LSE governor discusses shaping company and skills
By Duncan Levine, Special to The China Post
January 9, 2008, 12:00 am TWN
TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Globalization, rapid technological change and communications interconnectivity are changing the world's business environment at an unprecedented pace, all in the face of huge political, social and environmental uncertainty. In this environment there is great potential for good as well as bad outcomes, according to Keith Mackrell, Governor of the London School of Economics (LSE) and Political Science and Founder & President Emeritus of Enterprise LSE, speaking at a luncheon yesterday arranged by the European Chamber of Commerce Taipei (ECCT).
The synthesis of communications technology, biotechnology and nanotechnology has the potential to produce a world free of disease and even a "work free" world but there are a number of concerns that threaten a favourable outcome: Huge and rising disparities in wealth could lead to uncontrollable social unrest while changing demographics with the accompanying ageing of societies is changing the nature of the work force.
The environment is another area of major concern with rising temperatures changing the climate and overpopulation coupled with increasing consumption causing extensive pollution and depleting the earth's finite resources at an alarming pace.
While technology could solve a number of these problems, real solutions to global problems require a global consensus and a political commitment to change, something Mackrell is not optimistic can be realised in the foreseeable future. It is understandable that politicians and business leaders focus on the short term, which is why it is so hard to reach consensus to act even at a local level, let alone a global level.
But what can institutions of higher learning do to help prepare business leaders to meet the challenges of globalization? According to Mackrell, business schools and universities have an increasing role to play in informing the business response to these accelerating changes and priming organizational cultures for adaptation. While there is still a place for good MBA programs, there is now a greater need for customized programs tailored to a company's structure, culture and individual executive skills.
Mackrell also had some advice for corporations: the nature of transaction and production costs have changed radically so "forget the factory" (the virtual enterprize can be set up anywhere) and shift focus from the best practice to "the next practice", that is, retain your core competence and always look for ways to innovate. In this regard, corporations should pay careful attention to ideas from their employees as most productivity improvements stem from innovations, many of which are identified by employees.