External environment or macro trends are like “shi” or leverages. Following “shi” or using leverage could multiply the outcome of investment. And of course, going against “shi” might reduce the expected outcome.
As described in “What happens next?”, the first and foremost change is the demographic change. With simultaneous labor force growth, rapidly declining birth rate and largest urban migration in history, the emerging markets are very likely to enjoy a good time of economic growth. Unlike the Western countries which have built workforce optimized for factory, the emerging market seems a better location to set up new R & Ds for multi-national corporations. Along with immigration incentives, this might be a good way of recruiting knowledge talents and improve productivity.
Several article also mentioned the emergence of “sharing economy”. Inspired by the idea of cloud computing, business / property owners seek to make money on the resources not utilized. Office buildings start business lending office cubes to small businesses. Start-up companies can even rent these cubes by days. Airbnb enables home owners to make money on extra rooms. What’s more? As Travis Kalanick, founder of Uber, once said, one of Uber’s success is changing the way people work. Any people have a car can be a Uber driver. He/she can decide when to start (whether it’s weekend only or after 10 pm) and how long he/she works (maybe only 30 mins and the driver is on his/her way to the airport). These are all latest trends which companies can leverage to improve productivity.
The flow of money, goods, data and people crossing borders is another trend which cannot be ignored. Companies like Kraft Foods started microblogging, content tagging, and other social features to collect customer survey data at a larger and more real-time scale. Internet has made every company a global company, no matter how small. Individual sellers now sell to customers worldwide via eBay, Amazon or Taobao. Computation power is rising while costs are becoming more affordable. With tons of data and new analytic platforms like Hadoop and Spark, companies are getting better and better at customizing services at a more granular and real-time level. And companies may gain additional new revenue by selling cleansed information on clustered location of target population, spending patterns.
Therefore, learning and (ultimately) leveraging external environment is like Hannibal to ask his cavalry to wait and attack from the top of the hill. It is worth all corporations, organizations and governments to invest time and resource in.