No Return to Pre-Crisis World- Businesses Must Adapt or Die

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Futures Company report outlines business change for the 21st century.

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In order to thrive in the 21st century, good businesses need to redesign themselves to adapt to shifts in resources, technology and social values.

21st century businesses understand that organizational culture is more important than strategy, that internally driven values are more important than external status-driven values and that connection is key to driving down cost and driving up engagement.

A new report from The Futures Company, The 21st Century Business, has identified six significant shifts in the way that successful 21st century companies will do business and generate new value:

  •     From disconnected to networked: Businesses are often internally disconnected silos separated by function. The networked business understands that its different parts form a single system, and acts on that.
  •     From closed to open: The closed business locks down ownership of knowledge. The open business operates in a more porous way, letting the outside world in and building mutual advantage.
  •     From fixed to fluid: 20th century planning and control models make businesses unresponsive and inward-looking. The fluid business uses management and budget processes that respond to external change.
  •     From volume to value: The mass-production world is giving way to businesses that look to tailor products and services to their users, wrapping products in a tailored network of services to do more with less.
  •     From risk to opportunity: Businesses tend to treat the external environment as a series of threats. Instead, they will see it as a set of signs about the boundaries that society places on markets, so that regulation becomes a platform for innovation and change.
  •     From consumers to citizens: Customers are more than consumers. Companies will succeed by understanding and delivering against needs that reflect their customers’ whole lives, as citizens as well as consumers.

To succeed in this transition, companies need to broaden their view of their customers and understand the wider reasons why they’re buying from them. They need to innovate around the whole life of the product or service. And they need to focus on culture, which has a far greater impact on business performance and workforce engagement than strategy.

The Futures Company has been helping companies seize the future for 40 years. Our Planning for Change approach is designed to help them future-proof their organizations, identifying the disruptive forces reshaping the marketplace and working to ensure that business models are fit for the landscape of the 21st century.

This report, in the company’s Future Perspectives series, has been published to mark the 40th anniversary of the Henley Centre, one of the businesses that combined to create The Futures Company in 2008. As with other Future Perspectives, it is being published as a public domain report under a Creative Commons license.

Co-author Andrew Curry of The Futures Company said: “When we look at our clients, they’re all wrestling with these issues. We’ve written The 21st Century Business to give them a framework to try to help them get to solutions.”

Co-author Jules Peck said: “Canny companies are responding to the changing world by tuning in to the changes and updating their business models for the future. Those which don't are at significant risk. But this is about intelligent adaptation and reinvention."

The 21st Century Business is available, free, by download from The Futures Company website:

For more information or to speak to one of the authors, please contact:

(UK/EMEA) Tomi Isaacs, tomi(dot)isaacs(at)thefuturescompany(dot)com, or +44 (0)20 7955 1874

(US) Emily Parenti, emily(dot)parenti(at)thefuturescompany(dot)com, or (+1) 919-932-8626

1.    The Futures Company is the leading global foresight and futures consultancy, with teams in the UK, the United States, Latin America, Singapore and China. It offers its clients a range of consultancy services and subscription-based insight services.

2.    Andrew Curry is a Director of The Futures Company based in the company’s EMEA group in London. He has written or edited most of the company’s Future Perspectives reports. Jules Peck is a founding member of Jericho Chambers, and is involved in a number of business innovation initiatives.

3.    The Henley Centre was founded in 1974 by academics associated with the Henley Management College, notably James Morrell. It initially specialized in business forecasting. It merged with the US firm Yankelovich to form The Futures Company in 2008.

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Emily Parenti
since: 09/2010
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