March 25, 2019

Future of the Firm

The “future of the firm” is a big deal. As jobs become more automated, and people more often work in teams, with work increasingly done on a contingent and contract basis, you have to ask: “What does a firm really do?” Yes, successful businesses are increasingly digital and technologically astute. But how do they attract and manage people in a world where two billion people work part-time? How do they develop their workforce when automation is advancing at light speed? And how do they attract customers and full-time employees when competition is high and trust is at an all-time low?

When thinking about the big-picture items affecting the future of the firm, we identified several topics that we discuss in detail in this report:

Trust, responsibility, credibility, honesty, and transparency.

Customers and employees now look for, and hold accountable, firms whose values reflect their own personal beliefs. We’re also seeing a “trust shakeout,” where brands that were formerly trusted lose trust, and new companies build their positions based on ethical behavior. And companies are facing entirely new “trust risks” in social media, hacking, and the design of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) algorithms.

The search for meaning.

Employees don’t just want money and security; they want satisfaction and meaning. They want to do something worthwhile with their lives.

New leadership models and generational change.

Firms of the 20th century were based on hierarchical command and control models. Those models no longer work. In successful firms, leaders rely on their influence and trustworthiness, not their position.

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