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Winning the ’20s: A Leadership Agenda for the Next Decade

The winners in business have shifted markedly in the last decade. What will it take to win the 2020s?

The winners in business have shifted markedly in the last decade. When the 2010s began, the world’s ten most valuable public companies by market capitalization were based in five countries, only two of them were in the tech sector, and none was worth more than $400 billion. Today, all of the top ten are in the US and China, the majority are tech companies, and some at least temporarily have surpassed $1 trillion in value. [1]Based on market capitalization at the end of 2018 Q3

Given the relentlessness of change on multiple dimensions, the keys to success are likely to be just as different in ten years’ time. What will it take to win in the 2020s?

The future competitive environment will likely be shaped by several trends that are already unfolding today:

  • Artificial intelligence is rapidly advancing, and pioneers are advancing beyond spot applications to implement AI at scale.
  • Businesses are increasingly organized into multi-company “ecosystems” that defy traditional industry boundaries and blur the distinction between competitors and collaborators, and producers and consumers.
  • Technology is beginning to redefine the nature of work, as well as the relationship between the company and the individual, as both employee and customer.
  • The rise of China is challenging the global economic order and the institutions and rules that have defined it.
  • Long-term global growth projections have been falling, driven in part by an ongoing deceleration in working-age population growth across major economies.
  • Society is increasingly scrutinizing the social impact of technology and the sustainability and broader contribution of business.
  • Investor activism and the role of private capital are rising in many parts of the world.
  • The combination of these forces is producing multidimensional uncertainty, which confounds traditional forecasting and planning-based approaches for harnessing the future.

A Leadership Agenda to Win the ’20s

While many aspects of the agenda will vary by industry and region, we see five powerful emerging imperatives that will cut across industries and geographies:

Scale will take on a new significance in the learning economy. Instead of the “economies of scale” that today’s leaders grew up with — based on a predictable reduction of marginal production costs across a relatively uniform offering — tomorrow’s leaders will pursue “economies of learning,” based on identifying and fulfilling each customer’s changing needs by leveraging data and technology.

Sources & Notes


1 Based on market capitalization at the end of 2018 Q3
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