Briefs: Business Practices

The Business of Doing Good: The New Responsibility

The Good Business of Doing Good

Eco-products. 100% organic. Ecologically friendly. All-natural. Fair trade. Locally grown. Green. These labels — which indicate a company’s, brand’s, or product’s commitment to social responsibility — are rampant. Although the meaning of these labels is not always formally defined, or even entirely clear, a broad and growing base of consumers now look for, and buy, products that proclaim their virtue.

In June 2014, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) published “An Imperative for Consumer Companies to Go Green,” an article that addressed growing consumer concerns about responsible consumption.

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A Dozen Surprises About the Future of Work

Eye-Tracking Peter_Sheik_Flickr

By Dr. Andy Hines

1. Hey, that’s cheating. Augmented or enhanced human characteristics will present challenges for organizations and individual talent.

2. Emerging markets rewrite the rules of work and work culture. As emerging markets improve their positions, they will influence the culture of work.

3. Intelligence shows up in unusual places. Information technology (IT) will create new forms of intelligence that will migrate into infrastructure, devices — or persons (wearables or implants), or all of the above.Read more…

Will We All Be Using Bitcoin in the Future?


The virtual currency Bitcoin is a mere speculative bubble or a force set to transform the financial world, depending on whom one asks.

Created in 2009, Bitcoin is clearly in its early stages — and its future remains unclear. This brief explores three potential scenarios for Bitcoin, which range from outright suppression by governments to success as a mainstream currency, with the current marginal existence as a third outcome.

Because outcomes are uncertain, it is too early to say whether Bitcoin is important in the future of business. The drivers and indicators that accompany each of the three scenarios will help to suggest whether this is changing.Read more…

Millennials and Money: A Generation of Savers?

Money!by Vincent Diamante

The Millennial generation is earning, saving, and spending more money every year.

The oldest Millennials, now in their mid-30s, are entering their prime earning years, while younger Millennials — many of them well-educated and with high earning potential — are still joining the workforce. Millennials already account for 21 percent of consumer discretionary spending — pumping $1.3 trillion into the economy. And by 2017, the Millennial generation is projected to surpass the boomer generation in spending power — and become the most active spenders of the first half of the 21st century.

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Personalized Pricing: Dynamic Pricing at the Point of Sale

Money_by Tax Credits

Personalization has slowly become the norm in a variety of industries. Advances in manufacturing, real-time customer service, recommendation engines, and other developments across the supply chain have set high expectations of personalized products and services for customers. Now, advances in analytics Paths to personalized pricing 2 and pricing algorithms are making it possible for companies to deliver personalized pricing to their customers as well.

In coming years, personalized pricing could become more common. It holds the potential to build customer loyalty, increase revenues, and give companies both more control over the price that different customers pay and the ability to base prices on a Related forecasts 10 variety of contextual data points.

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Digital Payment Futures

Moneyby _J_D_R_

There is a push underway to digitize consumer payments, led by those seeking to make the mobile phone and other personal devices into digital wallets.

To help monitor this trend and the evolving opinions about its future, we analyzed the results of a recent survey about the future of device-based payment systems conducted by the Pew Research Center. This brief presents some of the key themes that emerged from the Pew survey and synthesizes them with material from other sources to explore the future of digital money and explore implications for businesses and other organizations.

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The Future of Portable Batteries: Li-Ions and Beyond

batteriesby Rob Nunn

Despite persistent attempts to improve ways to store electric energy in portable forms, very little has changed in battery technology over the last six decades.

Yet research and development focused on enhancing battery capabilities and improving battery performance—conducted in both university and corporate labs—remains a top priority. Driven by the flood of new mobile electronic devices on the market and in development, the demand for better ways to power those devices continues to rise.

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E-Sports: The Rise of Professional Gaming

Gamergy_by artubr

In little more than a dozen years, a new spectator sport has climbed from relative obscurity to worldwide popularity, attracting the interest of millions of fans, who on average devote more than an hour a day to watching their favorite players engage in their favorite sport: competitive gaming.

Also known as e-sports, competitive gaming now features professional players vying for million-dollar prize purses, a college circuit that offers scholarships to “student athletes,” tournaments before sold-out stadium crowds, and a global viewing audience projected to surpass 140 million by 2017.

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The Future of Cities: Smarter, Greener

flickr_Trey Ratcliff

Propelled by drivers in all five STEEP categories (social, technological, environmental, economic, and political), many of the world’s cities are striving to become greener and smarter.

A rising number of cities are pursuing environmental sustainability and embracing intelligent systems not only for their own sake (to cut costs, to run more efficiently, and to better serve their residents), but also for the sake of the greater world (to reduce carbon emissions and to inspire other cities to do the same).

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Rising Giants: Companies Welcome

Gabriel White flickr

The landscape of global business is changing. While World 1 economies still dominate the global business landscape, more and more companies based in World 2 and even World 3 are making their presence known on a worldwide scale.

These rising giants are not only serving — and in some cases dominating — their home markets, but they also are increasingly seeking to expand into other markets, both from other emerging economies and from developed economies. The growth and expansion of companies from emerging economies will dramatically transform the global business landscape in the next two decades.

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Global Shale Gas: Redrawing the Energy Supply Map


ver the last decade, exploration and development of shale gas has transformed the US energy profile. The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) has called it “a ‘gamechanger’ for the US natural gas market”—due to the vast new resources of domestic gas that shale deposits represent.

