Surprise scenarios ahead
Businesses are urged to prepare for 16 “surprise scenarios” that could change their future. The report acknowledges these may not be the most accurate predictions of the world in 2018, but says businesses should be ready for possibilities including:
A brain-enhanced world
By 2018 businesses will routinely use microchips to enhance employees’ abilities. Chips will be implanted in brains to enhance memory or knowledge, but might also monitor and control behaviour. Companies should think about the use and misuse of such technologies.
A world ruled by employees
Successful organisations will realise their strength lies in their workforce. Shareholders will lose their right to all the profits and companies will hand power to employees. Many organisations will be designed as “guilds”, the mission of which is to support employees. “This development might spread slowly or suddenly through angry protest,” the institute said. Managers should prepare by rethinking business and “managing power structures prudently”.
A world under cyber attack
Terrorists will attack the internet and computer systems, halting work globally with a virus that diffuses through corporate firewalls, deleting huge quantities of business data. Safety measures turn out to be insufficient—businesses lose organisational memories, intangible assets and intellectual property. The institute said companies should prepare red-alert detection systems to raise a “virtual dam” against attack. Multiple back-ups in intellectual property banks are recommended.
A world run by robots
Robots with artificial intelligence will be put into management positions. They will not necessarily have heads and arms. Software decision-making—already used in financial management—will increase dependence on systems. “Regular updates on such developments and building up a knowledge base about the use and misuse of them may be an appropriate precaution,” the institute said.
A world without the rat race
Young people will refuse “meaningless jobs” on a mass scale. They will choose ethical careers and not the rat race. The institute said: “This may tiptoe into the world of work, or it may ... explode into an angry protest movement against the establishment.” Managers might avert the revolution by sharing power with the younger generation.—