Beyond managing change: a move toward a new civilization? 1/3

Globalization and digitalization – key drivers nurturing a new civilization – require additional skills for managers, not only at the top. It has many implications for management education.

Further digitalization – every year an additional 230 million will have access to the Internet (annual growth in China 17%) and it is anticipated that within 10 years 80% of the world’s population will be connected- will have a growing impact on organizations. Cloud computing and IT in general will make machine automation more effective in crunching data; not only will robots take over work on the assembly line (and all along the supply chain) but algorithms embedded into these machines will take over some components of the boss’s job: data analysis, staff recruitment, bonus setting, etc… Digitalization not only creates virtual materials (e.g. books) but changes communication processes, e.g. between friends, within the family, between banks and their customers, among colleagues in organizations. It builds and fuels social media interaction, it changes our relationship with time and distance, it influences our learning processes, our education systems. It modifies the teacher-student or boss-subordinate relationship (forcing even business schools to review their models, to rethink their pedagogy and their strategy). And this digital revolution, with its disruptive innovation, will affect a growing number of professions and professional jobs (Uber vs taxi drivers; drones vs cartographers, industrial spies; twitter (WeChat) vs interpersonal relations)

The disruptive innovation brought about by rapid digitalization – and its huge impact on daily life on our planet – is shaping (nurturing) a new “civilization”, just as did the invention of writing, printing, electricity or the automobile. As the frontier between reality and virtuality becomes blurred, as the distance between continents seems to disappear without necessarily improving dialogue and understanding among cultures or religions, and as the pursuit of immediate material gratification is promoted through a global media, so the speed of this change is already inducing the metamorphosis of our civilization. Although it brings with it huge opportunities for innovation (and many start-ups grab them) some of its consequences (dematerialization with all its risks, impact on employment, disintermediation with the disappearance of professions) justifiably raise fears which are often exploited by latter-day Luddites blowing their noisy whistles trying to frighten away the coming new civilization…

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Henri Claude de Bettignies

Professor Emeritus, INSEAD ; Distinguished Professor (Emeritus) of Globally Responsible Leadership, CEIBS (Shanghai) ; Visiting Professor, Stanford Graduate School of Business.