The global forces inspiring a new narrative of progress
By Ezra Greenberg, Martin Hirt, and Sven SmitArticleMcKinsey Quarterly
- The first three crucibles reflect today’s global growth shifts. The globalization of digital products and services is surging, but traditional trade and financial flows have stalled, moving us beyond globalization. We’re also seeing new growth dynamics, with the mental model of BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) countries giving way to a regional emphasis on ICASA (India, China, Africa, and Southeast Asia). Finally, the world’s natural-resource equation is changing as technology boosts resource productivity, new bottlenecks emerge, and fresh questions arise about “resources (un)limited?”
- The next three tensions highlight accelerating industry disruption. Digitization, machine learning, and the life sciences are advancing and combining with one another to redefine what companies do and where industry boundaries lie. We’re not just being invaded by a few technologies, in other words, but rather are experiencing a combinatorial technology explosion. Customers are reaping some of the rewards, and our notions of value delivery are changing. In the words of Alibaba’s Jack Ma, B2C is becoming “C2B,” as customers enjoy “free” goods and services, personalization, and variety. And the terms of competition are changing: as interconnected networks of partners, platforms, customers, and suppliers become more important, we are experiencing a business ecosystem revolution.
- The final three forces underscore the need for cooperation to strike a new societal deal in many countries. We must cooperate to safeguard ourselves against a “dark side” of malevolent actors, including cybercriminals and terrorists. Collaboration between business and government also will be critical to spur middle-class progress and to undertake the economic experiments needed to accelerate growth. This is not just a developed-market issue; many countries must strive for a “next deal” to sustain progress.
Global growth shifts
ICASA: The force of billion-person markets
- In India, challenges include transitioning to more sustainable urbanization; building a manufacturing base in India, for India; substantially increasing women’s participation in the general economy; and fully exploiting the country’s technical brainpower to move up the value chain.
- China’s growth rate has begun to taper, and despite substantial institutional changes over the past decade, the country needs to do more to complete its transition from an investment-led growth model to a productivity-led one. The demographic headwinds China will soon be facing amplify the need for this transition.
- Africa, whose working-age population is projected to top that of China and India before 2040, has the most unfilled potential. It also faces the greatest challenges: mobilizing its domestic resources, aggressively diversifying individual state economies, increasing sustainable urbanization, accelerating cross-border infrastructure development, and deepening regional integration. Failing to achieve any one of these could stall growth.
- Southeast Asia’s impressive past growth has been driven by an expanding labor force and a shift of workers from agriculture to manufacturing. To continue growing as these factors fade, the region needs substantial investment in infrastructure that supports digitization and urbanization.
- Advances in analytics, automation, and the Internet of Things, along with innovations in areas such as materials science, are already showing great promise at reducing resource consumption. Cement-grinding plants can cut energy consumption by 5 percent or more with customized controls that predict peak demand. Algorithms that optimize robotic movements can reduce a manufacturing plant’s energy consumption by as much as 30 percent. And smart lighting and intuitive thermostats are significantly reducing electricity consumption in businesses as well as homes.
- Technology is transforming resource production. Gas and oil output has increased significantly because of advances in fracking, deepwater drilling, and enhanced oil recovery. Seawater desalination currently contributes hundreds of millions of cubic meters per year to Israel’s water supply (up from less than 50 million in 2005), and the country now gets 55 percent of its domestic water from desalination.
- Technologies are combining in new ways, with the potential to reduce resource intensity dramatically (Exhibit 3). Vehicle electrification, ride sharing, driverless cars, vehicle-to-vehicle communications, and the use of new materials are rapidly coming together to reduce automobile weight, change driving patterns, and improve the utilization of cars and of road capacity. In fact, analysis by our colleagues suggests that global demand for oil could flatten by around 2025 under plausible scenarios regarding the adoption of light-vehicle technologies and slowing plastics consumption.
Accelerating industry disruption
C2B: Customer in the driver’s seat
- Linear value chains, which dominated for most of the 20th century, comprise a series of value-adding steps with the goal of producing and selling products: think automotive assembly.
- Horizontal platforms, which gained prominence with the rise of personal computing and the Internet, cut across value chains. Companies operating under this model own hard assets and sophisticated architecture, typically built around value-adding software and technology stacks.
- “Any-to-any” ecosystems, such as those of Uber and Airbnb, have emerged most recently. These companies also operate at the center of platforms, but they are distinctly asset-light.