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University of Massachusetts Amherst

Family Business Center

What Kind of Business will You have in 30 Years -And Who will Be Running It?

by Shel Horowitz

Is this what the world looks like in 2025? "Your satellite-controlled cars do not require drivers. A solar power station in space supplies electricity. The latest news is projected on the wall. You use your eye scan to use a [public] laptop—what business are you in today?"

This was the two-sided challenge Ravi Kulkarni, of CoachRavi.com, threw out to the family Business Center's September gathering at the Clarion Hotel: how can your business anticipate—and be ready for—rapidly changing conditions, and who should be at the helm?

A successful succession strategy recognizes the need to combine younger visionary dreamers—sometimes called the "lunatic fringe"—and Boomer-generation practical managers who can turn those sweeping visions into systematized, replicable products and processes.

For those entering today's workforce, the mindset is different, formed as it was by technologies already adapted so thoroughly as to be organic. "My daughter sends me email upstairs from downstairs; that’s how she communicates." And from people steeped in that milieu, the quantum thought leaps needed to prepare for the future can more easily arise—but they may not have a clue about putting them into practice.

And getting those radically different perspectives—the visionary and the manager—to harmonize requires an adjustment. But despite its inherent stresses, collaborative leadership is key to fusing those two very different personalities.
"When you put them in one room, leadership is going to be tested. No one has put these people together. But you still need a task team" to integrate marketing, sales, and manufacturing. "You will need collaborative leadership for boundary-less management. In a traditional organization, knowledge transfer does not take place; people are protecting their turf. In collaborative leadership, we all work together. Everyone may not benefit equally, but together we’ll change the size of the pie."

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