HOW TO LIVE, LEAD, AND LEARN IN AN EXPONENTIAL WORLD
Who was this McKinsey consultant? – He was Nicolai Chen Nielsen who had a double Master’s degree in Economics and Finance and was an alumni of Wharton Business School, HEC Paris, and CBS, a former advisor to 25+ Fortune 500 companies, and a leader in McKinsey Academy. He was also co-author of Leadership At Scale (Hachette), and Return on Ambition (Fast Company Press), the latter shortlisted by GetAbstract as one of the five best non-fiction books among 10,000 they summarized in 2021 and 2022 gold winner at the Benjamin Franklin Book Award.
The book was first published in Danish i autumn 2022 and became #2 national bestseller as printbook and #1 as audiobook. English, Chinese and Korean versions are in progress.
Some of the findings about the future which we describe in the book are:
- Many supertrends are only now at the cusp of truly taking off. A number of supertrends as we know them today have only begun to gain momentum in the past decades or less, and only recently became truly global phenomena. Whatever rate of change you have experienced in the past will be significantly slower than that of the future. Expect an even more unpredictable world with new breakthroughs happening from all corners of the globe.
- There is no end to innovation. Since innovation is essentially about recombining what already exists, the more we have previously developed, the more new things will be possible to create in the future. In other words: the bigger the Actual is, the bigger is the Adjacent Possible and the Shadow Future, and our journey through these concentric circles of innovation resemble an accelerating Big bang. And as we saw with Ziman’s Law, human scientific activity doubles at least every 15 years and grows approximately 100-fold every 100 years. This will continue for as far as the eye can see.
- The key driver of these processes is our Five Cs of Innovation: (1) Compact units, (2) Cooperative networks, (3) Common codes, (4) Change agents and (5) Competition.
- The most hyper-social tend to win. In general, those who are best at cooperation do better than those who are best at competition. And those that master Pulsating Hyper-sociality perform best.
- Exponential laws provide predictability. Stable exponential laws can enable us to predict when futuristic applications will become possible and economically feasible.
- Innovation leads to a remarkably stable global growth in trend GDP per capita of just under 2%. This growth means that on average, every decade raises the global standard of living by some 20%. In other words, we should plan for a richer world.
- Average income real income per capita rises approximately 20% per decade. This is surprisingly stable. For instance, recessions typically lead to rapid catch-ups to this exponential trendline.
- There is ever more abundance. The average time-price of commodities drops to half approximately every 20 years. For this reason, more wealth is created through innovation than through ownership of the commodities and resources that enable their production. We also know that as people meet their basic and foundational needs (such as food and safety), they focus on higher level needs such as well-being and self-actualization.
- The Precision Economy means more for less. Precision technologies enable us to create ever more value with ever smaller physical footprints.
- The Adjacent Possible that follows breakthroughs in new core technologies is often applications. Whereas often, the first market response to new core technologies may seem disappointing, over time, people figure out new business models and applications, which trigger endless cascades of new business opportunities and technologies. This means that when a new core technology moves into the Actual, derived applications always appear in the Adjacent Possible.
- AI and quantum computers are leading us towards recursive superintelligence. In an increasing number of disciplines, computers beat the human mind, and this is now also happening in areas that we think of as intuitive. Furthermore, quantum computers are boosting some areas of computation with factors of millions or billions. One of the effects will be that computers can program computers better than we can, and they can formulate theses and ask questions in ways that defy human capability.
- More and more of us will become centaurs. It will become ever more common that humans and machines help, guide, and supervise each other.
- Technology will become part of every fabric of our lives. Everything that can be digitized has been or will be, and we are seeing new types of hardware and software across all spheres of life. Furthermore, as one technology after another goes exponential, unit costs drop rapidly while the technological capabilities increase. This is compounded by technology convergence, network effects, AI ,and recursive intelligence.
- Biology has become a computing platform. We can increasingly create, destroy, tune, and modify life at will. One of the effects of this is a new industrial revolution where we re-code cells as if they are robots at our service, so that they can function as factories that manufacture what we need with remarkable precision. The products we get from this will include food, pharmaceuticals, and building materials.
- Demographic changes will be the most disruptive ever. We are entering a period with the most diverse working and consuming class ever experienced. Newer generations tend to vote more liberally, to be more focused on pursuing a personal purpose, to take a stand on social and ethical causes, and to value flexibility and work life balance.
- Cultural differences between generations will rise. New technologies trigger new attitudes, lifestyles and consumer preferences, but since adoption of these are different among generations, generational differences grow as innovation accelerates.
- Prosperity leads to product diversity. Once we reach market saturation in terms of quantity, the innovation effort moves to increased choice and thus diversity in offerings.
- As we are moving from the analog to the digital, we are also moving from the batch-delivery based economy towards the on-tap model. The triple cloud of computer capacity, human gig services, and data from things are examples of this trend, which however, is much broader. There is also a shift from vendor-push to client-pull. Overall, this will make our economies much more efficient and our lives much more convenient.
- Marketing is becoming personalized and intelligent. Advanced algorithms are increasingly able to target a segment of one, and can provide personalized
- recommendations where and when we need them – often before we even know that we need them ourselves
- Markets are becoming visible in real-time: As we move towards micro-units of products, services, and data that are available as-a-service and hosted on global platforms, prices are often visible to all and fluctuate in real-time, while users are enabled to give instant feedback and ratings
- Industries will be transformed. Every industry is being touched by technology, and many will be unrecognizable in 10 years, compared to what they look like today. Particularly big shifts can be expected in transportation, healthcare, education, media, urban development and real estate, energy, farming, finance, professional service sectors, retail, and manufacturing.
- Workers will continue to migrate from the Industrial Economy towards the Precision and Experience economies. Increasingly, machines, robots and computers handle tasks in the Industrial Economy, so that human labor increasingly flows to the precision Economy and the Experience Economy.
- Work-life patterns will become more fast, fluid, and flexible. COVID-19 has accelerated trends towards the granularization, digitization, and increased distribution of work across internal and external gig workers. In addition, work is becoming increasingly integrated with our personal lives (or our personal lives are increasingly being integrated into our working lives). People increasingly have no fixed workplace, working hours, holidays or even pension age. Instead, they become more prone to live their adult lives in fluid combinations of work, leisure, and learning – but they may never retire.
- Increased demand for fulfillment and increased enoughism is increasingly reflected in human preferences. This goes for consumption patterns as well as work preferences.
- Jobs will increasingly chase talent, instead of talent chasing jobs. This means that talented people get discovered online instead of chasing opportunities to sell their labor.
We move on from these observations to describe eight efficient mindsets and 10 corporate strategies that can prepare people for a rapidly changing world.
Covers and other Editions
This book has been published in international markets in several other languages and editions.