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The 5 forces that will transform business over the next decade

April 4, 2022, 9:52 AM UTC

Good morning.

“It’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future,” Danish humorist Robert Storm Petersen said a century ago. That’s even more true today. 

Yet the trends and forces that shape the future are with us now, and it’s at least possible to discern where they are pointing. Deloitte’s chief futurist Eamonn Kelly—his real title—has taken a stab at it in a new paper out this morning, co-authored with Jason Girzadas. 

Both are quick to acknowledge that surprises lie ahead. But the five big “discontinuities” they identify will at least be loud parts of the background music. The five include:

Technology: “The pump is primed…for truly unprecedented levels and novel types of scientific discovery over the coming decade” as digital technology increasingly combines with biotechnology, nanotechnology, neuroscience, materials science and behavioral science to drive new breakthroughs. Synthetic biology, the rise of the metaverse, the new expansion into space, and new technologies to save the planet—these are all among the places to watch for mind-bending breakthroughs.

Stakeholder Capitalism: It’s not going away. “Fragile physical environments, fractured and unhealthy societies, and an increasingly unstable and volatile global climate” are among the forces that will continue to drive businesses to rethink their role in society. What economists have long referred to as “externalities” will have to be internalized, forcing companies to adopt new tools and practices to manage them, as well as fair and accurate methodologies to measure them.

Globalization: It has to be reinvented. The authors expect “a lengthy period characterized by a messy patchwork of competing powers; fraying and fluid alliances; increased conflict; weakening of traditional multilateral institutions…and increasing use of regulation and protectionism to advantage domestic businesses.”  At the same time, “the role and reach of government will probably exceed anything that most Western business leaders have experienced in their careers to date.”

The Theory of the Firm. Ronald Coase laid out why we need large corporations in the 1930s. But the “transaction costs” that drove his analysis have been eroded by digital technology: “Traditional views of industry structure…are of rapidly declining usefulness.” And what replaces the firm? “Dynamic, human-centric ecosystems” that “address fundamental human and societal needs and wants in newly possible—and typically more effective, precise, accessible, and sustainable—ways.” Particularly ripe for transformation: health and education—because both sectors are insufficiently accessible—and energy, manufacturing and mobility—because they are currently unsustainable.

The nature of power. Formal power is being replaced by informal power, and the default is switching from hierarchies to networks. That means all the most fundament tools of leadership are changing. “Networked, decentralized, autonomous and collaborative models of power” will become the norm. “Power is already shifting dramatically—but so much more lies ahead.”

You can read the full paper this morning here. I recommend it to anyone who plans to be leading a business a decade from now. 

And, by the way, these kinds of mega trends are exactly why we created Fortune Connect, our new social networking and learning platform for the next generation of business leaders. There are now more than 1,000 executives from two dozen companies in the program, learning and sharing ideas about the rapidly evolving nature of leadership. If you are interested in getting your company’s executives in on the action, you can find out more here, or send me an email.

We think Fortune Connect Fellows will make the future of business better.

More news below.

Alan Murray
@alansmurray

alan.murray@fortune.com

TOP NEWS

Brace yourself for lousy returns 

After a pretty stellar jobs report on Friday, the S&P 500 closed out the week in the green, racking up a third straight week of gains. But all eyes this morning are on the bond market where the warning signal is flashing, flashing, flashing as recession fears intensify. Over the weekend, Goldman Sachs reiterated its year-end target of 4,700 for the S&P (implying a 4% rise from Friday's close). Goldman's worst case is pretty grim—3,600, implying a 21% slide. Fortune

The "new Srebrenica"

The shock of war in Ukraine hit the world hard this weekend. The scenes of death and destruction from Irpin and Bucha had human rights activists calling the largely destroyed Ukraine cities Europe's "new Srebrenica." European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen echoed their outrage, calling for an indendent investigation into the "unspeakable horrors in areas from which Russia is withdrawing." Human Rights Watch is already on the case. It say it's now collected evidence of apparent war crimes by the Russian military in these cities and other Russian-held regions across Ukraine. The big question: will it lead to further sanctions against Moscow? Human Rights Watch

Tesla's "disappointing" record Q1

On Saturday, EV giant Tesla reported it delivered 310,048 cars worldwide in the first quarter, a new record. But depending on who's counting, that figure came in either bang in line with estimates, or it fell far short. If you ask Bloomberg, it was more or less on target. CNBC, citing FactSet, however, says Tesla fell short by about 7,000 vehicles. Elon Musk himself called the quarter "exceptionally difficult." Fortune

Lam to step down

Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam told reporters on Monday she will not seek re-election, bringing to an end a volatile five-year run. John Lee, a former deputy police commissioner and a hardline defender of Beijing, is widely tipped to enter the race as the favorite to replace her. The election is slated for next month. Fortune

AROUND THE WATERCOOLER

HCA comes under fire—from patients

Investors and Wall Street analysts are big fans of HCA Healthcare, America's biggest for-profit hospitals operator. The stock is up more than 33% over the past year as profits boom. But inside some of its facilities its patients and their families tell a far different story—one of chronic staff shortages and filthy conditions. Fortune's Erika Fry has the story of one HCA facility, Mission Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, where the community is demanding urgent changes. Fortune

The man who turned a nation of savers into investors 

In this weekend's DealBook, the great markets-and-business columnist Joe Nocera writes a poignant tribute to Edward C. "Ned" Johnson III, the longtime head of Fidelity Investments. Johnson passed away last month at 91. It's hard to understate Johnson's influence—along with that of Peter Lynch, whom Johnson tapped to run the company's Magellan Fund—on investing and on the stock markets. Bonus read: How to choose between a Roth IRA and a traditional retirement account. New York Times

Workplace COVID mandates going away

Beginning today, JPMorgan Chase will relax—for now, anyhow—a number of its COVID safety workplace measures, including rules on masks at the office and testing for the unvaccinated. It's not alone. It joins Verizon, and others. Meanwhile, on the West Coast, social media giant Meta is reversing its employee booster policy. Wall Street Journal

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by Bernhard Warner.

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