Don't sell the future for short-term profit

Medeja Loncar4

When the Managers' Association of Slovenia was established, I was just starting my professional career. What an exciting period for Slovenia – we replaced the system and the state, and changed society and corporate governance, gaining new knowledge.

Although I entered the managerial waters at a relatively young age and was also a part of these changes as a leader, I have had the feeling in the last few years that we are yet to experience the most interesting period. This is probably because I have spent the last 20 years working in technology companies and observing at close range the transformation of various industries under the influence of technological development. The future marked by new technologies, intensive expansion of artificial intelligence and blending of the virtual and real world, will also demand from us, Slovenian managers, much more than resourcefulness, hard work, flexibility and breakthrough of individual cases. What is the responsibility of today's leaders, and how to lead Slovenian companies and their employees through changes in the circumstances of uncertainty and great complexity?

Tomorrow belongs to those who are collaborative, fast and ethical

Perhaps we could also model ourselves on cases from the past. Werner von Siemens, who established the company I work in more than 170 years ago, put his idea of sustainable business into words wonderfully: "I will not sell the future for a short-term profit." These words are more important today than ever. While climate challenges force us to think about alternatives and green solutions for industry, transport, energy and health, the future is reserved not only for the most technologically advanced companies, but also for those who are open enough to various forms of collaboration, fast enough in the implementation of new technologies and ethical in their operations.

It has been estimated that by 2030 at least 375 million people around the world will need to learn a new profession. Projections by leading companies in research unanimously confirm that it will be possible to automate more than half of the tasks in companies, including in the fields of law, tourism, commerce, banking, healthcare ... In the future, we will cooperate with robots, as artificial intelligence, which makes our work easier, is already present in our processes. And it brings new challenges. Managers will need to create working conditions in which employees will be able to absorb and implement new technologies; current structures and processes will need to be changed thoroughly. Digitalisation, together with the fact that we operate on global markets, as well as the demographic changes, strongly affects companies. Agility, creativity, innovativeness, generational transformations, collective management, team work, autonomy … All of the above will demand a transformation of leadership. What inspires me with optimism is that it is expected that the latter will need to become more democratic and humane.

What will also need to become such are politics and the state, which will consider all ethical aspects of development and ensure the safety and privacy of individuals and encourage their diverse representation in society.

Together we are strong and responsible enough

How to get there? Managers are responsible for their own development, learning and understanding of the world around us. Being open and connecting with others—individuals, companies and institutions—is a must. Exchange of experience and cases of good practice are too. This is why I believe in the mission of the Managers' Association of Slovenia, because being in a network is the only way to be strong and responsible enough not only to ensure the long-term development of our own working environment, but also to be able to cope with the upcoming social challenges. In the ever-changing world we also must be a bulwark against potential dangers brought by the world of tomorrow.

Medeja Lončar, vice-president of the Managers' Association of Slovenia, director of Siemens Slovenija and CEO of Siemens Hrvatska