Posted by mason on

Networks Not Monoliths

I’m giving a couple of talks this week to young accountants for the ICAEW, looking at the future of business. There’s a particular focus on energy, urbanisation and public spending.

These three varied topics have a surprising amount in common. In each case I see their future being based loosely around a principle of what I would term ‘networks not monoliths’.

The thinking of a wide variety of very smart people shows a growing trend towards the small. From Moises Naim’s ‘The End of Power’, to Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley’s ‘The Metropolitan Revolution’, to Adam Lent’s forthcoming ‘Small is Powerful’.

My take from digesting the works of these incredible thinkers is that we are entering a world of loosely coupled smaller entities, collaborating and co-operating when it makes sense to do so, and perhaps competing at other times. This is in contrast to an era of large monolithic entities, trying to aggregate power and purpose and maintain coherence at a grand scale.

That means power being devolved from states to cities; from CEOs to people at the edge of organisations. It means those organisations being typically smaller, interacting with external resource as needed. It means distributed infrastructure, not centralised.

Following these ideas through, from an energy perspective it seems likely that the fast pace of innovation in distributed generation and storage will outpace problematic large-scale generation.

In urbanisation, the solutions are unlikely to come from national policies or initiatives: rather cities and communities will find ways to solve their own housing/city centre issues through local innovation and the application of planning laws and devolved powers around tax and incentives.

Public spending will continue to be devolved and outsourced to the third and private sectors. If the current cuts regime persists (and I believe it will, into the next government, whatever flavour it is), I think we’ll see grassroots alternatives to welfare springing up, perhaps following pre-welfare/pre-NHS forms like saturday funds. You could argue the growth in food banks already demonstrates this trend.

These are initial thoughts than well-worked through analyses. I’m using them to provoke discussion at the ICAEW events.

I’d love to know what you think.

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If you’re interested in booking futurist speaker Tom Cheesewright for your event, you can find more information here.

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Tom Cheesewright