Studies have shown that the forces, trends, and pace of the business environment have the single greatest influence on shaping organizational culture. But there are even more global forces affecting the business environment in subtle, but profound ways that define how organizations must interact with customers and respond to competitors in order to achieve sustained business performance. This article identifies Four Global Forces that will shape organizational culture for the next 50 years: a) Advances in Science and Technology, b) Global Redistribution of Knowledge, Power, and Wealth, c) Competing Political, Cultural, and Religious Ideologies, and d) Sustainability of the Physical Environment.
Advances in Science and Technology
The 20th Century discoveries in quantum physics that led to the development of solid-state electronics, information technology, global telecommunications, the media, and the Internet combined with the mapping of the human genome and the development of nanotechnology have changed our world forever. These scientific and technological advances have extended the biological range, speed, and accuracy of the human senses and enhanced our ability to communicate. The global village that has emerged because of our ability to know what is happening on the other side of the earth instantaneously has irrevocably changed the human experience of space and time that existed for more than 10,000 years. Despite the continued expansion of silicon-based memory, the information processing capability of the human brain remains more or less constant, so this global force places enormous and immediate stress on people’s ability to manage ever increasing levels of data and information. Advances in science and technology will continue to have dramatic affects on the business environment and the ways in which organizational culture evolves in response. So consciously creating an organizational culture that effectively interacts within the frenetic changes created by advances in science and technology is a key strategy for controlling your organization’s destiny.
The Global Redistribution of Knowledge, Power, and Wealth
Peter Drucker was a true visionary. In 1997, Drucker predicted that the under-population of developed countries in North America, Japan, and Europe and the sharply rising birth rate in developing countries had irrevocably changed the landscape of the world’s economy for the next 100 years. Global advances in science and technology combined with demographics have flattened the playing field for emerging nations like India and China. For example, calls made by Americans to customer service centers are often routed seamlessly to technical experts in India or other emerging nations. Economic growth in developed countries like the U.S. cannot come from putting more people to work or from an increased number of domestic consumers, so it must come from the increased productivity of knowledge workers, which creates increasing pressure to do more with less. This trend will only intensify as the global redistribution of knowledge, power, and wealth runs its course. We believe that the global redistribution of knowledge, power, and wealth has already dramatically changed the workplace and will become one of the biggest issues that corporate culture must contend with. Consciously creating a corporate culture that mitigates the down sides and pressures of the global redistribution of knowledge, power, and wealth and identifies and capitalizes on myriad new opportunities is the key strategy for controlling an organization’s destiny.
Competing Political, Cultural, and Religious Ideologies
For thousands of years, people around the world have developed different languages, cultures, religions, and political ideologies, often holding strong convictions that these belief structures were reality itself. Today’s conflict about competing political, cultural, and religious ideologies is not so much a conflict about different beliefs as it is a conflict about the nature of belief itself. Typified by Stephen R. Covey’s claim that we see the world as we are, not as it is, reality is now viewed as a social construct: reality is man made. Because the media makes it so easy to create and globally disseminate new structures of reality, the world has become an unregulated marketplace of differing ideologies that compete for people’s time, attention, and resources. As traditional views are increasingly undermined, people become more deeply committed to maintaining and defending their way of life, sometimes even by force and intimidation. Many suspect that a new global super culture and global belief system is forming, but have little or no idea what that ideology will look like. As more and more people come to believe that reality can be constructed, the media-world becomes a kind of global stage upon which groups of people act out their reality in the hopes of convincing others that their way of believing is the way. Consciously creating a corporate culture that interacts within this global cultural relativism is the key strategy for controlling an organization’s destiny.
Sustainability of the Physical Environment
The combined pressure exerted on our physical environment by the other three global forces has raised serious questions about the earth’s ability to sustain the lifestyle of billions and billions of people. While the goal of a sustainable society is a popular notion, it has been difficult to implement, especially when it impacts business and economic growth. Some have tried to weave the theme of corporate responsibility and sustainable development into the fabric of the global business environment in the hopes of reducing the size of our ecological footprint on the earth. Others argue that the earth is the best teacher of sustainable practices, insisting that a more complete scientific understanding of nature’s organizing principles can be applied to the design of a more sustainable, ecologically balanced society. Still others argue that we must mitigate the daily bombardment from the media to buy and consume products and services, and instead purchase only what we need from environmentally friendly sources. Some futurists argue that more rapid advances in science and technology hold the answer to sustainability. On this view, the modeling of carbon-based (human) intelligence in silicon-based computer systems, and our ability to manipulate biological and genomic processes are early precursors to our ability to break free of the earth as a life support system and develop alternative environments that do not require the earth’s ecological systems as we currently know them. Regardless of the view adopted, the sustainability of the physical environment will continue to play a powerful role in shaping the business environment in which organizations interact. Consciously creating a corporate culture that mitigates the negative affects of this subtle, but powerful global force is a key strategy for giving an organization long-term direction.
Bottom-Line: Organizations cannot control the direction that these powerful global forces will take over the next 50 years, but they can control how they respond to these forces. In fact, Harnessing the Power of Culture(TM) within an organization and transforming it into a more predictable resource is the single biggest factor in transforming these challenges into a distinct a competitive advantage.