The Big Break
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  • David A. Smith

The Big Break

As Yogi Berra once said, ‘The future ain’t what it used to be.’ For many, the rough outline of what may reasonably have been expected to constitute the future just half a year back, could now look completely different. Assumptions, planning, culture and strategy have all been upended. Going back to normal is highly implausible for nearly all industries and organisations.



Sectors from banking to manufacturing and construction to law are likely to see lasting shifts in how business is conducted as well as more deep-seated change to what it means to be a professional in such an industry. New opportunities and challenges will require new talent, skills and aptitudes. Depending on the industry, we could see an acceleration of existing trends, a prolonged pause, or even a full reversal. At times, we could see all three concurrently, meaning crafting new strategies able to include the future is now a core competency.

The fundamental basis of how we transact business is undergoing profound change, from our supply chains to talent sourcing and co-location of labour to consumer demand. Underpinning it all is a very human crisis, most obviously in health, but also a lasting economic imprint. On April 29th, the ILO announced that nearly half of global workforce was at risk of losing their livelihoods[i]. While this creates the possibility to tap new talent pools and infuse new ideas and working practices from other industries, it also brings forward the date at which organisations are likely to transform into leaner core-enterprises, surrounded by an ecosystem of on-demand workers and components of automation in pop-up style project-based teams. Approaches to talent management, and consideration of workplace dynamics, already evolving in a digital world, ‘...may be durably changed after an extended period of remote working[ii].’ Barclays, for example, has suggested that big offices ‘...may be a thing of the past[iii].’ With technologically facilitated change becoming turbocharged by COVID, a renewed focus on what it means culturally and at the personal level for workers is critical.

Our approach to innovation will change as a result of COVID. Gary Hamel of the London Business School notes that while ‘...in a small crisis power moves to the centre, (in a big one) it moves to the periphery[iv].’ If innovation can be tapped as a shared corporate responsibility and freed from the silos that it often languishes in, there is still room for the COVID crisis as a basis for organisational, societal and in the longer-term, economic renewal. Read about how change could unfold, over 20 different sectors, in our ‘Big Break’ report, accessible for free via https://www.thegff.com/research-reports and stay tuned for our May 8th launch of our second edition, featuring revisions to our original sectors and an expansion of them to 40 in total.

[i] Source: ILO, 2020 https://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_743036/lang--en/index.htm [ii] Source: McKinsey, 2020 https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/financial-services/our-insights/leadership-in-the-time-of-coronavirus-covid-19-response-and-implications-for-banks [iii] Source: BBC, 2020 https://www.bbc.com/news/business-52467965 [iv] Source: Economist, 2020 https://www.economist.com/business/2020/04/25/the-pandemic-is-liberating-firms-to-experiment-with-radical-new-ideas

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