Financial engineering and unsustainable borrowing by enterprises and individuals fuelled growth in the last decade. Along with the credit crisis and moral dilemma of greed and rampant consumerism, the conditions also led to commercialization of technologies that are extremely beneficial.
The spiritual gurus of all religions have added their fair share of criticism to the current world and business affairs. The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has said if anything good had come of the economic crisis, it had presented a society driven by unsustainable consumption with a "reality check". Recently Pope Benedict weighed in on the world economic crisis and the ethics of the financial community, branding the global financial system as “self-centred, short-sighted and lacking in concern for the poor.”
As much as we may need to reflect on our moral bearings, I am concentrating on the opportunities in this crisis.
Much derided consumerism that demanded gadgets like new phones with new features at increasingly lower costs has also helped us commercialize wireless technologies that make our every day life better. Semiconductor technology used in consumer electronic devices has improved exponentially and has contributed to advances in health sciences, transport, telecommunication etc. These same technologies however have also contributed to the weapon technologies that take lives. But fear of crisis or misuse should not paralyse us. So what are the opportunities in this crisis? Here are some thoughts.
- From a financial perspective ; add value to your customer. If you are a bank – be a bank, if you are a financial advisor, understand the financial instruments you are selling, if you are involved in synthesizing new financial instruments, then understand the math behind it and be transparent.
- From a technology perspective, there are a number of problems facing humanity that need to be solved, and can create wealth in the process of solving. For example ;
- Over 2Billion people do not have decent roofs over their heads. Just in urban areas alone there are 500M poorly housed people. Yes low cost housing can be a profitable business!
- Businesses that help reduce the environmental impact of our lifestyles – unless of course you believe that “climate change” is a hoax. Technologies like Cisco TelePresence On-Stage Holographic Video Conferencing can really make a difference, and be profitable.
- Robotic or autonomous systems to help the increasing elderly populations. Or sensor based technologies that help monitoring the elderly. A great example is the ishoe that could help the elderly from falling.
The list is long but the point here really is that there is a lot of wealth to be generated in business by concentrating on generating value to the customers in ways that can fundamentally improve ones quality of life. The biggest opportunity in the current crises is to focus your enterprise on value creation.
Unfortunately simple ideas now have complex connotations. I got 11.2 Million links when I googled "value creation". I have most of my experience in technology companies, so I try to define value creation simply as “Does the solution (product or services) that you provide fundamentally improve the circumstance of your customer” If the answer is an emphatic YES, then you pass the first stage of value creation. The next phase clearly is the economics of your solution.