COVER STORY Jordyn’s Generation – The face of management in 2030

When the first issue of Management magazine rolled off the presses 50 years ago this month, Sidney Holland had already notched up six years as Prime Minister of country rebounding vigorously from its wartime worries. The “official organ of the NZ Institute of Management” embodied world far removed from today’s e-savvy and supposedly emotionally intelligent executives.
Its editorial quizzed Farmers Trading Company’s R Laidlaw on his Christian convictions. The ‘controversial cuttings’ corner reminded the classical scholars amongst its readers of Tacitus’ judgement on Gaba and then quoted it in both Latin and English. Advertisers saw opportunities to promote recipes for Pimms No 1 Cup (top with cucumber rind, not pith), Hellaby’s prime meats and Holeproof sports trousers.
This month marks both 50 years of Management magazine and the 60th birthday of NZIM by looking not into the past but into the future: into the future for Jordyn’s generation.
Imagine getting up in the morning and going to your closet to put on your running shoes. They look little worn. You say out loud “I need new running shoes”, pull on the old ones and shoot out the door. Next morning you belt round your 10 kilometre route in new shoes. Simply by making one statement, you have caused chain of events that occurred without anyone else’s involvement. No slipping out to the shoestore in the lunchbreak. No obliging wife or domestic helper. Just piece of software.
This is the brave new world of Rick Boven, strategic management consultant with 22 years’ experience. “The idea of avatars – or agents that act for you – is relatively simple,” he says, and real possibility for 2030. “Avatars will act and negotiate for us in business. We’ll communicate with them by voice. Able to find anyone, anywhere at any time, they’ll have huge impact on managers’ productivity. Think of the combined impact to date of what you could argue are very primitive avatars – the mobile phone, internet, email… even the personal assistant.”
Busy business folk of the future could, for instance, instruct their suitably pre-programmed avatar to review costs of all the components of particular product: back comes an analysis of available suppliers, trustworthiness rankings, relative prices and locations. With their additional inbuilt ability to learn, avatars are clear extension of technologies we see today, says Boven. “If you think about whether an innovation will succeed, there are some very simple questions. Is it more convenient? Is it lower cost?”
Sheffield partner Ian Taylor foresees both information technology and biotechnology reaching increasingly into social, economic, political and personal aspirations and development. Greater changes in the areas of stem-cell research, eugenics and cloning, for start, will affect not only societies but individuals as well. “So the fact that we can control living organisms, whether they be human beings or animals, throws up whole host of issues for mankind in the areas of ethics, biology and weaponry.
“Those who have the will and money to invest in ways to make more perfect human beings, animals and environments – and more perfect ways to destroy – will hold the reins of power. Whether they’ll be nations, industries, sectors or huge organisations that cross political boundaries is an interesting question.”
For tomorrow’s managers, improvements in the quality of human lives will raise raft of issues. “How does one retire? How long does one actually work?” asks Taylor. “There are implications to do with health and how we’re supported as we get older. How should people be skilled? Will we have four or five careers in lifetime rather than one or two? Obviously our lifespan will increase.
“Changes in technology will bring about higher rate of industrial turnover. Businesses will come and go. Future managers must deal with the issues of lifetime worker training and increased globalisation. Wealth will be reshuffled, not only on country-by-country basis but also on an individual and company-by-company basis. We’ll see either greater cultural amalgamation or conflict: whether as the world gets smaller we become more understanding of each other or whether this draws boundaries and lines between cultures. This is really interesting phenomenon because right now we see both.”
The technology-as-enabler vision of the future is just one scenario for Jordyn’s generation. Like many other commentators, No Doubt Research director Carl Davidson is wary of picking the next generation’s enablers. “Human beings are really good at adapting technology to their own needs,” he says, “so even though we develop new technology to do clever new things, that’s not necessarily how people end up using it. What that means is technology is fundamentally unpredictable.”
Instead, Davidson suspects we’re entering period when we’re going to understand the limitations of computers and machines. Rather than being on the cusp of bright new age where computers are going to change everything, we’re about to suss the restrictions behind technologies. “Computers and machines are really good at replacing what we’ve always done with our hands,” he notes. “Now we’re discovering they’re not very good at replacing what we do with our minds. Management is mostly about what we do with our hearts and minds and you’re not going to be able to automate those things very well.”
Davidson points to ‘huge paradox’ in America that the rate of uptake of teleconferencing technology has kept step with the rate of increases in commuting air travel. “The whole point of teleconferencing was that it was supposed to reduce commuting,” he says. “But people have found you can only teleconference successfully with someone when you’ve already met them, smelt them and established bond with them. If you believe that organisations are going to be increasingly about social capital – or at least some of the high value ones are – then that means you have to have face-to-face communication.”
If understanding the limitations of technology means refocusing on people as core resource, New Zealand’s human landscape will be very different in 2030. One of the few certainties is that fewer workers will be supporting more old folk. Statistics New Zealand calculates our population will hit 4.83 million by around 2030, well on its way to the psychological five million tipping point decade later. Almost 22 percent of them will be over 65 years old, compared with today’s 12 percent. While the number of people of working age (15-64) will climb initially – from last year’s 2.69 million to 2.98 million in 2024 – it will then slowly decline. By 2051, expect just 2.93 million people to be supporting much larger population. Proportionally, the share of working age people will slide from 66 percent in 2004 to 58 percent in the 2040s.
And unless New Zealand radically changes its immigration policy, demographic projections clearly show ‘browning’ of New Zealand’s population between now and 2030. In 25 years time, best estimates put the combined people of Maori and Pacific Island descent at around third of the total population.
Chairperson of Futures Thinking Aotearoa Robin Gunston reckons these people’s proclivity for collective decision-making will stand the nation in good stead. “It’s the only way to deal with uncertainty. You’ve got to be able to get different views together and bash them around. lot of management decision-making processes taught at the moment are: ‘here are the facts, do straightline projection and that’s what the answer’s going to be’. That won’t cut it in the future.”
Phil Kerslake, director of life and business coaching company Life Paths, paints picture of world of knowledge- (or K-) managers, comfortable in their own skins, with highly developed creative skills and emotional intelligence in spades.
“They’ll be well evolved and balanced, and harbour an achievement orientation, initiative and influencing abilities to advanced le

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