When the World is Flat…

By Nilooka Dissanayake

NOTE: This was originally published in the Sunday Times in 2005). Since so much of the world has changed in the last 10 years, just think of those as well while you read this. But strangely, so many things also remain the same.

Three things that happened in the course of last week gave me the idea for this article.

Firstly, I happened to read Alvin Toffler’s ‘Third Wave.’ You’d know him as the author of Future Shock. This book addresses wider issues of how a third wave is following upon the first wave of the agricultural revolution and the second wave of industrial revolution. Although written in 1980, all of it is still very much relevant.

Secondly I read an article about Tom Friedman, author of ‘The Lexus and the Olive Tree’, which focused on globalisation. He refers to some Sri Lankan factories in it with much enthusiasm. The idea for his latest book, ‘The World Is Flat’, was conceived while Friedman was visiting Bangalore in early 2004. According to Fortune, while interviewing call-center workers, software engineers, and CEOs in Bangalore, Friedman “realized that while he’d been off talking to people stuck in the Middle Ages, the rest of the world had accelerated its race into the future.”

What really prompted this article is a list  by Henderson Group, an investment management group titled “Industries of the Future.” Their research showed that these sectors are the best opportunity areas for the future. These are the sectors in which they invest their ‘Future Fund.’

* Cleaner Energy: Sources of energy that combat the effects of global warming, increase the use of renewable energy and help pave the way to a hydrogen economy.

* Efficiency: Products and processes that reduce energy consumption, make more efficient use of resources and increase efficiency in business.

* Environmental Services: Goods and services that improve the quality of the environment and reduce pollution and waste.

* Health: Goods and services that help people live longer, healthier lives.

* Knowledge: Supplying educational goods and services that enhance quality of life and improve opportunities for full-time students and those in employment.

* Quality of Life: Goods and services that promote sustainable lifestyles among all age groups, including children and the elderly.

* Safety: Minimising the risk of safety incidents at work, at home and in the community.

* Social Property & Finance: Providing property for social benefit, access to housing, regeneration, and better and wider access to financial services.

* Sustainable Transport: Shifting to less polluting forms of transport, and cleaner transport technologies.

* Water Management: Managing and conserving water, and minimising pollution.

Considering the Third Wave, where we should expect, and are already experiencing drastic changes in way things are done, way people work, live, communicate we can only expect more changes. The idea that the world is flat refers to how the playing field is leveling out to in many spheres of life. We can see this taking place in a global scale where China and India are competing directly and effectively with the economic giants of the ‘second wave’ world.

And in that different future that is being created even now, business would be different too; and accordingly our investments.

Our long term investments should reflect trends that are already visible. Take a good look at the above list. How many new businesses fall into these categories? All these are the way to the future if we are to build sustainable businesses.

Have you thought about this? Some people have. For example, when you invest in trees that will yield high value timber in 50 years, this is what you are doing. Looking at what will be needed and will have demand and you are investing in that.

There are so many things we can invest in; so many sectors that will be good ideas to begin with right now. I hope this article gives you a start in thinking along in this direction.

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About Nilooka

I am a learner; and also a great trainer. I make learning fun for myself and for everyone else.
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