Surviving the WTF Economy

In Leadership, Change, Purpose, Mission & Values

Speaking at economic think tank The American Enterprise Institute in 2014, Bill Gates made the following prediction:

“Software substitution, whether it’s for drivers or waiters or nurses … it’s progressing…  Technology over time will reduce demand for jobs, particularly at the lower end of skill set. …  20 years from now, labor demand for lots of skill sets will be substantially lower. I don’t think people have that in their mental model.”

Tom Goodwin shared the following in his well-circulated Techcrunch article earlier this year:

“Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate.”

Famed internet pioneer Tim O’Reilly had this to say in his article “The WTF Economy” published this week:

“Over the past few decades, the digital revolution has transformed the world of media, upending centuries-old companies and business models. Now, it is restructuring every business, every job, and every sector of society. No company, no job is immune to disruption.”

The “What the F*&% Economy” Or “What’s the Future” Economy as Tim O’Reilly more eloquently puts it has new rules, new methodologies, and fewer limitations than we’re used to. Good news for some, devastating news for others.

We’re experiencing the greatest shifts in business model paradigms in centuries and the greatest changes are yet to come. It’s clear that workers aren’t ready and we shared recently how the most established businesses are being disrupted at record rates. In her article “Growth Demands Change“, Haley shared the three steps for dealing with the inevitable change that’s coming:

  1. Understand your purpose
  2. Forge your story
  3. Align your team


To illustrate the first point, she shared the story of the buggy companies, replaced by automobiles because they thought they were in the buggy business. The road to bankruptcy is littered with similar stories of companies that held on to their products with a steel grip, refusing to let progress stand in their way. How did that work for Kodak? Why didn’t Borders Books beat Amazon?, Did you know that only 71 companies remain today from the original 1955 Fortune 500 list? How many Hummers do you see on the streets these days?

Are you a buggy company or in the business of transportation? Are you in the business of photographic equipment or the business of recording precious memories? Do you sell children’s books or are you in the business of widening a child’s mind through education? In each of these examples, one position has a shelf life, the other will be an opportunity for ever. It’s time to decide what business you’re in before it’s decided for you and at your expense.

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Barry-028 2Barry Chandler is the co-founder of Storyforge, a brand strategy company focused on helping companies discover their purpose to allow them achieve their vision, build preference and drive margin. Barry has been building award winning businesses since launching his first company in Ireland in 2003. His last company, a digital marketing agency, was acquired in 2012 by a California based publicly traded entertainment company which then hired him as Chief Marketing Officer. It is his belief that the greatest brands seek to change the world, improving the lives of their associates, partners and customers.