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Unravelling the context of a modern business

Unravelling the context of modern business

Flourishing in a pressured environment

The idea that an organisation wants to flourish is no new thing – but the chances of its environment being in any way favourable are slim.

Our socio-economic, political and environmental landscape is dominated by forces we haven’t encountered before in a combination that’s challenging at best and hostile at worst.

In this post we’ll attempt to understand that landscape with a look at recent affairs – where the interdependent context of modern business is self-evident. It’s the foundation for a three-part series on the real, tangible impact that the ‘big picture’ of global politics and economics has on organisations.

In our next two posts, we’ll examine why this context puts organisations in a challenging dilemma and, drawing on our experience, the consequences of this on individuals and teams.

A shifting political, economic and technological canvas

Even one dimension can dramatically transform the context within which businesses operate.

Following Brexit and the recent US election, it has become clear that free trade as a source of economic progress is an idealistic illusion as judged and acted upon by people. With the French and German elections soon to follow, the people will increasingly demand living standards that aren’t compromised by utopian policy with ambiguous outcomes, that aren’t bureaucratic in style, and that don’t give benefits to those in power. This is also leading to a wave of nationalism and secular movement.

In the political arena, the dialogue and rules of engagement are taking on new dynamics – unnerving for some, refreshing for others.

For example, it is ironic that – despite a history of fundamental conflicts of interest and religious differences between Israel and Palestine – Benjamin Netanyahu is rejecting US President-Elect Trump’s comments and biases against Muslims.

Beyond politics, technology is rapidly changing the way people live and work, including the surge of artificial intelligence and the increasing Internet of Things. Even as recently as last week, the unveiling of Amazon Go – the checkout-less ‘just walk out’ stores – is imparting a wave of controversy over the potential impact on human labour.

Finally, if the economic, political and technological conditions related to our current reality don’t already feel sufficiently adverse, Professor Stephen Hawking warned in a recent lecture at Oxford’s University Union, “I don’t think we will survive another 1,000 years without escaping our fragile planet”. The greatest concerns are for the next century, during which continued global climate change will further disrupt humanity.

The impact on organisations

While utopian political policy, endless religious conflict and the fragility of our planet and humanity may seem distant and too conceptual, the reality is that the definition of ambition and the measures of success for today’s organisations are all affected by this landscape.

Today’s business world is one where the scale and pace of ambition is boundless. With aims to reduce global warming through sustainable energy and reduce the risk of human extinction through SpaceX, disruptive entrepreneur Elon Musk claims: “Great companies start because the founders want to change the world, not make a fast buck.”

As consumers, we’re in a marketplace of rising expectations empowered by technology. We’re all increasingly familiar with convenience-driven, Uber-style services and expect products designed to meet ’needs’ we never knew we had.

It’s a market where suppliers, manufacturers, professional services firms, customers and relevant stakeholders strategise in the pursuit of attaining unprecedented growth while making ends meet in a world of tightening constraints.

A marketplace where as leaders, sharpening our vision, articulating goals, examining purpose and bringing this to life through people is a critical exercise, one that differentiates those organisations that are prepared to navigate this shifting landscape from those who are not.

Don’t miss our next post to find out how this challenging context creates a difficult dilemma for organisations – follow us on LinkedIn for updates.