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Businesses must embrace changes.

Listening to business leaders at the moment many of them are expressing concerns about the future due largely to technological change and the changing mood especially the young in Europe and the USA. I've previously compared the current changes with the changes that took place back around 1450 as a result of Johannes Gutenberg inventing the printing press.

The printing revolution allowed the reformation to take place bringing about higher literacy rates, lower gender gap in school enrolment and literacy rates, higher public spending on schooling and higher capability in reading and numeracy. Between 1450 and 1500 the price of a book fell by two thirds and thereafter prices continued to fall.

Before the printing press it had cost the equivalent of 208 days wages to pay a scribe to write a single missal (service book) for the bishop of Westminster. By the 1640s over 300,000 almanacs were sold annually in England, around 50 pages long and costing two pence. At this time the daily wage for an unskilled labourer was 11.5 pence.

The real price of books in England fell by 90 per cent between late 1400s and the late 1500s. This period was more than just a book boom. In cities where printing presses had been established, they grew between 20 and 80pc faster than cities that were not early adopters.

Instead of decrying change and resisting what is happening all around us we need to fully embrace this revolution. To remain relevant politicians and business leaders need to introduce changes. The better educated and informed will not vote for irrelevant politicians and they will not work for irrelevant business leaders.

To attract the best people business leaders need to recognise what is needed in a business. The traditional 'us and them' approach with top managers instilling fear and intimidation as a way of getting the best out of the workforce is dead.

The best of the available talent will not work in a fear dominated organisation. The best have their own wants and needs and business leaders need to know what these are. I read a recent study by three Harvard professors and I agree wholeheartedly with their conclusions below.

Business leaders need to make sure that the business culture is one where individuals receive timely and unambiguous feedback. Power is decentralised giving individuals a sense of control in their role. Their job is one that is stimulating and at the same time demanding but not one where individuals feel overwhelmed with the tasks at hand. Finally, there needs to be clear goals in place and the necessary information is dissipated across the business allowing everyone to know how well the business is doing.

The leaders of tomorrow need to view themselves as 'servant leaders' who strive to be leaders who everyone else in the team wants as their leader. Followers will only follow a leader who they admire and who inspires all of the team. Leaders who inspire need to be honest and fit for purpose. 'Jobs for the boys' where incompetents are in leadership positions will only bring about an early death to a business in this rapidly changing world.

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Date:Sep 11, 2019
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