A lot of business magazines celebrate the past exploits of billionaire businessmen, like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates.
The stories of how they acquired and built their businesses becomes the stuff of entrepreneurial legend. Yet, with all of this information, only a little information goes into how these leaders prepare for a complicated future.
This is where “2020 Vision: Today’s Business Leaders on Tomorrow’s World” comes in. “2020 Vision” brings together leaders from 20 international million- and billion-dollar companies and asks them: “How will you address the most complex challenges in your business’s future?
“2020 Vision” is a collection of 20 interviews with the top leaders of the world’s biggest companies, including Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, GE, Universal Music Group, WPP and Geely Holding Group. Combined, these five leaders alone represent companies with almost $200 billion in operating revenue.
These interviews focus on the successes and problems that these leaders currently experience or expect to experience in the foreseeable future.
In reading these interviews, readers will begin to recognize certain patterns. Technology, emerging markets and cost containment appear as persistent themes. These themes represent the biggest concerns and opportunities for all businesses in the future.
As an example, Linda Zecher, CEO of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, discusses the cost-effective and disruptive impacts technology has on the global and U.S. markets. Technology, Zecher says, is meeting a growing consumer demand for digital command — which is occurring even at the pre-K level. But it is also placing a heavy burden on teachers who may not be used to the increased demand.
Such uneven adoption of technologies requires, Zecher notes, a slower, step-by-step approach.
In another industry, Sir Martin Sorrell of WPP, discusses why his advertising and marketing business is placing a large amount of its resources on analytics and data investment. As Sorrell himself, puts it: “Don Draper would hardly recognize much of what we do today … In the future, there will be more ‘maths-men’ and women than ‘Mad Men’ in our industry.”
Those two examples reflect what readers can expect throughout the book: problem analysis, strategy and reflection. Readers will be able to see how these leaders predict and deal with the opportunities and challenges that the future brings.
The best part of “2020 Vision” is the view it provides of a leading business executive’s strategy from their own perspective. Although the book is written mostly from a third-person perspective, it details the approach and personal insights of the person being interviewed.
In addition to that, the book’s focus on many industries gives a wider, overall perspective about the general nature of change in business. Readers are able to see the issues from a much broader perspective than a typical book on future business trends.
Although the book provides excellent insight from leaders working in the field (as opposed to experts talking about the field), the book lacks direct takeaways. Such takeaways would certainly be of benefit to readers who become inspired by or interested in one or more of the strategies listed in the book.
For example, if an education tech startup wanted to capitalize on the growing market in Africa, where should they begin? “2020 Vision” gives some info, but not enough upon which to take action.
Author Tim Burt (@timjburt) is currently managing partner of a communications firm and former editor of The Financial Times. And the ideal reader for “2020 Vision” would probably come from the same audience as the author’s former publication. The book works from the assumption that the reader is knowledgeable about international business, emerging markets and technology.
“2020 Vision” covers a wide variety of industries operating in various countries with very expensive operating budgets. So, while it might not at first appear to be a book for small business owners, look deeper. “2020 Vision” offers any entrepreneur or small business owner the opportunity to reflect on how they will plan for the future. It also offers greater insight into what their businesses could look like one day.