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Agile leaders teaching big old elephants how to dance swing

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Dear reader, what may remind you of a surrealistic theatre play, it is instead the story of a real change which main characters are:
Population Growth, Older Citizconsumers, Skilled Migrants Diasporas and The Private/Public Sector Dilemma in a 7 billion people world.

“The world’s population will reach the 7 billion at the time of 2011-2012. Don’t panic”

This is how, John Parker, globalization correspondent for The Economist, chose to open the Leaders’ section main article of the “The World in 2011”, Annual Edition.

Exactly one year later, the prediction reported by Parker has turned into reality, and now it seems that both Companies and Governments Leaders will be summoned to deal with a more crowdie and above all, older, world of “citizconsumers”.

On October 31st, The Asian Scientists Newsroom made public the birth of Baby Danica May Camacho of the Philippines, who has been chosen by the United Nations to symbolize the 7th billion living person on Earth, and this happened in the 12th most populated country in the world. According to specialized organizations’ forecasts, it will eventually take 13 or 14 years more in order to get to the next million, and the Planet will be hosting 9 billion people by 2050.

With such a scenario ahead and in the lack of another Planet ready to be “occupied”, feelings such as the paralyzing fear generated by the continued raise in world’s population, together with the worries about climate change, they can’t be used anymore as an excuse to justify inaction on this matter.

It may be, as Parkers reports, that the raise of population growth will eventually slow down and stabilize, a fertility rate of 2.11 will be reached within the next few years, and It will guarantee rich countries to have only enough children to keep their population stable for a while. But the call for action can’t be avoided. From Asia to the Americas, passing through The Old World, 50% of Earth’s population live in cities, and the main worry of governments and public administrations leaders of these countries, does not lay only on population growth but also on its continued ageing process. Around 550 million people of the world’s population are over 65 years old, and this number is expected to be three times bigger by 2050.

Based on this data, what is clear is that both private and public sector will be facing a completely new scenario. Governments as well as Companies will have to adapt fast to new needs and behavior, they will need to develop better “response mechanisms”, and to fulfill citizconsumers expectations about new spaces where to work and live and new ways to do that.

To do so, moving smartly, efficiently and above all fast enough in such an environment, it will represent the real challenge even for the Biggest and Old Multinational Companies in the market which will have to stay open and ready to learn also from the small, local and creative business initiatives while keeping on thinking and acting big.

At the head of this Third Industrial Revolution, as Jeremy Rifkin defined it, there will be sectors like ICT services and infrastructures (i.e. renewable energies). Citizconsumers’ territories and their cities will have to be reshaped completely, when not entirely transformed. The new thing is that this time we will be talking about a change which will interest both developed and emerging economies. Companies will be able to win great governments contracts in areas such as infrastructure, health and education, above all in emerging markets.

All this should sound as one of the greatest and most exciting business opportunities of the last century, and finally it seems that even The Old Elephants, big multinationals of almost a 100 years history such as IBM and GE, they have finally learnt how to dance Swing instead of the calm Waltzer they got used to in the past. This, in order to keep on being relevant and competitive, close to fast moving and innovative realities such as Facebook, Google and the Indian Tata Group, just to mention some.

“The winners in this scenario will be those Companies able to combine agility with the advantages of scale, by carrying out large operations and meantime being able to move quickly to high value market niches.”
M. Bishop, American Business Editor, for The Economist.

The Third Industrial revolution on-going and its wave of change which is moving fast from the developed economies to the emerging ones and return, is bringing up one simple question, something which nowadays, everyone seems to be worried about: will be both the old governmental institutions as well as the big and once so reassuring pillars of the private sector, able to not be left behind? Will they keep the rhythm?

Well, as we have seen until now, the current scenario counts on the presence of:

_On one side the population growth issue, older citizconsumers, and the dilemma of both private and public sector demand for innovation and technology in order to answer citizconsumers needs and creating new business opportunities.

_On the other side we have a phenomenon which is deeply linked and somehow cogenerated by the current scenario depicted above. We are talking about the skilled migrants diasporas, like the so called Chinese “sea – turtles” (Chinese word for people who have lived abroad and returned), who are already dominating China’s technology industry for example. People whose prospect to live out of their home country, spurs them to acquire valuable skills which in many cases are not well enough employed by the hosting countries in which they found themselves studying or working.

