DISCUSSION Shaping a Better Tomorrow: Harnessing the Forces at Play

by Anurag Goel _______9th June 2015
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History is often shaped by the inter-play of major forces in different arenas, such as international relations, politics, society, business and disparities. At times these forces bring about incremental change, at other times they build to a flash point leading to sudden/disruptive change. At times some individuals create or lead these forces, at other times the forces create the individual. Persons or organisations who want to lead, or cause transformational change, must understand the forces of their times and harness them to shape or nudge the course of history for the betterment of the world and society.

Students of political history would find this easy to understand, citing many examples like the World Wars, the affirmative action in different countries, and the anti-corruption movements in many parts of the world exemplified by the Anna Hazare movement in India. Analysts would wonder why the inter-play of these forces, and their inevitable culmination unless managed wisely and skilfully, was not obvious to the brilliant men and women of those times at the helm of affairs. History shows that even the best of leaders are often the product of their times, unable to see beyond their own context and background.

This is the backdrop, the conceptual underpinning, in which the developments over the last decade in the business world need to be viewed – e.g. serious unease in certain quarters about business perspectives and bound-to-fail divided risk-management, and circular accountability systems[1]. Insights, flowing from in-depth understanding and incisive analysis of the forces of the present times, would also help initiatives like the stewardship movement and Tomorrow’s Company’s Futures Project[2] in formulating strategies for impactful management of change.

There are many complex, inter-woven forces at play in today’s globally connected world, each difficult to understand and with almost unfathomable inter-linkages and inter-dependencies with other forces. This is not the place to enumerate and analyse them, but the importance of attempting to create a holistic picture and then trying to synergise and weave the various pieces of the mosaic into a secure, equitable, development oriented model, and of evolving and executing as partners a powerful change strategy, cannot be over-emphasised.

I recognise that this idea sounds Utopian and may be extremely difficult to implement, and that it may never happen. But those aspiring to transform the world, and to be part of the process of making history, must together strive to develop a model to assist, inform and influence those who are part of these forces, and who wield some power, however limited, to nudge these forces in the right direction.

Real-life initiatives could then be led by either governments or business, but ideally by both as partners. The way the Government of India (“GOI”) saved the Indian IT major Satyam Computers Services Ltd in 2009 (I was the Government’s key strategist and executor as Secretary to GoI), after a US $1.50 billion fraud by the promoters, in 99 days without any Government funding, through path-breaking legal and management innovations, in partnership with corporate stalwarts and employees of the shell-shocked company, proves that such partnerships can be forged with the right kind of leadership, will and skills.

Technology, Threat to earth’s survival and Threat to societies’ security (the “3 Ts”) are three of the major forces shaping the world of today. Technology can be our most potent and powerful tool to shape the times to come. Internet, predictive analytics, big data, devices, wearables, sensors, Internet of Things ( IoT), cloud computing and so and so forth, give us command of instruments with unprecedented power, both for analysing the present and creating a better future. These tools are already being used by innovative, futuristic corporates for a variety of business purposes. Many of them are also deeply involved in sustainability initiatives. Infused with the spirit of stewardship, they could lead the charge for change, in partnership with governments and other businesses.

Threats to earth’s survival and societies’ security could become the rallying point for unifying forces to effectively counter the forces of disruption and destruction. In practice, this is a most daunting task, but institutional structures are in place. What is required is the ability of leaders of the world, societies, religions and businesses to rise above their respective domains, compulsions and limitations and work together for common goals, with renewed will and vigor. This again is a Herculean task, but somewhere, someone has to make a fresh beginning.

The strategy for managing this kind of transformational change has to be evolved by going “Back to Basics”. I would suggest three possible elements of the strategy for initiating this process, namely the 3 Cs of Credibility, Coming together and Conversations. Trust deficit has to be bridged, meaningful partnerships forged and effective multi-level, multi-directional, multi-stakeholder communication channels established and institutionalised. Huge advantages of a digitally connected world, connected companies, connected employees and the immeasurable power and speed of computing on the one hand and of internet, social media, mobiles etc on the other, must be fully tapped.

People would be at the heart of any such initiative. This has to be a movement of the people, by the people, for the people.

[1] “Governance – Seeing the Big Picture” by Guy Beringer –  http://tomorrowscompanyblog.com/2015/05/13/governance-seeing-the-big-picture/

[2] https://tomorrowscompany.com/futures

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