No more beans

On board 18th century ships, the victuals were eaten in an unchanging order: first the fresh produce and live animals, then the salted and smoked food, and finally the hams and beans…The end of the beans thus heralded the onset of famine.

By Steeves Emmenegger

And that’s precisely what might happen to companies that haven’t picked up on the paradigm shift we’re currently witnessing, with the arrival on the market of new generations that these companies will be unable to integrate. As the first global generation in history, the young from any given region of the world will have more in common with each other than with baby-boomers from their own countries. They represent 50% of the world’s population, and are the first digital generation, able to access the sum total of global knowledge via their iPhone. This new generation – smaller in number than the previous generation they must replace – seeks to live out its values of transparency, fluidity, interconnectedness and responsiveness, in environments it finds meaningful.

But it’s clear that the current thinking observable in many organizations runs counter to these values. The risk culture in which we live obliges those taking leading roles to spend more time justifying what they are doing than actually getting on with it. Style is being prioritized over substance, in a normative and regulatory inflation that seems limitless. If these organizations do not change, they will be unable to attract and keep the talents they need. Only the least competent – and therefore least mobile – people will sign up to these depressing technocratic worlds.

The others – those more in search of fulfillment than success – will no longer accept a relationship of subservience to the corporate world but will seek out occasional collaborations, for example in the form of specific commissions. Many people will have to perform a complete about turn, creating meaning, developing in confidence, and reassessing the role of hierarchy, even if this actually increases the amount of risk. But make no mistake, the cumbersome systems we are currently implementing to limit that risk will ultimately prove far more costly than the risk itself.