The following presentation summarises the Australian Business Foundation’s insights into key issues likely to impact on Australian businesses to 2020 and how to recognize and respond to them.
FORCES FOR CHANGE
The significant forces for change that the Australian Business Foundation discerned in its 1999 future scenarios study are still going strong. They are:
- increasing globalisation and its effects on national boundaries, cultural identity, political decisions, and on the speed and ease of business imitations;
- the unprecedented transformations being wrought on business and commerce by online, open, networking technologies;
- the power of the new consumerism, with production decisions increasingly shifting from producers and owners of capital to consumers;
- the rise of the knowledge economy and the ascendancy of intangibles, where what you know is more important than what you make or own;
- the far-reaching effects of new technology advances and the convergence and recombination of old technologies in everything from bioscience to broadcasting;
- new skills and competencies required to compete in an increasingly wired, informed and connected world; and
- the likely impacts on social cohesion of the way the world is moving, whether it’s the gap between the information rich and the information poor, or the increasing mainstream concern with environmental issues and the social record of businesses.
These forces for change and the issues behind them informed and shaped the four alternative pictures of the future for business that the Australian Business Foundation detailed in its 1999 scenarios. These trends and forces of change could play out in different ways and create different futures for businesses to contend with over the next fifteen years. For example, positive or negative trajectories of globalisation; the mainstream effects of the online knowledge economy and the business models it drives; and the response to sustainability where economic, social and environmental issues intersect.
From these, the following four alternative scenarios for business in Australia to 2015 were outlined.
ALTERNATIVE FUTURE SCENARIOS
The four different futures imagined in 1999 were as follows:
First Global Nation – characterised by the globalisation of business and the wired, interconnected, online economy, where Australia successfully finds itself a place.
Australia shows leadership in this “silicon valley” world of knowledge industries, global peace, open markets and economic growth. A vital young country reinvents itself to capitalize on the massive transformations of business and society.
Our internet-savvy firms sparkle on Wall Street, our skills are sought after and we manage to retain value at home from the plethora of new, nimble Aussie firms playing globally.
Sound the Retreat – the story of the backlash and consequent decay of globalisation, forcing Australia to revalue its bilateral business relationships as multilateral ones become impossible in the face of trade barriers, global wars and skirmishes, capital and immigration controls and nationalist and protectionist policies of all sorts.
There is economic downturn, a widespread capital retreat and loss of investor confidence. Some manage to forge commercial partnerships with key nations and drawing on our melting-pot past, create a cultural and business gateway to the world.
Brave Old World – where Australia rests on its laurels of strong economic performance and sound social protections and does not see the need or the urgency to pursue the emerging opportunities of the globalised knowledge economy in any systematic fashion.
Over-reliant on tourism and glamorous yet scant biotech breakthroughs, we miss the global tide. Introspective and smug, the lopping of tall poppies continues, fed by a “she’ll be right” complacency. The economy falters, our skills erode, few new start-ups or emergent technologies survive here, and major brands are lost of