Tom Stewart: How Can You Make The Most Of Technological Revolution?
Thomas A. Stewart is the Chief Marketing and Knowledge Officer (CMKO) of the global management consulting firm Booz & Company. Stewart most recently served as editor and managing director of Harvard Business Review, and is a best-selling author, an authority on intellectual capital and knowledge management, and an influential thought leader on global management issues and ideas.
During Stewart’s six years with Harvard Business Review, the magazine was a two-time finalist for general excellence in the National Magazine Awards, and received an “Eddie” in 2007 from Folio Magazine.
Previously, Stewart served as the editorial director for Business 2.0 and as a member of Fortune’s Board of Editors. He is the author of two books, Intellectual Capital: The New Wealth of Organizations, and The Wealth of Knowledge: Intellectual Capital and the 21st Century Organization, published by Doubleday Business in 1998 and 2003, respectively.
Stewart is a fellow of the World Economic Forum. He is a summa cum laude graduate of Harvard College, and holds an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Cass School of Business at City University, London.
Topic: How Technology Is Impacting Business
Stewart: I’m Tomas A. Stewart. I’m the Chief Marketing and Knowledge officer of Booz and Company.
Question: What major technology changes will define business in the future?
Stewart: It does seem to me that there are two big technology changes that you can count on. Number one is increasingly the internet becomes available on mobile devices. It moves to your iPhone, it moves to your Blackberry, it moves to your Kindle, it moves to mobile platforms. This when you think about it is a quadrupling of the size of the potential internet audience. There are like a million people or a billion people on the net maybe a billion and half and there are 4 or 5 billion people who have mobile phones as those become net enable, suddenly this is like a quantum leap in the internetization of the world. Now, what you build on that, I don’t know there are lots of opportunities to build things on it, whether it’s little applications for making your iPhones look like a [Manca Beer] that’s you know, there is that but what are the implications of having 4 to 5 billion people with internet access. If you start asking that question all kinds of things might open up and not just in technology but in consumer products, in communications, in well, practically in every industry you can think of. So that’s one technology bet that I would make. Another technology bet that I would make is to say that we are going to come to a world in which we moved to new sources of energy and it is possible to imagine that the cost of energy could or certainly the environmental cost the fully loaded cost of energy could come dramatically down, not right away but if you could imagine a sort of Morris law taking hold in energy where the green house emissions and the cost per kilowatt hour were to go down because we really started cooking with the opposite of gas on wind and renewable and so on and so forth and we got not to electricity to cheat to meter but to electricity or to power that was, that was less constraint because we weren’t worried about climatological effects and because we actually made investments that could, that harness the sun and the renewables in nature ways. If you started thinking about a world like that, you could also imagine a big, a big technology [sheet]. It’s like imagining bringing electricity to factories in the 19th century when suddenly every factory could get electric power. It change all kinds of, it change offices, it change the work in ever possible dimension. If you could have that kind of energy revolution what could you build with it? What could you build on top of it, if you were a platform? What could you build on top of it? I think they are a bunch of interesting questions, that could be asked around that.
Question: How can investors capitalize on these new technologies?
Stewart: I think there’s 2 ways of looking at technology investment. One is what’s cooking in labs you know, who’s got hot stuff and then sort of a supply driven and you know, is [IB] loose somewhere in their coming up with you know, the magic fission widget that’s going to change the world and make us all a zillion dollars and the other way of looking at investment technology is where are the opportunities out in the market. So you could take for example the question of health. US now spends what? 15, 17% of GDP on healthcare on health related cost the population is aging, those cost are simply going to go up at a certain point, does it happen, this isn’t going to work, so one of two things isn’t going to happen, we either cut the amount of health care or we find ways to innovate and dramatically increase the value that we get, so that you know, dramatically lower the cost of a given unit of healthcare through innovation and so it will be pretty obvious to me if I were looking for opportunities to invest, I would… an opportunities to innovate I would look in healthcare and say, this is too much money it’s got to be it, if some things got to give let’s find what the innovations are that could make it give. Another one right now, is again, we were talking about we’ve been talking about climate, we can talk about cost, it’s pretty clear that transportation is a major contributor to greenhouse gases I remember a few years ago hearing somebody in the UK wondering how long it was going to be before flying on an airplane was as socially unacceptable as smoking. I don’t think we’re going to get there but it’s pretty clear that the recession is driving a lot of people to say, surely there are things we can do with video conferencing and surely there are things we can do and you know, there are number of suppliers in that area who dramatically improve the quality of video conferencing so that you can reduce travel, reduce your global warming, reduce footprint. So I would think that there will be another set of opportunities that you can look at and you know, reducing communication cost reducing transportation cost. So those are, I think it will be very interesting to you know, it’s always fun to look to the mad inventors and see what they are working on and it’s important to do that but I think you can also sort of look out over the landscape and say what’s ripe for innovation? What’s, you know, what dinosaurs are out there just waiting for the mammals and then invest in mammals.
Question: Will intellectual property rights improve globally?
Stewart: I don’t know that I would say I’m optimistic that the status of intellectual property will become safe in China and India in the near future. I don’t know what the time frame is, I think overtime intellectual property rights will, we will reach some sort of global balance about intellectual property rights and you know, that the traditional story is that China will start protecting IP rights when it has IP to protect. Well, guess what? They are spending a lot of money on RND, they are building a lot of brands. There will be intellectual property rights to protect and over time this will change and we’ll see I think, over time we will tend to see the world coming to some sort of harmonization. So that, you know, there maybe more stringent enforcement of rights in some places than in others, there will be but in general it won’t be quite as uneven a patent issue.
Booz & Company's Tom Stewart on what innovations are driving the next economy.
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