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Work – Impact and Implications

If I had to put money on it I would suggest the industrialization of information work is certain, and will affect pretty much every business.  A revolution in education is less probable, but this would affect the most people globally, make a difference to their entire lives, affect nations politically and economically, and represent a force for equalizing income around the world.

Were I in charge and free from all constraints I would announce a plan for eliminating intellectual property rights over the next 25 years. I would require corporate boards to have some form of representation of each stakeholder.  I would develop performance measures that reflect performance in non-financial dimensions. Perhaps most importantly I would fund a global effort on the scale of the Apollo Program to share progress in education globally. And, in the United States, I would institute a two-year requirement for national service with one year spent outside the country.

Compromises have to be made so I suggest, with an own-country perspective, at least three articles of faith in US business should be re-examined: The focus on individuals as the source of organization performance; the primacy of shareholders over other stakeholders; and the value of competition as currently practiced in assuring efficient resource allocation.

Pragmatically, if all the trends discussed above go forward, it is possible that there will be a bifurcation of business systems— a world of utilities (telecommunications, supply chains, manufacturing and natural resources),  patterned on the capital-intensive industrial economy, in which business will be a zero-sum game, a fight for market share and dominance; and a world of experiences (software, media, hospitality),  based on positive-sum collaboration and open sourcing.  But beware: these two worlds may have difficulty dealing with each other because of their fundamental differences around trust and value.

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