Now it is my intention to show how skilled immigrants’ networks represent an important resource at disposal of Governments and PA as well as of Businesses, in order to boost innovation, creativity and above all to gain that deeper knowledge of emerging markets, many companies are now seeking for, to employ their nationalization’s policies.

The so called Diaspora Networks had always been a real economic force over the history (Huguenots, Scots, Jews …), so why now both political and business leaders in the rich countries are not able to see what a great resource skilled immigrants’ networks may represent for their economies? There are 215 million first generation immigrants around the world, so many that if they would be the citizens of a nation, their country would be a little larger than Brazil.

A recent study carried out by Duke University showed that while immigrants make up 1/8 of USA North America’s population, they founded 1/4 of the country’s technology and engineering firms. New York’s mayor used the word “national suicide”, to define the practice of educating world’s best scientists in USA’s Universities, to then expel them due to their restrictive immigration’s policy.

In this new scenario, both Companies and Governments in the developed countries cannot afford anymore to set their peers apart, the ones coming from emerging economies. Western world businessmen can find the knowledge they need about local markets in developing countries, in the personal experience of immigrants workers networks, usually made of very hard working as well as innovative individuals.

A Harvard Business School study, also reported in the same article of The Economist mentioned above shows that the fact of hiring lots of ethnic Chinese people in USA companies, is positively related to these Companies setting up in China, with no need to constitute previous joint ventures with local firms. But if the private sector is on its way to fully understand how to take a real positive advantage of immigrants’ networks, why shouldn’t the Old World’s public institutions care about it too? The best answer to this question in my opinion, lays in these words:

“The Old World’s desire to close its borders is understandable but dangerous. Migrations bring youth to ageing countries, and allow ideas to circulate in millions of mobile minds. That is good both for those who arrive with suitcases and dreams and for those who should welcome them.” “The magic of diasporas”, Leaders section, The Economist

So precisely now that the Old World needs emerging markets to survive its own destiny, for the sake of our own economies, we should welcome skilled immigrants and make ourselves able to connect their talents and their resources with our local engineers and experts, talent and resources. This by starting with ICT, infrastructure, and utilities renewal plans. In a reality of smarter cities, technologically interconnected and sustainable, people will have to be finally encouraged and above all allowed to use their potential, skills and resources, in the smartest way possible, and with no fear of what will come.

But if it’s true that history always repeats itself, the best way to exorcise the fear and the anxiety which humanity always experienced in front of the abyss of the unknown, during times of historical change, it has every time consisted in taking active part to the transformation process on-going, by this way feeling again, the master of its own destiny.

Interviewed by El País, on November 27th, Jimenez Beltran, founder and owner of The Spanish Observatory for Sustainability, and Santiago Olivares, CEO of Ferrovial Services, both agreed on the fact that the answer to turn nowadays intelligent cities into future smarter cities lays on ICT. In their opinion though, the most visible obstacle to this transformation it also consists in the main characteristic of our society, its high resistance to change.

Someone once told me that I should have not looked at ocean’s big waves with fear, but with respect. So it may be I guess, that the solution to get the best out of this unstoppable flow of change, is exactly to stop being afraid of it. Human being is by nature, reluctant to face and accept the change, so that what is seen as different it is also, in most cases, going to be considered as a threat rather than an opportunity, rather than a chance for keeping on learning more about ourselves and the interaction with our environment.

I believe it is true that when we stop thinking about the possibility of changing things through our own feelings, our thoughts and actions, we are also giving up the chance to fully live our lives. We are letting our reason fall asleep and start producing monsters.

As both citizen and consumers, we are connected on equal measure to the Public and the Private Sector, as well as to their leaders. So that, whatever may be the political status whom power we will choose to legitimate in our countries, it will be our responsibility to educate the next generations of the earth’s inhabitants, according to one main value: tolerance.

And this conclusion of mine, It is nothing related to just moral believe me, cause in the end, the message I hope to have transmitted through this article, is that there isn’t already and above all there won’t be any more, enough physical space on this planet, to keep on pretending we are not interconnected with each other, almost everywhere, every time and pretty much about everything.

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