The Rise of Ecosystems

When I first launched my Blog in 2010, it was titled Blurring the Boundaries. It was growing ever clearer that the lines between physical and digital, industries, business and IT, you name it, the lines were blurring. It was evident that our growing digital world would drive significant structural change. These new era structures would fundamentally alter our belief in long standing institutions like management, policy, process, procedure, legal frameworks, accounting principles, organization structure, business and operating models, governance, regulations, institutions, and the core characteristics of new era organizations. In essence, The Collapse of Traditional Structures will lead to a Third Tipping Point in Human History.

One of the most profound changes will be the dissolving of industry boundaries and the emergence of ecosystems. Our industry construct – born during revolutions that set the standard of living in the western world – will give way to a finite set of horizontal ecosystems. This visual depicts a perspective on an ultimate finite set of nine ecosystems.

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Future Capability Profile

Future Capability Profile

This recent Article describes how Sergey Brin and Larry Page founded Google on the conviction that STEM expertise was the dominant  piece of the capability profile – setting its hiring algorithms to look for computer science students with top grades from elite science universities. In 2013, they decided to test this hypothesis by analyzing the hiring, firing, and promotion data accumulated since their incorporation in 1998.

Imagine their surprise, when the study determined that, among the eight most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM expertise comes in dead last. What Google found was that the seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills: being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those that can’t read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn”Alvin Tofler: Rethinking the Future

This is my favorite quote these days in light of what’s coming. The future is about our capacity to learn, our ability to accelerate learning, our willingness to unlearn, and our need for life-long learning. Our right brain characteristics play a much bigger role in this future – and our learning paradigms and institutions must change to enable 21st century literacy.

Early 2018 Reading List

I’m often asked for book recommendations that aid with future thinking exercises. A good source in 2018 for this type of exercise is Fast Future Publishing, whose goal is to profile the latest thinking of established and emerging futurists, foresight researchers and future thinkers from around the world, and to make that thinking accessible to the widest possible audience. Their innovative publishing model bypasses most traditional publishing channels and accelerates time to market. Two books that I’d recommend for early 2018 are described below, and a new book due out in the spring is also included.

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Tipping Points in Human History


I’ve been talking lately about the two main tipping points in human history: from hunter-gatherer to agriculture, and agriculture to our industrial society. That second tipping point beginning about 1760 ushered in three revolutions. The First Industrial Revolution  saw the rise of iron and textile industries and the mechanization of production through the use of water and the steam engine. This second tipping point saw a reduction in physical labor and a shift in where new forms of labor were required. The Second Industrial Revolution started in 1870,  riding advances such as electricity, telephone and the internal combustion engine to drive rapid industrialization and globalization. A massive disruption followed, as established sectors were eliminated and new ones emerged.

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Can Society Adapt to an Accelerating Pace of Change?

Updated December 15, 2017

Thanks to Parthasarathi V for his thought provoking comment on LinkedIn, and a link to a relevant article from Clay Shirky on the Collapse of Complex Business Models. His comment:

“We are having super abundance of everything – capital, talent, resources. The previously known scarce resources (e.g physical world scarcity, natural resources) are also abundant now thanks to technology. With every abundance there will be new scarcity that will be the point of friction. With every node of regulation we remove to promote innovation, new set of problems will emerge that needs to be regulated otherwise system will collapse.”

I am often asked for my perspective on the societal implications of a rapidly approaching future. More recently, that question has centered on Government and our economic system. My views are somewhat captured by this comment from Phil Tanny – an active participant on my Blog:

“There is a limit to how much social change human beings can successfully manage. What exactly those limits are is unknown, but it seems beyond obvious that our ability to adapt to change is not infinite. Thus, there is a collision coming between the exponential rate of knowledge development and the incremental ability of humans to adapt to the social change generated by the knowledge explosion.”

Said another way, we now live in an exponential world, while the linear nature of humans – and structures that were built for a different era – have not changed. The governance mechanisms of our past -at some level – managed the pace of change. Those mechanisms are gone. I have argued for balance – while others argue for mechanisms that slow the pace of innovation.

My reason for balance lies in this often shared visual representing the two sides of the pace phenomenon. Case in point, at this Health Summit in Washington D.C, the many health challenges that we face as a society were on display. Innovators will one day solve these grand challenges – and I for one do not want to see the pace of realizing these and other societal gains altered. But the concerns that people like Phil Tanny raise are real concerns – and the risk of unintended consequences is very real.

The building blocks to both enhance and/or diminish humanity are there – it’s a question of how we as a society manage this exponential world. Here are my thoughts on the question of Government at the previously mentioned health summit.


Harness All Possibilities

I had the pleasure of presenting at a recent function sponsored by Harness All Possibilities (HAP). The organization Founder – Rhonda Eldridge – has embarked on the following mission:

The fast pace of innovation, technology, geopolitics, socio-economics and demographic factors is driving disruption in industry – for both the employer and the employee. HAP’s purpose is to build a sense of connectedness while you embrace a transformational shift of your awareness and skill sets to prepare for 21st century engagement.

I was very impressed with both the organization and their noble mission. Given the life-long and continuous learning required to succeed in the 21st century, HAP is a valuable resource for both employers and employees. My favorite quote from all of my content is this:

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those that can’t read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn” Alvin Tofler: Rethinking the Future

Seeing our emerging future is a critical first step on this journey; and I had the pleasure of providing a small glimpse into that future. Rhonda shared several short videos from the session, which I have included below.

The Future of Clothing

Next Generation Education


Science and Technology Foundation