But the US is not the only country betting on fracked shale gas to be a more important part of its energy future. Across the globe— from Argentina to China—countries are scrambling to explore and develop shale gas deposits. Although it will take years to fully catalog the exact size of these resources, the emerging evidence suggests that shale gas could have as much impact on the global energy supply as it has already had on the US energy supply.

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Technology Disruptions through 2025


Technology has always been a major driver of change, even disruption, in human affairs. Through 2025, it is poised to do so in significant new ways—impacting areas ranging from energy to consumer lifestyles to World 3 development to warfare—thanks to revolutionary advances now in the wings.

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The Future of the Auto Industry

Image: Marianna, Flickr creative commons for commercial use

Over the last century, the auto industry has put more than 1 billion vehicles on the world’s roadways—and continues to add more. Over the last five decades, the industry has averaged sales growth of 3% per year—double the growth of the world’s population over that period.

Yet the automobile industry is undergoing a dramatic transformation. Sales in what have traditionally been the industry’s strongest markets have leveled off in recent decades, but they continue to grow rapidly in emerging markets, especially China.

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Smarter Roads: Innovations in Roadway Infrastructure

Highways Agency

The wealth of time and interest devoted to the development of smart cars in recent years often overshadows equally significant advancements in a related sector: the roadways that such cars will navigate. Smarter roads may not have received as much attention as the advent of smart cars; however, governments, entrepreneurs, and innovative companies have been allocating substantial research and development resources toward their creation.

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Is Average Over?

Brandon Martin-Anderson

Tyler Cowen, a professor of economics at George Mason University and a popular economics blogger, made waves with his bestseller Average Is Over, a controversial and compelling forecast that maintains that the modern world is on the cusp of a sea change, brought on largely by the rise of artificial intelligence (AI).

“The basic look of our lives … hasn’t been revolutionized all that much in 40 to 50 years,” Cowen writes. “That’s about to change.”

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Conflict-Free Products: Ethics in the Marketplace

Image: MauroCateb
Flickr, creative commons for commercial use

The idea of “conflict-free” products is spreading. Originating in the role of mineral industries in Africa, it centers on the concept that some products are ethically questionable because their ingredients or inputs are sourced from areas facing armed conflict, thereby contributing to instability and war.

To date, the idea of conflict products has mostly been applied to select, high-profile conflicts, but this could change. Activists and governments are moving to increase consumer awareness of the issue, reduce the trade in such goods, and change business behaviors.

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China’s Middle Class: The Rise that Transformed the Country


The rise of the Chinese middle class has transformed the country in the last several decades — reducing poverty and sparking new consumer behaviors. It has also led organizations from food companies to automakers to invest in the growing — and future — consumption by Chinese consumers.

For example, Volkswagen plans to open 10 new automotive plants in the near future, seven of which will be located in China. Research by McKinsey suggests several important trajectories as the middle class continues to grow and evolve over the next decade.

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Land of the Setting Sun: Japan’s Time Bomb

Japan_LandofSettingSun_Max max Flickr

Japan, the third largest economy in the world, is experiencing dramatic and potentially disastrous demographic shifts. Japan’s population, already old, is aging rapidly.

But in recent years, Japan has begun facing another demographic challenge: In addition to aging, the country’s total population has now begun shrinking. As a result of this overall decline, the senior share of the population is growing even more quickly. While the senior population continues to grow, the population of children and working-age adults is dropping.

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China + Aging: Economic, Social, Policy Implications

China Aging Update

China faces an aging problem characterized by a number of interrelated components: A rising median age, a failing social safety net, the one-child policy introduced in 1979 to curb population growth, and a gender imbalance brought on directly by the one-child policy and a cultural preference for boys.

According to Yuan Xin, a professor and director of the Aging Development Strategy Research Center at Nankai University, “There is no country in the world that is facing such a big aging population problem.”

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The Future of Organizational Practices: Four Forecasts for 2025

flickr_Tony Frantz

There are a wide variety of visions for how work and the workplace will change in coming decades. Some focus on technology — e.g., on how new devices or big data will change workers’ lives — while others analyze the way in which Millennials and other generations will mix to create the workforce of the future. One area often left out of the conversation is how changes underway in organizational culture will help transform work.Read more…

A Win-Win for Women and Business: Partnering for Growth in Worlds 2 and 3


Over the past two decades, aid organizations such as the World Bank, microcredit institutions, and NGOs have recognized women’s distinctive role in international development. When aid and credit are funneled directly to women, rather than through traditional channels, improvements are seen in economic and social indicators ranging from economic growth to agricultural productivity to more sustainable population growth rates. “The empowerment of women is smart economics,” Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank, has often stated.Read more…

Cloud Robotics: Distributed Robot Intelligence


Just a decade ago, the concept of robots communicating with a central computer “brain” was more science fiction than science fact. This vision was often portrayed in dystopian views of the future; for example, the sentient computers in the world of “The Matrix” and the implacable Borg in the “Star Trek” universe.

But researcher groups, including some at Google, are now looking seriously at the idea of robots that tap the processing power and data made available by cloud computing, seeing it as a way to create “lighter, cheaper, and smarter” robots.

The fruits of research into cloud robotics are just beginning to emerge from the laboratory, and some early examples of robotic systems that use the cloud approach seem more like toys than serious working robots. But these systems may in fact be the precursors of a new generation of robotic devices that will have broad commercial and consumer impacts.Read more…