The Future of Business is Sustainable.

Strategists have always talked about sustainable competitive advantage, but we face a growing realization that firms are vulnerable to predictable changes in their physical and social environment. Sustainable business goes beyond maximizing today’s profits, and looks toward maximizing profits over the life of the firm (which hopefully is infinite!).

While some sustainable practices are explicitly environmental, many are not. Sustainable businesses are also concerned with the training and availability of their future workforces, the sustainability of their customer base, and the robustness of their sourcing arrangements or inputs. Thus sustainable businesses invest in education, work to improve the health of their customers, and examine the business practices of their partners. Continue reading ‘The Future of Business is Sustainable.’

The Future of Business is Technological (part 2).

Almost every science fiction story or movie involves self-driving cars. This technology is now a reality, with “autonomous vehicles” proven safe and legalized in many states. But beyond simply freeing up time, self-driving cars have enormous implications for business.

Of course, the automotive industry will be impacted. Self-driving cars only increase the attractiveness of ZipCar and other car-sharing services (UT Arlington has “Connect by Hertz,” a similar car-sharing service on campus). Previously, these services suffered because when a customer needed a car they needed to get themselves to where the car was. But with self-driving cars, the car can come to you. This will greatly increase the attractiveness of car-sharing services, and might even reduce the demand for cars overall.

Beyond the automotive industry, self-driving cars will have enormous implications for other areas of business. For example, when cars can park themselves, and come when you call them (think Batman calling the Batmobile), the need for convenient and close-by parking will reduce. Real estate and economic development will be significantly changed. Continue reading ‘The Future of Business is Technological (part 2).’

The Future of Business is Diverse.

Organizations need to draw on the talents and resources of all their employees. But employees don’t work in a vacuum. They influence (and are influenced by) each other.

Sometimes these influences can be productive. But often they can be destructive (consider groupthink, when individuals conform to the opinions of others regardless of their private information).

How can firms retain the positive influences and minimize the negative? Recent work by Scott Page at University of Michigan demonstrates that diversity is one such tool. Diverse groups, groups whose members are of different demographic backgrounds, personality styles, varying generational cultures, “ways of knowing,” and/or undergraduate majors, make better decisions than groups that are homogenous. Continue reading ‘The Future of Business is Diverse.’

The Future of Business is Global.

The world is shrinking, and nowhere is this more apparent than in business. While international outsourcing for manufacturing may have seen its heyday (see the Forbes article cited below), globalization is here to stay. Furthermore, the model of international engagement has changed, and our model of international education needs to change along with it.

In the past, businesspeople needed to understand another culture deeply. An American could be managing a call center in India, for example, and would need to know the language and norms of the country of his assignment in order to succeed. In the future, business will be not just international, but multi-national. An American managing a call center in India might be working for a Norwegian firm, supervising a Brazilian and a Japanese subordinate, and addressing problems which emerge from Australian customers. Continue reading ‘The Future of Business is Global.’

The Future of Business is Technological-Part One.

Technology changes fast. And those technological changes have enormous (and often unanticipated) impacts on business.

For example, consider the development and rise of 3D printers, also known as additive manufacturing technologies (see links below).  To build, for example, an airplane part using traditional techniques, one begins with metal, then either carves away the unwanted parts, or pours it into a mold.  In contrast, to make an airplane part using additive technology, a 3D printer lays down successive layers of metal powder and binder, 100 micrometer (1/10 millimeter) thick, until the part is constructed from the bottom up.

3D printers have been in use in industry for some time. General Electric Aviation has been using 3D printing for creating airplane parts, and recently purchased their supplier, Morris Technologies.

But 3D printers have recently hit the mainstream.

3D printers can be purchased for the home, and have been used to manufacture jewelry, automotive parts, artificial hips, crowns and hearing aids. Staples now offers 3D printing services (see link below). Databases like Thingiverse allow the sharing of 3D printing plans. At the bleeding edge, 3D printers are printing hamburgers and artificial organs using stem cells.

What are the implications of 3D printing for manufacturing, operations management and inventory control? Where will the value be in the new value chain? Continue reading ‘The Future of Business is Technological-Part One.’

The Future of Business is Transparent.

A Forbes article published a few years ago noted that we are entering an age of “involuntary transparency.” Things that used to be secret within a firm are no longer secret. WikiLeaks began in 2006, and was quickly joined by TradeLeaks, Anonymous, and many similar organizations. Cybersecurity attacks from individuals and countries threaten our privacy and safety. On the human relations side, technology has advanced so that any employee with a USB drive can walk off with megabytes of internal firm records, emails, and memos.

How do we manage and lead in this world? Continue reading ‘The Future of Business is Transparent.’

The Future of Business is Pervasive.

The skills that we teach at the College of Business are useful for managing not only for-profit firms, but all kinds of organizations. Leaders and managers in hospitals, school systems, art museums and many other organizations need to understand accounting, finance, operations, strategy, management and marketing in order to be effective in their roles. As I think about the challenges faced by our health care system, our education system, and our public policy makers, I cannot help but identify the areas where business education could be brought to bear to improve the quality of life of citizens of our nation and around the world.
Continue reading ‘The Future of Business is Pervasive.’