With the last few of years of my life spent running a barely-surviving business, I was so busy firefighting there was little time left over to register anything outside the company.
When I finally put my head up, I immediately saw the incredible number of modifications that had happened in virtually every area of our changing business world over the last decade – the world had been transforming fast, for both good and bad. It is already a dramatically different world than it was at the start of this millennium.
We have the incredible growth in entrepreneurship. Currently, there are about 380m of them in the world. Some are estimating that this could grow to one billion within seven years.
The reasons for such growth are complex – the anticipated dramatic loss of employed positions as a result of automation being one. It is now estimated that 50 per cent of jobs won’t exist in 20 years. This is expected to impact on partners who currently do not have to work, those finding themselves forced to contribute.
This will mean that more and more people worldwide, women especially, who are currently unequipped for employment, will be turning to self-employment as their only option. We are also living longer, and need more money for our pensions, so the growth in so-called “silventrepreneurs” is set to continue.
In the seminal book Lean In, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg charted the progress of the women’s cause since Germaine Greer’s days of bra burning feminism. She noted how many women had seen their mothers struggle with the reality of not being able to have it all, and as a result, compromised on their careers and leaned out.
Since its publication, we have seen a resurgence of a more violent, vocal women’s movement, not least reacting against the attitudes of world leaders like Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. We have made some progress, but equality is still far from a reality and misogyny is alive and well for far too many.
The impact of the millennial generation has hit the economy. The heightened expectations and awareness of the possibilities of entrepreneurship has of course led to its growth. But, as someone who employed of this type, I also saw the downside of the generation – their too-often inaccurate expectations of life and a sense of entitlement making them live up to their reputation of being difficult to manage. Some were reminding me of the old adage: “I want, I want, I don’t know what I want.”
Technology is, of course, at the heart of these changes in the world. Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Steven Hawkins are amongst many global figures warning of the dangers of this continuing to run unharnessed. We have to learn to control technology or it will destroy us. The United Nations are also aware of dramatic shifts in the world and are warning how we must work together to keep pace with the impact on governments, environments and all of us in our everyday lives.
Small wonder our mental health has been impacted. The sheer noise of the virtual world, the addictions to social media and the lack of real connection all contributes.
As this impacts on our physical and mental health, we are seeing new questions being asked about the ways we look after ourselves. We are questioning the old beliefs, especially that the harder you work, the more you will progress. Instead, we are taught that if we look after ourselves we will perform better.
Over the coming weeks, I will be looking at some of the changes that have already happened or are going on right now – examining the way in which each impact the business world.
It is believed we are currently operating at only ten per cent of our potential. To withstand the changes and the speed of them, we need to develop as fast as we can. Branson is the voice of many when he says that it is the duty of entrepreneurs to prepare and shift.