I recently talked with Dr. Allan Bird, Professor of Global Business at Northeastern University’s College of Business Administration in Boston, Mass. We discussed how the next generation of leaders can prepare to be successful in the global economy, and what skills they will need to compete.
IBM’s new study, Inheriting a Complex World, found that Millennials see globalization as an opportunity, rather than a barrier. Do you see this as well?
I was struck by how the IBM report focused on capitalizing on complexity. It’s one of the only pieces of literature I’ve seen that really zeroes in on the issue. Globalization is one element of complexity, and the younger generation has grown up in an age when life is complex. Those of us from an earlier, simpler time are really grappling with this, while our younger counterparts have a sense that this is how things are going to be.
We are all learning how to function in this age of complexity, which is unprecedented in history. First there was a shift to agrarian society, then a shift to industrial society, and now we’re shifting to an information society. No one has a very clear understanding of what this all means. I don’t think we as a civilization have the ability at present to fully think in the ways that a developed information society requires — it’s akin to asking farmers from the agrarian period to think as industrial plant managers. How would they do that?