I had the chance to attend a seminar a while back with Scott Galloway at NYU Stern, and I’ve never forgotten him: smart, detailed, irreverent. Most of all I remember his energy as he pulled back the curtains of the new digital world: you can comprehend this, you can participate in it.
So when I saw his book from last year on the shelf, I grabbed it, and I’d encourage you to do the same. His voice is still insistent, so it’s a page-turning read, and the subject matter is both irresistible and daunting.
The approach of the book is to study the roots and ascendancy of what he calls the “four horsemen” companies in the book’s sub-title. He’s paying attention to them because there have never been bigger corporate enterprises in history; some legal specialists are dusting off antitrust laws. They are not only maximizing their own reach and profits, but they are designing – or they simply are– the landscape of global business. All sizeable businesses are dependent on what they’ve done and on what they and their successors decide to do next.
Before I read this, I thought these companies were creating assets that businesses were appropriating, knocking off, purchasing and using as necessary to succeed. Now, it seems to me that businesses at this point in time can only exist because of what these four companies do every day. A gross generalization? Read the book.
We’ve all seen the commentators who note that we are poised at an inflection point in the workplace, as data and AI are more and more fully deployed. Millions of jobs are and will be vanishing into thin air, and people like me in corporate communications can reasonably ask who will be left to communicate with. The inventions and influence of these four companies are accelerating this shift. Scott notes the trend:
Unilever has a $156 billion market cap spread over 171,000 middle-class households. Intel has a $165 billion market cap and employs 107,000 people. Compare that to Facebook, which has a $448 billion market cap and 17,000 employees.
During a recent plant closing, an HR colleague ominously joked that she was laying off so many HR generalists that, with the next reorganization, she’d be the only one left to lay herself off.
There may be a higher-order communications and change-management task than we’ve known before, one that involves helping people manage through the complete redefinition of their business, work, and life expectations. In that case, larger companies would do well to fund this effort lest they been seen as hiding the plain truth from their own people.
Honestly not trying to create dystopian panic here. But even if Scott’s analysis is only partially correct, we should all take some time to breathe, get woke, and actively devise the standards and principles of the brave new world. You can comprehend this, you can participate in it. More than ever, hope is not a plan.
How is your company helping people to understand their opportunities in the new world of work?