Dec 152014

The 21st Century was introduced by the tumultuous climax of the dot-com boom on March 20, 2000 when the NASDAQ peaked at 5,132. Since then modern corporations marched on to become the majority of the 100 largest organizations in the world (in terms of revenue/budgets and employed people) surpassing the size of many sovereign national governmental organizations. And this phenomenon happened fast. In 1954, the Boeing Corporations became just the 23rd corporation to exceed $1 billion dollars in annual revenue. By the end of the 20th century, hundreds of corporations exceeded multi-billion dollars in annual revenue.

I rejoined the University of Washington faculty in 2003 to research one of the hotbeds of corporate foundings and growth.1 The Puget Sound Region’s eco-system has spawned a rather extraordinary number of diverse and successful organizations: University of Washington (1861), Nordstrom (1901), PACCAR (1905), UPS (1907), Boeing (1916), REI (1938), Starbucks (1971), Microsoft (1975), COSCO (1993), Amazon (1994), and the University of Washington research spin-outs like the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (1975), and a record setting 14 spin-outs in 2014.2

Based upon my research, my predictions for 2015 include predictions from increased globalization and transformational initiatives important to leveraging enabling information technologies. In addition, I believe that entrepreneurial start-ups and university spin outs will increasingly challenge the viability of current corporation industry leaders.

During my consulting career at Nolan and Norton, I continually impressed on our senior executive corporate clients as well upon myself, that to “go to the future”, you had to not only distance yourself from the “old” but you had to do more, you had to “live in the future.”

During 2015, I predict that we will see eight kinds of transformational corporate initiatives moving away from the “old” 20th century ways to the future ways of 21st century leadership and corporate structures.

From overly decentralized organizational structures…
to virtually IT-enabled extended network organizational structures.

From punctuated innovation…
to sustained innovation.

From preoccupation with internal financial engineering…
to drive for external customer value-added engineering.

From steward-dominated “command and control” cultures…
to balanced creator/steward “collaboration” cultures.

From “make and sell” product/service decision-making…
to IT-enabled “sense and respond” decision-making.

From non-integrated products and services strategies…
to highly integrated systems of products and services strategies (“works-out-of-the box”).

From benign acceptance of high risks as inevitable…
to proactive abatement programs for high risks.

From weak corporate performance oversight…
to reinvention of boards of directors for stronger corporate performance oversight.

1 This research was supported by funds from my Boeing endowed professorship as well as continued research support from the Harvard Business School upon my becoming a Harvard University Emeritus professor in 2003 continuing to the present.

2 The results of my research are published in Richard L. Nolan, Executive Team Leadership in the Global Economic and Competitive Environment (New York: Routledge Publishers, 2015).

[Editor’s Note: This post is part of the annual “Cutter Predicts …” series.]


Richard Nolan

Richard (Dick) Nolan is a Fellow of the Cutter Business Technology Strategies practice. He is an emertus professor at both Harvard Business School and University of Washington.


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