As a Chicago-native currently involved on the Mayor's Technology Advisors Committee, the Governor's Technology Coalition, a participant in a Chicago PAC supporting the high-tech industry, and a sitting member on several Chicago area boards, Flip Filipowski was Chicago's "homeboy" keynote addressee.
Filipowski's 25 years of experience in the information technology industry has provided him with an interesting historical perspective on business. His analogy of human life-stage development was used as a framework for his business perspective in relation to the corporate evolutionary process. Just as individuals go through a variety of developmental stages so do corporations. As an adolescent tends to engage in high-risk behavior so to an organization in its early stages must engage in high-risk decision making in efforts to push beyond the boundaries imposed to get the job done. As a company matures it becomes increasingly conservative. However, investors in today's market hoping to continue a 20 to 40% return also know 7 of the 10 businesses they invest in will fail. They are primarily focusing on the new innovative companies spawned out of the information technology sector.
The old business model pulling highly-trained individuals into former traditional work environments is no longer appealing to the emerging workforce. Instead, they are interested in being attached to the direct value of the company. The entrepreneurial spirit dictating opportunity and growth for both investors and the information technology age's new rising stars, is phenomenal according to Filipowski. He expects much more money to be made in the future as new rising companies outshine today's current standard bearers. To substantiate this claim he noted the millions of people who had invested in Windows 2000. He certainly expects a similar or greater number of people to invest in new technology that could enhance the life span by a significant number of years.
So companies are born, mature, age and die. In fifteen years he projected few of the members present in today's audience would be able to recall Microsoft as the world's leading software company just as today only one person in the audience identified Cullinet Software as the leading software company in 1985. Sears was given as an example of a company in the final life-stage. As organizations grow, mature, and expand the life-stage cycle does command some sense of finality.
Continued growth of businesses in mid-life is analogous to parenting says Filipowski. In other words, mature companies need to provide guidance and the opportunity to develop an independent niche. The offspring in this case being spin-off companies. Maturing companies who are threatened by the success of these "spawned entities" will not survive. Instead, maturing companies need to be ok with the necessity of these new entities engaging in high-risk decision making to promote innovation and create opportunity for success. Filipowski offered Iridium as a recent example of a company that failed probably due to not taking risky stretches when the climate warranted it.
The new business climate is evolving and businesses able to evolve and develop within this new paradigm will succeed. Those unable to engage in high-risk and innovative boundary stretching are unlikely to survive. Older companies, such as the Tribune in Chicago, who can mature graciously while promoting innovation and flexibility and expanding their corporate view will continue to grow and prosper. As the news media developed into cable and the internet, so did the Tribune. Even though paper print may become extinct, the Tribune was offered as a mature company who will continue to prosper due to their willingness to stretch beyond the boundaries and support new business development.
Tomorrow's opening keynote, 'Shaping the Future of Handheld Computing' by Alan Kessler, President of Palm Computing.