Gen Y, Shapeshifting, and What the Future May Hold for Ad Agency New Business

Michael Malone’s new book, The Future Arrived Yesterday hit bookshelves on Monday. You may remember his name from the early 1990s prediction that work was going to become increasingly virtual. He got that right!

He now predicts that:

The best companies in the world will use the latest information processing, communications, and social networking technologies to become shape-shifters, constantly restructuring themselves to adapt to changing circumstances and new opportunities. They will become protean.

“These new protean corporations…will behave like perpetual entrepreneurial start-ups, continuously changing their form, direction, and even their identity.”

We need to plan for the following fundamental changes to our business worlds:

  • Technology: digital devices will be ubiquitous; new management tools will be required to manage a globally diverse and scattered workforce.
  • Organization: we’ll see accelerating de-centralization and destruction of hierarchies in larger enterprises; also, frequent restructuring – in a matter of weeks or months, which will require employees to continuously find their place in the new organization.
  • Historical – there will be a continuing trend toward more web-based, mass-customized, “smart” products and services; a company’s history, myths, values and culture will be what keeps it together.
  • Generational –Gen Y is an entrepreneurial generation whose impact will be making the new technologies work right; they will demand that their work be as challenging and change as frequently as the rest of their life.

Malone also suggests that the tools for success already exist for becoming protean, and cites companies like Google, Twitter, and Wikipedia as being early-stage protean, as well as some large, well-known companies like HP, Intel and IBM.

How will these changes impact agencies and new business? Here are a few of my recommendations and predictions…

  • Stay current with the latest technologies. Those agencies that fall behind will be left permanently behind. Marketers will need to be incredibly adaptive just to survive the coming upheavals in their own companies and industries, and will depend on marketing partners who are more knowledgeable than they are.
  • The continuing destruction of corporate hierarchies is going to make it harder to determine who’s in charge, and that responsibility will change and morph more than it already has.
  • There will be increased opportunities to communicate a company’s myths and history internally to widespread and diverse employees. Everyone will need to know what the company stands for; effective communication to all stakeholders will be critically important.
  • One of the greatest opportunities will be harnessing the creative, entrepreneurial energies of Gen Y employees.
  • New business development will also change shape, and will likely be driven by connections that will begin and grow digitally through social networking. Meetings are likely to take place more virtually than they do today.

What I don’t predict will change: people will still do business with people they like. The ability of your new business person to “connect” with your prospects will be as important as ever.

This book is likely to become a business bestseller. Change is coming and you’ll want to keep up with it.


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