Theme - 5th October
Politics, companies and consumers: every part of society is dealing with power. It has been this way in the past and it will continue to be this way in the future. However, the way power is manifested and used in today’s society is changing. Through innovations and changing perceptions, companies, politics and consumers get more and more intertwined, changing the balance of power. Where politics first belonged to just the government, companies in today’s society are gaining more power due to their size and cross-border activities. Once dominated by white men, management of firms, now seek to promote diversity and equality at the top. Finally, consumers that were once loyal to companies, are now challenging businesses to reverse their fortune, serving to their every need and desire. In other words: in today’s society, the distribution of power is evolving towards a new equilibrium. As the balance of power is shifting, the way its different stakeholders are using it will also be different. How will they leverage power? What opportunities and challenges arise? What will be the new status quo of modern business life?
Society is complex and with the current evolution of power taking place, our world is changing and its complexity increasing. The main pillars for building the highway towards a new market equilibrium will be based on transparency and balancing the level of power between all stakeholders of today’s society. Searching the chest of innovation we can find but one invention that has the potential to realize these pillars, and Blockchain is its name. Known for the technology behind cryptocurrencies it has gained worldwide attention. However, Blockchain is not just there for cryptocurrencies to rise, it also has the potential to be implemented throughout all aspects of society such as politics, logistics and healthcare. It has the ability to connect all stakeholders in the supply chain while giving them the same level of power. Some say Blockchain has the potential to replace contracts, banks and even governments, whereas others believe it is doomed to fail. One way or the other we will only find out whether or not it can live up to its promise by implementing this young controversial innovation. Leaving us with questions of what its full potential is?
We live in a world where one customer review can be viewed by a billion people, making or breaking companies overnight. Yet we also live in a world where changing the life of a single consumer can move industries to a new market equilibrium. Our grandparents grew up believing that consumers are loyal to the companies, however we, as Millennials, realize it is the consumer that holds the faith of a firm in their hands. We live in a world where the way value is delivered makes a tremendous difference in the minds of the consumer. The customer experience holds the key to success. But do we, as consumers, truly know what we need? As Henry Ford once said “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said: faster horses.” If this quote still holds true and consumers really do not know what they want, can the power of consumers hinder the ability of firms to create groundbreaking innovations? Still, innovation is needed to win over the consumers of today, creating yet another paradox for businesses. To solve this paradox, walking the thin line of consumer satisfaction is the key. Leaving us with the questions of where does this shift in power end and how are businesses supposed to satisfy every single customer?
In this ever changing world one thing has always been certain: the top is our goal and we will climb the mountain of competition to get there. Companies fight to be the market leader and how they got there was of no importance. Money seemed to be the driving force behind everything, but not any longer. Society now expects firms to act as ethical institutions, taking the diversity and equality of their workforces into account. Firms are now altering their approach to human capital, creating equal opportunities for all. By introducing quotas firms attempt to reach these new standards of diversity. However, are these kind of instruments really the solution? With the potential to truly put biases of future employers into the past, innovations like ”talent analytics” arise. This technology combines humans and computers in evaluating potential managers, employees or trainees. Lowering the impact of our human subjectivity, it balances the power between employer and employee. Resulting in the need for everyone to differentiate themselves. How are we, as Millennials, presumed to act, considering the changing perceptions on diversity in businesses? And how will this evolution end?
Times are changing, where governments were once the ultimate power, companies might have taken over this role. Multinationals are experiencing monumental growth and this can no longer be constrained to one country. Technology has stretched the reach of the individuals and social media has expanded our network. Our opportunities have broadened and life has improved in many ways, mainly due to the progress of companies. If companies have the power to advance making societies thrive, what should be the role of governments? Therefore, one must wonder, are companies the new authority of tomorrow or are governments still in charge? We have seen in the past that innovations such as social media have played a crucial role in multiple elections, potentially causing the election of Donald Trump and Brexit to happen. ‘Fake News’ has plagued our news channels and tax regimes continue to be controversial in the eyes of the consumer. Through innovations, every individual has been given a voice, but it can be argued that these innovations are a threat to our democracy as well. Firms are responsible for incredible advancements. The reach of a company is sometimes even bigger than that of governments. So, should additional power come with additional responsibilities and should policy be influenced by business?
Themes Through the Years
2017 - Managing Earth Inc. The Leader of Tomorrow
Today, humankind is at the top of its game. On average, we have never been more wealthy, happy or safe. Nonetheless, sooner or later there will be a tipping point. While the development of the human population thrives, biodiversity and the availability of natural resources go downhill. Furthermore, issues such as Brexit and reduced faith in the European Union have led to uncertainty and division between leaders and countries, which complicate international collaboration. This raises interesting questions. How can national leaders tackle issues that cross international borders? What kind of leadership is required? And more importantly, is it possible to “manage the earth” when the world is becoming more connected digitally, but less connected politically? In this theme the following topics were explored further: Inspirational Leadership, the Age of Hyper-Uncertainty, the Circular Economy and Sharing Solutions.
2016 - The Power of Disruption
We live in a rapidly changing world. New innovations, business models and breakthrough technologies are following each other at an exponentially growing pace. Disruptive changes are created by innovative businesses and individuals, and can have far-reaching consequences for companies, consumers and the world in general. It is no longer a question if an industry will be disrupted, but how and by whom an industry will disrupted. Depending on the innovativeness and agility of companies, disruption can be a huge opportunity. Within this theme the following topics were explored: New Business Models, Innovate for Solutions, a Future in Robotics and Connecting Consumers.
2015 - The Infinite Network: Make Every Connection Matter
Our network is expanding in the current world. Companies, people and machines are all connected in a digital network. The time is now to look at how this network is influencing the factors involved in these interactions. What chances and opportunities will be created through this infinite network?
Within this theme there is a focus on 4 topics: The Internet of Things, The Two Faces of Big Data, the Millenials en The Global Supply Chain.
2014 – Face the Future: Pioneer, Adapt or Retain.
After years of unfavorable economic circumstances it is important to look at the future with positivity. In a time of unprecedented change the question of how we should prepare for the near future is of critical importance. Within this theme there was an emphasis on the following topics: Suppressed human capital, Moving to Mastery, Next Global Superpower and Sustainable Growth Path.
2013 – Beyond Borders: Competing in a Changing World
The world of today is changing, in a faster pace and on a greater scale than ever before. Observing from the sideline in how the world is changing is no longer on option. We have to go beyond borders and compete. Within this theme the following topics will be discussed: Staying ahead of the Competition; The strategy to Success, Crossing borders: Exploring Emerging Markets, the Era of Technology: A New World Power and the Moral Side: Applying ethics to business.
2012 – Create, Innovate, Dominate
Innovative strategies in multiple disciplines are essential to create a competitive advantage. But when is innovation more affordable or even essential for survival in the current economic landscape? During this conference the following topics were discussed: The Dependency on Merging Markets, The Connected Society and The Entrepreneurial Vision.
2011 – Reboot: Responsible Leadership, Responsible Growth.
What are the choices that we have to make today for a sustainable future and what kind of leadership will lead the society to a new future? In this theme several topics were further explored: Decisions in the Present: Implications in the Future, The Sustainability Priority and The Role of Leadership.