Recently I was at an event with a number of notable and new entrepreneurs talking about new developments and the challenges that they were facing. At one point of the evening I was sat talking with Steven Forth, CEO of TeamFit (a smart new way to build teams), about business planning and how futurology can play into it.
He shared that, in 2010, Masayoshi Son, the billionaire founder of Softbank Corporation, had outlined a plan that took into consideration the next 300 years…
I mean, it’s hard enough to look out 3 to 5 years let alone three centuries. But how can this be realistic and even achievable. Surely it can’t?
In Son’s plan he laid out how business can be compared to living species and forecast that 99.99 percent of companies would cease to exist in their current form over the next 30 years. Yet, if you look at Son’s vision then you can see how a 300-year plan could be outlined to succeed:
To continue to grow as a corporate group for the next 300 years, the SoftBank Group strives to develop over the long-term by forming partnerships with the most superior companies at the time in the information industry, without adhering to particular technologies or business models.
But, is that a strong vision that you can plan against? It does introduce a flexibility and open-mindedness that eschews the idea of strict adherence and governance. It also seems to demand that the company can break and reform itself. Very progressive and companies like Zappos, with their Holacracy approach, and even fellow Japanese electronics company Kyocera, with their Amoeba Management, are on this track already.
If you look a little deeper into how their vision will be realized (the next 30 years are outlined here) then you see that they want to ‘design corporate DNA leading SoftBank’s growth in the next 300 years’. They are also committing to take people (read, all potential customers) from sadness and loneliness to an information revolution that leads to creates happiness. And, to do this Son outlines 2 key equations:
Autonomy × Decentralization × Harmony
This could be chaos but for the introduction of harmony. Ensuring that everything has a part to play and doesn’t cause fiction and unbalance. These equations, if executed well and optimized over time, will lead to 5,000 companies in the Softbank empire in 30 years. The idea is that these lay the foundation for the following 270 years where Son, and everyone at the company, is long past gone.
But, can modern businesses also think like this? If we look at a business like a human they travel through infancy to late-adulthood but we disrupt it in the most productive stage of middle age where they are focused on generativity. Creating things and living life with zest.
This means that in those early years think 2 to 3 years ahead and then, when you’re operating at several years profit with strong steady growth and a flexible and proactive business philosophy, sit down and write your 30 and 300 year plans.
With the 30 year plan focus on having the hard and fast plan to create an unbreakable foundation of multiple companies that are resilient to market dynamics (sounds easy, right?). And, with the 300 year plan, create an achievable future hope and track to it every day. There is no room for dystopia. In fact, make addressing dystopia your key goal today.
The future will be bright if everyone that uses your products and services feels better about life. Also, most importantly, if every employee stands by this idea and takes one step towards the future every day.
One final thought is around that maybe to realize a 300 year plan we need to have ways to communicate what the original goal was and maybe SoftBank has also started to solve that problem. Pepper is the first humanoid robot designed to live with humans. Pepper is a social robot able to converse with you, recognize and react to your emotions, move and live autonomously. The creators, Aldebaran, say that Pepper is ‘engaging and friendly’, and that Pepper is much more than a robot, he’s a companion able to communicate with you through the most intuitive interface we know: voice, touch and emotions.
Welcome to the future of business planning and personal assistants.
Nikolas Badminton is a world-respected futurist speaker that researches, speaks, and writes about the future of work, how technology is affecting the workplace, how workers are adapting, the sharing economy, and how the world is evolving. He appears at conferences in Canada, USA, UK, and Europe. Email him to book him for your radio, TV show, or conference.