Students entering the business world today will see unprecedented change over the next 40 years. To succeed, they will need the attributes of continuous learning – good thinking skills, adaptability and openness to new ideas.
The most significant force of change in our world is demographics. Many developing countries have young and growing populations, whereas many developed countries have aging, stabilized populations. And more alarmingly, 38 percent of all people will live in two countries – China and India.
These changes in population will put immense pressure on the core physical resources of development. For instance, agriculture is the largest user of water. With world food demand doubling during the next 40 years, there will be great pressure on water resources. Energy for production and transportation will similarly become more precious. Countries like China, with nearly one-quarter of the world’s population but less than 10 percent of the world’s arable land, will face particularly stark choices.
Pressures of scarcity in the face of rising demand, especially in the developing world, will mean two things. First, old self-sufficiency strategies will erode for economic and environmental reasons. And trade in land-intensive agricultural products such as grains, oilseeds and livestock products will expand to meet rising demand in environmentally sustainable ways.
Second, technology will be needed to stretch scarce resources, or to replace them whenever possible. Water can be used more efficiently and reused more widely. Good cropland can be farmed more intensively without environmental harm through emerging precision agriculture techniques.
Emerging technologies also show great promise:• Biotechnology will play an increasingly important role. Genetically enhanced seeds that reduce pesticide and herbicide usage and soil tillage already are a reality. These technologies need to be extended to the staple crops used in developing countries. In addition, new applications of bio-technology will draw health and diet closer together to enrich basic foods and to combat genetic and lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.• Rising energy usage and concerns about climate change will create demand for renewable technologies to replace petroleum as a fuel and as a feedstock for plastics. • Lastly, communications technologies will shrink our planet and make it feel like we are all "neighbors.” We will be more dependent on cooperation around the globe.
These will be radical transformations. Those in a position to lead will need to be open to change and have the ability to direct others while facing great uncertainty. They also must be familiar with the possibilities that new technologies will create and have the imagination to bring them to reality. Valuing differences will be critical. A more interdependent world requires both flexibility and social acumen to harness new sources of creativity. And finally, leaders must possess a firm ethical compass to guide them through difficult choices.
The University of St. Thomas can offer these attributes. It can teach leaders how to create a shared mindset across an organization. It can reinforce behaviors that support inclusiveness, collaboration and creative diversity. St. Thomas has strengths in a variety of technologies important to our future. And most importantly, it promotes the core values that leaders need to make responsible decisions.