In terms of what businesses will always be around, I think it’s less about what they physically do and more about their ability to adapt to an ever increasing rate of change in whatever industry they’re operating in. I just don’t think it’s as simple as saying that this industry or that industry will survive, and this is certainly not what we’ve seen in the history of companies.
In fact, when we look back at the history and evolution of the ‘corporation’ we find that the way companies used to work was that a company would be formed to achieve a very specific outcome – for example, to create a building – and once that outcome had been achieved would be dissolved ready for those resources to be re-allocated and re-assembled in a different company to achieve a different end.
It’s exactly this nimble flexibility that companies must build into their ecosystem and culture today, balanced by the fact that the modern aim of a company is to perpetuate, continue and grow over time by adding value to it’s market place. Put simply, businesses in the modern world need to have the solidity and structure of a company that can stand the test of time and be robust in it’s existence, yet must demand the flexibility of itself that can be found in the philosophy of old – forming a new company for each new goal/service/product to be delivered. This evolution in thinking is a fantastic example of how leverage has become a key principal of business over the years – instead of the waste involved in incorporating and then dissolving companies for each different end, just set up one company that can do many things. This obviously comes with its own challenges around monopolies in business but that’s a conversation for another day.
Here’s the thing; you may have a brilliant product or service today that perfectly suits the needs of your current client base, but over time (sometimes month, sometimes years, and sometimes decades) this need either changes or disappears altogether. Every single product or service that exists today WILL be subject to change and disruption over the course of the next 100 years. It’s simply not an option to approach business with a fixed mindset these days – due to Moore’s Law and the perpetual furtherance of technology, change comes upon us at an ever increasing rate. My generation will personally experience more change in their lifetime than any single generation that came before, and for their children change will be a yearly, monthly or even weekly occurrence in a significant way that will change how they live their lives irrevocably – this happened to our generation with the introduction of the internet, the personal computer and the smart phone… and these things have not only completely changed the way we live our lives, but they’ve completely changed how we do business too.
Which businesses will survive long term? Those who can be flexible, those who can innovate and disrupt themselves, and those who are able to change their spots in direct response to what their customers want. The only successful businesses these days, and more so as we move headlong into the future unknown, are those who thrive in a constant state of flux and make adapting to change their business model.
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