work is evolving, with more younger people entering the workforce, more gig workers, and more remote workers. In their book The Human Cloud, Matthew Mottola and Matthew Coatney argue that traditional full-time employment will be a thing of the past, as organisations shift to hiring people on a contract basis – with those contractors working remotely.”
Trend 4: Flatter, more agile organisations
Traditionally, organisations have been hierarchical and rigid in their structures. But that is changing, as leaders recognise the need for flatter, more agile structures that allow the business to quickly reorganise teams and respond to change. It is also, in part, a response to the changing nature of work, particularly the proliferation of freelance and remote workers. This is the age of flatter organisational structures, which are more like flexible communities rather than a top-down pyramid structure.”
Trend 5: Authenticity
“Today’s consumers are seeking a more meaningful connection with brands. And this need for connection has given rise to authenticity as a business trend in its own right. Authenticity helps to foster human connections – because, as humans, we like to see brands (and business leaders) display important human qualities like honesty, reliability, empathy, compassion, humility, and maybe even a bit of vulnerability and fear. We want brands (and leaders) to care about issues and stand for more than just turning a profit.”
Trend 6: Purposeful business
“Linked to authenticity, this trend is all about ensuring your organisation exists to serve a meaningful purpose – and not just serve up profits to shareholders. Purpose defines why the organisation exists. (Not what the organisation is or what it does or for whom. Therefore, purpose is different to mission and vision.) Importantly, a strong purpose has the promise of transformation or striving for something better – be it a better world, a better way to do something, or whatever is important to your organisation.”
Trend 7: Co-opetition and integration
“We live in a time where pretty much anything can be achieved by outsourcing. The global business world has never been so integrated. And it’s a good job, because the need to work together to solve key business challenges (not to mention humanity’s biggest challenges) is great. Indeed, in the future, it will become increasingly difficult to succeed without close partnerships with other organisations. In practice, this means greater supply chain integration, more data integration and sharing of data between organisations, and even cooperation between competitors.”
I subscribe to this notion as I built my national retail company based on the principle of collaboration, instead of competition. In fact, for fifteen years, I had little idea as to who my competitors were, let alone what they were doing. Instead, we chose who we wanted to collaborate with and ignored the rest. It sounds counter intuitive. However, it freed us up to set our own agenda, and to innovate and collaborate as we saw fit. It enabled us to become an industry leader, not an industry follower. I have no doubt that my business grew to $25m annual sales and challenged so many industry norms as a result of focussing on our own customers, not those of others. Not viewing other industry players as competitors proved to be remarkably liberating.
Trend 8: New forms of funding
“The ways in which companies can generate finance is also changing. New platforms and mechanisms have sprung up to connect businesses with investors and donors – think crowd funding, initial coin offerings (ICOs), tokenisation and special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs). Many of these new methods are driven by the decentralised finance movement, in which financial services like borrowing and trading take place in a peer-to-peer network, via a public decentralised blockchain network.”
When I look back on my time as a national retailer, I clearly recall my mentor telling me that I would never understand the business unless I was financially literate. It was the best advice I ever got.
Knowledge informs action
“In addition to these eight trends from Bernard Marr, there will also be transformative technology trends in 2022 including artificial intelligence and increasing digitisation, which every company must be ready for. Read more about all these and other future trends in Bernard’s new book, Business Trends in Practice: The 25+ Trends That are Redefining Organizations. Packed with real-world examples, it cuts through the hype to present the key trends that will shape the businesses of the future.”