The Best Is Yet to Come

Management Review, December 1999 | Go to article overview

The Best Is Yet to Come


1. What single event or development had the biggest impact on business in the past 100 years?

At a moment when there are more people alive than have lived throughout the annals of human existence, we mark the beginning of a new thousand-year epoch.

For most of us, the arrival of 2000 probably represents the closest thing to a clean slate that we will ever experience. Could humanity right the wrongs of history? Could the advent of a new thousand years really mark the dawn of a better world? Science and technology would have us think so. So would modern management, a science less than 100 years old. Advances in medicine, biotech, the environment, commerce and learning-what an exciting and profitable time it will be for those managers and organizations which understand that the realm of commerce can be transformed in the blink of an eye.

The new century will demand of managers an unprecedented ability to make rapid and sound decisions, to share knowledge and to keep an open mind. As succeeding generations come into the workplace, the one immutable fact is that they will need accomplished and imaginative managers to lead them.

In the following special section, Management Review asked a sampling of CEOs and futurists two key questions about business in the past century and in the century to come. We also asked students from the Class of 2001 what they think about business and their future role in it. And, just for fun, we asked artists to illustrate their perspectives on the new millennium.

Is the best yet to come? Undoubtedly so, especially if management continues to evolve from strictly science to high art.

The Editors

MICHAEL D. EISNER Chairman and CEO, The Walt Disney Co., Burbank, California

Q1 The biggest single development in the 20th century was the ability of individuals to project themselves across space and time. The telephone, radio, motion pictures, television and now the Internet have all served this revolutionary purpose. Until the 20th century, the written word was the only way that people could project their thoughts to people living in other places and other times. This form of communication was slow and was only available to the literate few. Now virtually everyone can communicate their ideas in ways that are instant and can be digitally archived for all time. The world will never be the same.

Q2. Our creations will be creating us. We will build machines and entities that will design replacement parts for damaged limbs and damaged cells. We can lull ourselves into believing that computers will never attain true consciousness. I believe this is as patently false an assumption as that of people in 1900 who were certain we would never put a man on the moon. We will design machines that will design machines, and the resulting entities will, in many cases, be smarter than us. This development will...create immense opportunities and immense challenges for which we will need something that perhaps our machines will lack: wisdom.

KJELL A. NORDSTROM Assistant professor, Institute of International Business at the

Q3. Stockholm School of Economics, Stockholm, Sweden The recent past has been crowded with fantastic and crucial events-the Berlin Wall, the collapse of communism, the rise of the Internet. A seminal moment in the business world came in 1993. At the time, Microsoft had 14,000 employees and sales of about $3.75 billion. In the same year, one of the largest corporations in the world, General Motors, had sales of $120 billion. But, by the end of 1993, Microsoft was worth more than the whole of General Motors. At that moment bytes became more important than bits.

Q4. iggest story is that Karl Marx was right and it is already happening. Workers control the principal means of production. The Revolution Part 1 is over. Workers use their brains and, sometimes, their brawn to create new wealth. In a modern company, 70 percent to 80 percent of what people do is now done by way of their intellects. …

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