The great German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel once said, “The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.” This phrase represented a challenge to Lord John Browne, who has made a career of predicting global business trends. In his book, Connect: How Companies Succeed by Engaging Radically with Society, Browne examines three current trends and how they predict our global economic future.
First is artificial intelligence: will automation increase to the point where companies themselves behave robotically? And what will the impact of automation be on workers and their communities? Browne argues that companies are members of human communities and must therefore not act robotically, and he shares an interesting conversation with Tim Berners Lee, creator of the Internet itself.
Two, the center of economic gravity shifts between continents. At the moment, says Browne, it is shifting from the west to the east. That’s a good thing as shifting economies means resources reach areas that are relatively poor. And it provides an opportunity for companies to engage with entirely new communities.
Finally, the world faces existential problems like never before. From obesity to climate change, businesses have more opportunities — and more obligations — than ever before to earn their keep. Ultimately, says Browne, companies must benefit the societies who charter their existence in the first place.
Lord John Browne
John Browne (Lord Browne of Madingley) was CEO of BP from 1995–2007, where he built a reputation as a visionary leader, transforming BP into one of the world‘s largest companies. He was president of the Royal Academy of Engineering, is a fellow of the Royal Society, a foreign member of the US Academy of Arts and Sciences, and chairman of the trustees of the Tate Galleries. He holds degrees from Cambridge and Stanford universities, was knighted in 1998, and made a life peer in 2001. He is now the Executive Chairman of L1 Energy, an oil and gas investment company controlled by the Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman, through Alfa Group.