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A vision of the future at GLS

24 Jun 2015


What if we lived in a world where micro-chips in our brains allowed us to browse the internet for information and our colleagues were robots? 

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This was the vision painted by futurists Gray Scott, Gerd Leonhard and Rohit Talwar MBA32(1992) at the School’s Global Leadership Summit when more than 500 people gathered at the Brewery in London for the flagship event. 

Along with predictions of life-saving medical tech and virtual reality goggles that would make real-life ‘irrelevant’, their key message for business leaders and society was to ask when, rather than if, we will see an enormous leap in technological developments in the next 20 years. 

While much of the technology advancement will affect industries such as engineering and construction, we will start to be able to utilise technology to outsource our own decision-making via ‘digital twin’ versions of ourselves, who will assist and support people online to free them up for creativity, according to Talwar. 

The predictions came as part of a day centred on the theme ‘What if?’ Various scenarios of the future were analysed and explored as London Business School (LBS) faculty and guest speakers, including diplomat Sir Jeremy Greenstock and Jasmine Whitbread, CEO of Save the Children International, took to the stage. 

Technology’s role in the workplace was a major theme of the day, with speakers touching on the concept of robots joining our workforces, putting white-collar jobs such as financial and legal advisors at risk of needing to rethink their skillset as well as those with manual jobs. 

Sir Jeremy Greenstock, questioned by Linda Yueh, Adjunct Professor of Economics at LBS and former Chief Business Correspondent for the BBC, gave insights into the geo-political powers of the future. He focused on the G2 relationship between the US and China, indicating that the future stability of our world rests on the two superpowers’ ability to maintain a positive relationship. 

The notion of a new definition of leadership was also expressed, with a focus on systems and societies becoming more transparent and held to account by a globally connected, digital audience. 

“The shape of leadership is changing,” said Sir Jeremy. “It’s no longer an apex. Leadership is circular; sometimes you’re leading, sometimes you’re following. Top down no longer lasts – you have to be very efficient at repression to be top down for very long.”

As well as guests speakers offering insights into the future, faculty members presented thought leadership on questions including what if everyone lived to 100? (Professors Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott) and what if you were allowed to be your best at work? (Professor Dan Cable). Panels respectively led by Dr Ioannis Ioannou and Professor Julian Birkinshaw asked the questions what if business could solve the world’s biggest problems? And what if we reinvented the workplace? 

Summarising the day, the event’s Chair, Professor Gratton, said: “I feel it’s been one of those days where I just have to sit and think hard about all the brilliant ideas that we’ve heard and the questions we’ve asked.”