“We Are Living at a Fork in the Road, a Time of Change”

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A philosopher and physicist specializing in complex systems, Marc Halévy was invited by EM Strasbourg and the association Les Colibris to share his vision of the major economic, societal, and environmental changes we are witnessing. During the keynote conference on February 9, he dissected the mechanisms of the time of change we are living through, and urged young people to be entrepreneurial and to be part of the new cycle that is about to begin. A lively and cheerful talk despite the gravity of the subject. Here are some selected extracts.

The Paradigm Shift

“What is happening to us? Every 550 years or so, humanity experiences a paradigm shift, a fork in the road that you can’t fight against. We have been in this cycle of modernity since the Renaissance and today we are entering a new era to be built. We are at a fork in the road, marked by ruptures, which generate conflicts and great turbulence. And the systems and institutions of power born of the previous cycle (politics, media, social classes, companies, etc.) are struggling against the advent of this new era. They want to deny it, or work against the tide, which is totally absurd. Fortunately, others are opening their eyes and looking for a new way to build another world”.

“A fork in the road implies ruptures in the five dimensions of any organization. 

 

Environmental

“Demand for consumer goods is linked to demographic change. Supply depends on our planet’s resources. The demographic explosion since the 19th century is the result of the industrial and sanitary revolution. It has also generated a long period of growth, supported by access to non-renewable resources and energy. This idea of growth is now a religion, the only possible way to predict the future. Although it is impossible to precisely predict when non-renewable resources will run out, we know that it will happen one day. What about renewable resources? They currently cover 17% of humanity's needs and will never be able to satisfy the demand of more than two billion people. There will be 10 billion of us by 2050... We are no longer, today, in a rationale of abundance, but of scarcity. This is what I call joyful frugality.

“We must learn to do better with less! ”

 

Digital

“Every major innovation has its darker side. Digital and new technologies are no exception. This dark side is their contribution to the cretinization of Man. They take advantage of his laziness to remotely control him. However, no technology should remotely control Man: it is imperative that it remains a slave to him and not the other way round. This subject also raises questions over the influence of a handful of engineers grouped together in a small area, who create these algorithms and disseminate them. We are at the edge of totalitarianism. Re-read 1984 by George Orwell or Brave New World by Aldous Huxley! ”

Sociological

"We see that companies and organizations want to move towards more flexible, agile, collaborative, and liberated models. Great idea! But is our current organizational model adequate? No! All our organizations, inherited from the cycle of modernity, remain pyramidal and hierarchical. The productivist imperative imposed linear tree models, in which a minimum of energy was invested in our relationships. Take the European Union: this Europe of nations is a pyramid of pyramids and does not work. Let us envisage for it a network operation, where the regions would take precedence over the States, where the principle of subsidiarity, which implies solidarity, would enable problems to be solved as close to the ground as possible, locally. ”

“Effective hierarchical organization in a stable and predictable environment is no longer effective today. ”

 

Economic

"The mistake is to continue to maintain the current economic model, the one that has seen us move, in the paradigm that is coming to an end, from handicraft and agriculture to industry. This industry, modelled on the American model, is made up of gigantism, standardization, volumes and low prices, in search of economies of scale and which has ended up leading to a decline in quality. This capital-intensive industry which is under finance’s hegemonic grip, ended up engendering a frenzy of financial speculation. Let's move today from a rationale of price to a rationale of use value! The same one that sees consumers renting their car rather than buying one, for example. This changeover is in progress. For companies, this is a great opportunity to put intelligence into their products and services by integrating intangible resources to increase the use value. And that's a good thing: there is no scale effect on immaterial resources! ”

“Future managers, be entrepreneurial, create your own business and don't become someone else's slave! ”

 

Ethological

“Ask a young person today if they wants to “succeed in life”. They will answer you: “Succeed in life? What I want is to make a success of my life. I feel good in my life, including my professional life, when I am proud of what I do.” It does not matter how others look at the social dimension or external signs of success. Yes, we are witnessing a philosophical and ethical change. ”

 

Entrepreneurial Spirit

“What advice would I give to future graduates of EM Strasbourg? After all, isn't a business school’s job to give people the desire to create ? Salaried labor was an extraordinary invention of the 20th century to respond to the rise of industrys, but I think it is dead today in this turbulent and complex world with an uncertain outlook”.

Enterprise and Economy of the Future: EM Strasbourg at the Forefront of Research

Under the leadership of Jean-Philippe Bootz, the Knowledge Management Chair at EM Strasbourg also invites a prospective approach. “Our work, for which we have joined forces with the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers [National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts], should help anticipate what tomorrow's economy and business will be like,” explains Jean-Philippe Bootz. “And this will be done by assessing their impact on learning, innovation, and management. ” This approach is based on a single observation: After the advent of economic models based on price, then on the notion of quality, it is now Knowledge Management that is in the ascendancy. “The challenge is to innovate more and more, and faster than competitors and to anticipate market needs”, he explains. A permanent race that leads to a progressive transformation of companies: “It is the end of a pyramidal vision of organizations in favour of ‘self-organized’ structures with an emphasis on communities of practice”, he enthuses. The key to this research, according to him? “Being able to question ‘traditional’ representations of the market economy and companies.
 

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