Benjamin Disraeli once said, “There are three types of lies – lies, damn lies, and statistics”. Of course we know that statistics can be used to support multiple sides of an argument and as Mark Twain once observed, “Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable”. However here are seven statistics that ought to challenge you in both your leadership thinking and practice. George Bernard Shaw wrote that, “It is the mark of a truly intelligent person to be moved by statistics”. So, should these ‘move’ you in any way, well consider yourself on the bight side – by Mr Shaw’s standard anyway!
1. Universities in China issue about 160 000 advanced degrees every year. This is four times more than in the United States
2. In the next 10 years, an unprecedented 1.2 billion young people will reach employable age and of this, 90% will be located in developing and emerging markets. Yet, over the past 20 years, the youth employment-to-population ratio has dropped 10% globally
3. In 2008, 50% of the world’s population lived in cities; this will rise to 57% by 2025. Of the 27 ‘mega-cities’ in 2025, all but one (New York) will be located in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
4. By the year 2025, 26 countries will have a life expectancy at birth of above 80 years. It will be highest in Iceland, Italy, Japan and Sweden (82 years) followed by Australia, Canada, France, Greece, Netherlands, Singapore, Spain and Switzerland (81 years). The first person to live to 150 has already been born.
5. Every day 2.5 quintillion (1×10 x18) bytes of data are produced. In the past two years, 90% of the world’s data has been created.
6. Mobile users will overtake desktop users by 2014
7. 2 billion people don’t have a bank account but do have a mobile phone. In one African country (Kenya) there are more mobile devices than there are light bulbs.
Of course there is no end to spouting statistics be that on global demographics, technology, the economy or the environment. Looking at (any) statistic in isolation can prove misleading and seeing the connection – the pattern or trajectory, is important in any form of interpretation. Given the above ‘picture’ here would be some aspects you should consider in exercising your leadership:
• Your future ‘talent pool’ will be found in emerging markets; it will be plentiful, competitive and eager to secure work.
• The global economic centre will shift to the East. This will in turn impact on traditional business models, organisational design, best practice, strategy, leadership, customer service and a host of related topics. Conventional wisdom in these areas will be turned on its head.
• Big data and the implications of intelligent software that ‘connects the dots’ will significantly shape the future – including our route to market, customer expectations, access to information and strategy / policies governing these areas. Understanding and using ‘social media’ is simply not optional at both a personal and organisational level.
• Mobile connectedness will impact on how we organise our work, how we do the work and what work we do. This will in turn lead to collapsing, transforming or creating business models.
These are exciting (and challenging) times in which to be leading. If you are the kind of leader who spends time on ‘the balcony’ – looking at the bigger picture, the future will be less of a disruptive surprise. Leaders will need to be learners and smart leaders know the truth embedded in the Levi slogan, ‘The future is leaving – go forth’.
When it comes to the uncertain future nobody of course ‘really knows’ – unless of course you are a politician which means that you are simply confused, as Donald Rumsfeld so aptly demonstrates through his following words: “Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns- the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”
I would suggest that less time trying to work out what Rumsfeld was saying and more time determined to ‘learn from the future’ would be time well spent! Vin Scully said that, “Statistics are used much like a drunk uses a lamppost: for support, not illumination”. I hope your (leadership) response to the quoted statistics prove him wrong!
Statistical Source: The quoted statistics have been taken from a variety of sources including McKinsey, TomorrowToday, the Internet, World Economic Forum, IPCC and Duke CE.