Complexity, Risks, and Opportunities
We live in a complex world.
This complexity creates a very challenging operating environment for businesses and public institutions. Organizations have never had to operate with as many technological, political, and socioeconomic dependencies as they do now in our globally connected economy.
Weather on one side of the world can disrupt supply chains on the other. Political risk in countries many have never heard of changes prices of chains of connected goods. Politics can shut off or open up large markets overnight. Technological systems iterate so quickly that everyone is always behind in some capacity. Consumer preferences can turn on a dime as fads now spread globally through open communication platforms. The world is more connected and faster moving than ever before.
The connectivity and pace of change has created situations in which a catalyst for change in one market or region impacts the entire global system. Technological and socioeconomic catalysts have always had the potential for disruptive change. Mass production that enabled cheap goods, improved sewage and clean water which drastically extended life expectancy, the Green Revolution that increased agriculture output, genomics and biotechnology, and the personal computer all had this system-wide effect. But while these changes were truly global catalysts, they were few and far between.
The pace of technological innovation and the scale of global connectivity are compressing the cycle time between catalysts and magnifying effects that once would have been regionally contained. We have entered an era where system-changing phenomena are occurring quickly, with widespread economic and social effects. While these phenomena are widely known, their effects are unclear. Markets will respond in some fashion to urbanization, megacities, aging workforces, additive manufacturing, machine learning, connected devices, and the multitude of other changes we face.
This is an exciting and dangerous time for businesses. On the one hand, markets are large and hungering for the next new thing, be that a product, delivery system, housing module, software, or service solution. On the other hand, markets can move so quickly that it is easy to miss being on the leading edge of the next new thing, and new market entrants frequently have the advantage over more established, slower-changing companies.
There are several elephants in the room that few want to acknowledge and address. For example, we know that cities must change somehow to accommodate more people, vehicles, and moving parts than ever before. We also know that the demographic mix of developed economies is changing, as wealthy people have fewer children. We know that machine learning is important, and will probably change things. But the natural tendency is to not do anything about these big changes until we are directly confronted with market impacts, at which point it is often too late to stay ahead of the resulting challenges.
There are real reasons why companies and public institutions defer action. Most importantly, it is hard to know what to do. Timing the specific market impacts of structural changes is a difficult and complex task, and there are risks to making moves too early—or too late. The human element comes into play, as individuals tend to focus on short-term milestones that are aligned with bonuses and promotion hurdles rather than macro, overarching issues that are most crucial to their respective organizations in the long-term.
Great business and public institutions generally succeed because they are experts at executing the day-to-day tasks that support ongoing operations in highly competitive markets. These organizations run lean and tend not to have a great deal of capacity for additional tasks. It is hard to be excellent at both current operations and transformation for an uncertain future simultaneously. Thus, when confronted with both a strategically critical but not immediate issue, and a more tactical issue that stands to impact quarterly revenue, organizations tend to focus on the near-term issue.
While this is understandable, it leaves organizations exposed to the effects of changing markets. In some cases, this exposure results in increased risk of being disrupted by new market entrants or customer preferences. In other cases, it leads organizations to miss out on significant opportunities that emerge when markets shift.
We built the Grayline Group to help our clients fill this gap — positioning their organizations to seize opportunity, while mitigating risk resulting from emerging market changes.
Planning and Change Management
Grayline brings together experts, data, and solutions to help our clients identify, understand, and navigate the catalysts that will drive structural change to the global system in upcoming years. Our business is a platform for industry, research, and policy professionals from across disciplines to come together — merging expertise to help create awareness and solutions for our clients.
We cultivate deep expertise in the emerging catalysts that are sources of both disruption and innovation. These tend to be issues that organizations know are important, but are not areas where companies generally dedicate resources to develop expertise. To fill this gap, we bring together teams of professionals who have had the opportunity to focus on these issues in business, academia, and the public sector.
Each of the catalysts we study impacts businesses and public entities in multiple sectors. For example, businesses in the transportation, aerospace, and energy industries are all impacted by the growing trend towards urbanization and smart cities, but they need to make different strategic decisions to adapt based on the specifics of their industry. Our view is that catalyst expertise is valuable in its own right, but becomes truly powerful when combined with a deep industry perspective that allows companies to understand how these forces of change will specifically affect their industry. We are building teams with industry veterans and experienced executives to provide this perspective.
This intersection is where the Grayline Group creates value. Our industry experts contextualize key catalysts so that they are relevant and actionable to businesses and public entities. This context allows our teams to make very specific observations and strategy recommendations to help our clients prepare, which we deliver through our advisory and event-based service offerings.
Grayline is an enduring company that will evolve to incorporate new catalysts and industries as conditions change. The world is not getting any easier to navigate, and we are confident that there will be no lack of emerging problems to help solve.