Events - 03.09.2018 - 00:00 

Society 4.0 – Trends shaping business and work

What will digitization do to people in the future? Participants at the 9th International HSG Alumni Conference looked into this question on Friday morning. All of the speakers stressed the importance of actively participating in the process of shaping the future. After all, only those who act will be among the winners.
Source: HSG Newsroom

3 September 2018. "The century of the brain - How we connect our thinking to the Internet" (Das Jahrhundert des Gehirns – Wie wir unser Denken ans Internet anschliessen) was the title of a lecture by Miriam Meckel, editor of Wirtschaftswoche. She highlighted the fact that it is already possible to read thoughts into the Internet, to introduce information into a human brain and to form biological networks. "The sentence 'Thoughts are free,' which was valid for a long time, is thus being questioned," the speaker stressed. It is not desirable for all new technological possibilities to find their way onto the mass market. "Brain hacking" is dangerous because it penetrates the core of the human personality. That is why it is important for people to exert influence and have a say in where and when they want things to stop.

Keeping business models up to date

How can business models be kept up to date? To answer this question, Oliver Gassmann, HSG Professor of Technology and Innovation Management, emphasized the importance of data collection. With the Internet of Things, the amount of data will continue to increase, leading to completely new business models. The utilization of data will be a key function in all areas in order to understand customer behaviour. However, this would also mean that the handling of data and questions of regulation would be focused on and discussed more intensively.

Companies would have to come to terms with the fact that they would need workers with new skills in the future. Manual and simple cognitive skills would not be in demand as much, while social, emotional and technological skills would be more in demand. Companies would be well advised to actively motivate their employees to take part in further training courses in order to ensure they have the necessary skills at their disposal in good time. In general, agility and openness to new things are relevant for functioning business models. "Companies will have to do a lot more experimentation to be successful." The strategy is thus: Think big and global, start small, react fast.

We will not run out of work

Sarah Kreienbühl, member of the Migros General Management, and Valentin Vogt, President of the Swiss Employers' Association, were both confident about the supply and demand of jobs. However, those who do not change will disappear. This applies to companies as well as employees.

Sarah Kreienbühl explained that her goal is to take the employees on a journey of digital change while, at the same time, upholding the values of Migros. The aim is to promote further training within the company and proactively give employees access to new skills. "Switzerland is well prepared. We will not run out of work," Valentin Vogt stressed. The loss of jobs will initially be compensated for by demographic changes. However, in order to maintain our prosperity, we are dependent on digital evolution.

Change in the consumer goods industry

Nestlé CEO, Mark Schneider, pointed out that even a large company with a long history of success can be affected by a slump in growth. He cited several reasons for the change in the consumer goods industry, such as changes in consumer behaviour. Consumers have developed a heightened price awareness with regard to everyday consumer goods, but on the other hand are willing to dig deep into their pockets for luxury goods.

Another phenomenon that led to the slump in growth was the success of innovative small businesses and start-ups. They gained market share at the expense of the major players. "We have paid too little attention to this competition for a long time," reported Mark Schneider. Faster innovation cycles mean there is less and less time for the introduction of new products. In the past, the company took several years to launch a new product, but today it has to be ready for the market in just a few months. It has also been noticed that innovative products generally follow trends.

Committed to the purpose

In his presentation, Omid Aschari, Managing Director SIM-HSG, expressed the conviction that managers can promote the success of a company by reflecting on their own self-perception. In order to live up the management task, a manager has to deal in depth with himself/herself as a human being, time and again. The objective here is to recognize and value their own potential as leaders. This represents the basis for sharing values with others and creating a climate of solidarity. As a result of this, managers can strengthen the identification of employees with an organization and positively influence the success of the company. Without values that are lived and breathed, the cultivation of a corporate culture is useless, as the company would not be in a position to build trust. Promoting common values is therefore a key management task. / Matthis Dierkes