I originally posted this article on IESETech.ning.com, IESE’s Technology and Media blog
I just read this article in The Economist
On the surface, it seems that the future is supposed to be a place in which our entire lives are enacted virtually. Businesses will run by employees who make up a swarm of temporary pinpoints surrounding the planet. All of our goods and services will be ordered in from screen store facades. Indeed it seems that book and music stores will be partially, if not entirely replaced in the not-so-distant future. It’s a sad and lonely future world I picture in which people sit at home all day ordering the things they need to go about their lives at homes and offices in which they fail to interact much with other humans.
But obviously this is never going to happen. People don’t just need “caves” as the article mentions, but want and need to interact with other humans. Likewise, it will be sometime, perhaps more than our lifespan, until all the people of the world are digitally connected in order to have this privilege, and until they are culturally accepting of virtual business.
What is important for managers today and tomorrow is the ability to tap into comparative advantages in local markets around the world and to run their businesses so as to benefit from disjointed organizational charts. In the process, they must somehow capture what surely are the unique benefits of this structure without losing the value of teamwork and relationships. These changes are of course already happening.
What is far more interesting, in my opinion, is what we can design to fill in the gaps where virtual enterprise fails. For example, people like bookstores. How can we create a substitute that saves trees and sells ebook readers while providing a similar browsing experience? People inherently like to collect things. How can we virtually store our enovels and music downloads in a way that looks and feels like a home collection? Along with these questions, we will also need to consider how the virtual future and the ease of consumption it promotes will be reconciled with the increasing need to protect the planet from electronic and other waste. Perhaps the virtual world can be part of the solution.
The future world of virtual worlds is already here. Let’s think about what to do when virtual gets old.
I’m reminded of another article.