The annual Future of Growth Summit business development conference advertises itself as “Davos for the disruptive”. Its speakers include entrepreneurs and businesspeople who can bring a fresh, bold approach to overcoming the problems that still hold back growth in Britain, and promote exciting, innovative ideas. The 2015 edition, held at the end of April, saw several key trends emerge. Discussions centred around:
Machine Learning Technology
Artificial intelligence has been an active area of business research for many years now, but machine learning – in which computers and robots can acquire new knowledge without the need for specific programming – is set to take business into an entirely new era. Invoke Capital’s Dr Mike Lynch cautioned that this new revolution would threaten middle-ranking jobs in the way that mechanisation did for the manual workers of a previous generation.
With global communications and interconnectedness becoming greater with every passing year, speakers agreed that there was simply no option for business but to embrace the global nature of today’s economy. Several speakers were concerned about the possibility of the UK voting to leave the European Union, especially with regard to the future of British-US trade relations. Meanwhile, former Goldman Sachs chief economist Jim O’Neill cautioned that business could be damaged if national politics choked off the supply of skilled workers from abroad.
Having a Moral or Higher Purpose
In a hyper-connected age, consumers routinely share information about their business experiences. Bearing that point in mind, Paul Lindley of Ella’s Kitchen pointed out that today’s businesses need not only to talk about how and what they are doing, but also about why. Justin King, the one-time CEO of Sainsbury’s, offered a counterpoint to Lindley’s remarks, stressing that a moral purpose could not save a company that did not offer a good product to start with.
A digital strategy was once seen as an abstract component of a business plan. This approach is now outdated, as much as having a separate “electricity strategy” would be. Given the central role of digital today, bringing the right tech specialists to a business is now of key importance: a company’s CTO may be as vital and even as high-profile as its CEO. Government enterprise adviser Lord Young added that the rise of the internet explained why over 85% of UK businesses now have fewer than 10 employees.