Seeing tomorrow today


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The Big Idea: Charter Magazine interviews Wolfgang Grulke

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Seeing tomorrow today

  1. 1. The Big Idea Seeingtomorrow, today When the Global China Dialogue conference rolls into town this month, Kevin Rudd will hope to strengthen business ties between Australia and the Asian powerhouse. But should we be more wary of the future direction of China’s growth?A great many people believe with a sense of business that has existed nesses that react positively to change can the next few decades will be since the Victorian age,” Grulke says. prosper. Traditional businesses can’t at- a golden age for the Austral- Grulke’s reasoning is that established tract the brightest young people using the ian economy, shielded from businesses usually react to new market methods of old. At a meeting with a Big 4volatile global markets by the seemingly forces by treating them as threats to their management team in the United States,insatiable Chinese demand for Austral- established business. By comparison, new Grulke asked about an advertisementian resources. Is our future insulated from entrants, without the drag of historic bag- they had taken in The New York Timesharm by this export buffer? If you listen gage, see every new change as an oppor- as part of a recruitment drive to find 100to a respected futurist from FutureWorld, tunity to be capitalised on. By dedicating new employees.a global business and technology think some executive time to actively thinking He pointed to the ad and said ‘tell metank, it almost certainly is not. about the future (Grulke recommends 10 about this’. The management responded Wolfgang Grulke has spent the better per cent of executive time), and new mar- how great the ad looked, or how well itpart of 20 years encouraging big business ket forces, the executive team becomes was positioned. He then pointed out thatto change its thinking, helping it realise that better equipped to capitalise on these new reports showed that the age of the aver-inevitable changes to a business model, in- market opportunities, as well as protecting age newspaper reader in the US was nowcluding external pressures on the market their current business against unseen new over 60. They were trying to recruit savvyor business plan, do not necessarily need competitors. “We typically see companies young people from a readership that wasto equate to problems. With a different double their strategic outlook after a short twice that age.attitude and a willingness to adapt, every series of interventions” says Grulke. It took some work, but Grulke con-change can represent a new opportunity. vinced them to proceed with a Youtube “It is not an easy thing for executives to Generational shift campaign, where the company askedchange their way of thinking, to view the The generational shift that has occurred KEITH young staff members who had been witharrival of unforeseen events as a positive, over the past 10 years has perhaps made BARRETT the organisation less than two years to Managing Editorbecause they have been programmed it easier for Grulke to illustrate how busi- create short video clips explaining how22 Charter | February 2012
  2. 2. they felt about working within the or- that if you abuse it they can remove you zon, not the one with the biggest market- Above: Tesco’s Homeplusganisation. Almost 1000 clips quickly from their lives with just one click of a ing budget). The same thinking – being brand turned the dailyappeared on YouTube. While there were mouse,” Grulke says. functional as well as good value – has commute of millions into an opportunity for growth.some negative ones, the company quickly “They don’t want to fill out forms to seen retailer Tesco achieve remarkablefound that the positive ones attracted take leave, or to work defined hours. success in South Korea.100 new recruits – without the use of the They don’t understand the thinking be- “Young Koreans are super busy andrecruitment advertising budget. hind turning off your phone going into a don’t have much time available for gro- “Understanding how young people in- meeting. They think, ‘What’s wrong with cery shopping. Some even find the tripteract with information through technol- these people? Can they really only do to the supermarket a traumatising expe-ogy is vital. It’s all about one-click access one thing at a time?’ The next generation rience. When Tesco entered the marketto products and services. Music today is a have gone beyond multitasking – this is with its Homeplus brand, it quickly grewservice, not a physical product. The plat- hypertasking – and this is the next gen- to be the number two supermarket, butform increasingly is the phone and not eration of business leaders. Business it wanted to move beyond this to numberthe internet. This is critical for future plan- needs to get ready to attract these peo- one. It looked at the ‘busyness’ problemning for a business. ple, and keep them.” as something it could turn into a positive. “Young people can’t understand why It advertised on subway billboards, usingthey need to fill out so many forms in a Adapting business actual pictures of the shelves of its; they don’t understand why the bank That generational shift is having signifi- People could use their smartphone todoesn’t ‘trust’ its customers. Today, kids cant effects on economies. People have scan the QR codes on the image, fill anhave a totally new understanding of what already started spending money based online basket with produce, purchase ittrust is. We grew up in a world where you on reputation, and not just the brand. with one click, and Homeplus guaranteedhad to prove that we could be trusted. (Grulke points out that when he pur- that the groceries would be deliveredThey give their trust to almost anyone on chased a garden strimmer, he bought the within one hour of the customer gettingsocial networking, safe in the knowledge one with the best user reviews on Ama- home. Just think about how much that Charter | February 2012 23
  3. 3. The Big IdeaAbove: FutureWorld’s will change the nature of being a Korean of Australia’s economy could come under moment, but they are innovative and areWolfgang Grulke. consumer.” nanotechnology’s fatal spell?” creating a massive new pool of patents As Grulke moves from one topic to and products – more than 1000 new ide- another, his discussion crosses diverse A change is coming as for the use of 3D printing for example. subject matter, and as his hands skim “FutureWorld [the global think-tank Grul- China will move from being a low-wage across his notebook, up pops a 150-year ke founded] puts out a weekly publication economy to being a high-tech economy. It overview of global commodity prices. called Mindbullets: News from the Future. took the West 50 years to do this – it will While there have been spikes – most no- It’s in the style of news reports from the take China less than a decade.” ticeably during WWII – the overall picture future, as they happen. “In 2005, we ran His point is that the mining companies is undoubtedly one of declining prices. one on the collapse of the US property can’t use the data from the previous two With a click he overlays another layer – and debt bubble. I showed that at a lunch years to effectively project what demands an upward trend representing the uptake with several thousand US real estate will be like for the next 10 years. If the of technology that moves in the opposite professionals on the west coast of the Chinese market contracts, then there will direction of declining commodity prices. US that year. Together, their association be instant consequences for the Austral- “You have to have real courage to bet represented 80 per cent of the American ian mining industry, and in particular its against a 150-year decline of commodity commercial property market. exports. FutureWorld is working with many prices – and technology is commoditising “They laughed, taking another drink. global mining companies on these issues more and more products and services, ‘This time it’s different’, they said, ‘It can’t and the alternatives for their businesses. from cars to auditing – technology is driv- happen. How could it?’ I replied, “Yes, it As for the accounting profession? ing down the prices of almost everything. may be seem unlikely, but what if it did Grulke points out that, as more Chartered Take gold for example – India traditionally happen?” Accountants secure c-suite roles within bought the most retail gold in the world, There are lessons too for Australia, if it organisations, a tantalising opportunity but they no longer purchase it like they takes the time to listen. Falling commodity presents itself. By dedicating time to un- used to, for dowries and so on. Now young prices, coupled with Grulke’s prediction of derstand the future, Chartered Account- people use their disposable income on a Chinese property bubble collapse and ants can become the leading lights of iPads and similar fashionable technology. its shift to more technological industries the corporate world – steering business Also, as technology advances, it will be- (China is now shipping manufacturing to through volatile times. come possible to synthesise many things Laos and Cambodia for even lower pay He emphasises that this can’t happen that are currently very scarce. Platinum rates, he says), could see up to 100 mil- unless Chartered Accountants take a can already be synthesised, albeit in tiny lion Chinese out of work in the next five to flexible approach, discover new and bet- quantities, at one per cent of the current 10 years. How the Chinese government ter ways of working, and continue to ap- price of platinum. But in five or 10 years, will handle this new unemployment will be ply their ethical integrity to tackle busi- when they can refine that process, what crucial to their future. ness realities. If they do that, then they will happen to the commodity price? It’s “China is producing more than 300,000 will be able to evolve with the changing ‘natural’ may be less than $15 an ounce. engineering graduates every year. There demands of clients and employers today What other commodities that are the core are simply not enough jobs for them at the – and tomorrow.24 Charter | February 2012