Some of our major industries are on the brink of reinvention. If your business is in retail, manufacturing, education or another verging on reinvention, here's how you can embrace the evolution.
The world around us has changed – much more in recent days, but in the interest of keeping this targeted and specific to our current topic, I will be skipping the COVID-19 banter (though I do advise you to read up on that as much as possible and try to future-proof your business).
The advent of the internet and its commercialization shrunk the world in a sense, bringing all of us (brands and consumers alike) closer to one another. We are now much more aware of what is happening across the globe – and that has caused much concern with respect to what people consider business norms.
Due to this massive globalization, a lot of businesses maximized their success and enhanced their presence across borders through synergies, alliance and collaborations. A lot of these efforts did not require upfront spending on the brand's part, because partnerships were formed on the basis of mutually beneficial business arrangements. This led to organizations becoming huge conglomerates, boasting offices across more than 160 countries.
Also important is the fact that a lot of what we have achieved as a species over the course of a few hundred years has come at the cost of our environment. Mass production and commercialization have had a negative impact of the planet, and we are increasingly noticing its changes to our ecology and our way of living.
Overall, these and other developments have led to organizations understanding that the rules around business have changed. To both become profitable and stay ethically afloat (in a disruptive, globally accessible market), you don't need to just adapt; you need to evolve.
The first industrial revolution was powered by the mechanization of work and the introduction of better manufacturing processes. From the Model-T assembly lines to the countless electronic devices delivered to every doorstep via ever-evolving assembly and manufacturing practices, we have come a long way in how we design, fabricate and engineer products.
But recently, the general consensus is that this widespread commercialization and mechanization has led to a massive uptick in pollution and production of materials that are having a very adverse impact on our environment (read: plastics – single use or otherwise).
A company that is focusing its efforts on being more socially responsible is Cisco – a global tech giant in its own right. As per its chairman and CEO, Chuck Robbins, the company is focusing on an "everybody wins" attitude, where what is good for the organization is as important as the wellness of the planet. This is their mantra, and good governance, clean tech, socially responsible supply chains, etc. are factors through which they ensure that what they do matters.
As an organization, when you understand the impact your efforts have on both the planet and its people and mold your practices to work in unison with your environment and its audience, you set a precedent that our present cannot come at the cost of our or someone else's future
The understanding is essential, because when you are not committed to the vision, you end up with fluffy PR stunts or what a lot of people in the industry refer to as greenwashing.
Retail is a massive sector, with a huge potential to evolve. As someone who has been at the forefront of the digitization of this sector, I can tell you from experience that there is much more room to grow and evolve here.
Speaking on technology reinventing retail, Allurez has evolved the e-luxury/e-jewelry landscape to focus its efforts on digitizing supply lines and cutting out components that are redundant and should not become part of consumers' overhead. CEO Raphi Mahgerefteh, as someone who has spent enough time in the industry, realizes personalization through emerging tech like AI and AR is the game-changer with respect to the conventional buying experience. With growing omnichannel access, shoppers want easily accessible information, seamless shopping and a personal experience every time (something he has been working hard to replicate on a digital front).
But the drive to evolving retail cannot just be about digitization of the sector. It has to extend past that toward something much more sensory. A lot of the conventional (brick-and-mortar) retail experience is sensory – where our five senses play a pivotal role in our purchase intentions and decisions.
We need to work toward shrinking preexisting supply chains and passing on the cost benefits to customers, demonstrating the value of technology in retail beyond surface-level benefits like saving time. For retail to truly evolve and digitize, it has to be much more immersive and truly beneficial with respect to its target audience's needs (cost, time and experience).
Education is a sector on the verge of reinvention. From Elon Musk saying that college is just for fun and no real learning can be found at such institutions to Google, Apple and 12 other companies saying they no longer require college degrees, the way we look at education is changing.
The issue with education is that in a digital age, it is seen as too expensive, too structured and not open to all. As a civilization, we have thrived due to our capacity to learn, unlearn and relearn things. So, to evolve education, we have to understand the root problems around it and fix those.
For example, online education and distance learning has helped open up education as a borderless experience. Since the recent COVID-19 outbreak, a lot of universities have switched to e-learning in a bid to combat the pandemic. Not being opportunistic is essential, but being realistic is important! Education is a necessity for two main reasons:
- The essence of education is growth – though we have confined that growth by structuring and bordering it up, it does not defeat that purpose.
- Structured education leads to structured employment. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 632,400 jobs will be created in business and financial operations from 2014 to 2024.
So, to cater to an evolving environment and the future of work requirements, we have to create the content, channels and technology stack that will enable learning and overhaul education as an industry. As per research between 2012 and 2016, the number of students learning on campus fell by over 6.4%. This number is going to go up now more than ever, as we are now bound to distance ourselves (social isolation for disease prevention) and develop models for work and learning online.
Into the future
This topic is much more expandable, but with respect to keeping the content palatable, I have kept it short and simple. A lot of business leaders are realizing that their business industries need overhauling, and rather than taking a back seat and waiting for change to happen, they are becoming the innovators themselves.
This isn't just about digitization; it is more attitude-oriented, when we as business leaders realize that we need to more than just contribute to the bottom line. We have a responsibility to our current and future customers to build sustainable business models that are future-proof and socially responsible.
The future is in our hands, and the present is where we will build it. Now more then ever, we need to realize that change is at our doorstep, and we need to evolve. Good luck!