PUBLISHED ON: 30/04/2019
AUTHOR: Peter Hay, Senior content strategist
In 2016, tech entrepreneur and co-founder of AOL Steve Case published his best-seller: The Third Wave: an entrepreneur’s vision of the future. In the book, Case bobs, dips and flourishes through personal anecdotes, professional experiences and the future of technology, as he sees it.
The Third Wave proposes a sea change where the Internet of Things becomes the Internet of Everything; a world where connecting online is as ubiquitous and essential as plugging into electricity. But more than that Case adds: ‘Much Third Wave innovation will come from impact entrepreneurs focused on building ‘profit plus purpose’ companies that have measurable impact in the world.’
Of course, as is so often the case, the future is now. Whilst Millennials and their successors, the iGen, begin to dominate the workforce, we also see their skills but, more importantly, their attitudes and beliefs begin to take hold: the ‘purpose’ that Case points to is one borne of social conscience and organisations serious about survival cannot ignore it.
In 2017, Deloitte research found that 65 per cent of millennials believed businesses behave ethically and 62 per cent that business leaders were committed to helping society. Fast-forward a year, to 2018, and only 48 per cent see organisations operating ethically, whilst 47 per cent don’t believe in their business leaders’ social consciences. That’s quite a change and one that will take its toll on organisations, irrespective of size.
According to a recent study by Cone Communications, 94 per cent of Generation Z and 87 per cent of millennials believe companies have an obligation to address social and environmental issues. Furthermore, their conviction is such that they would be willing to take a 10-20 per cent pay cut, where they have the opportunity to work on something they care about.
These generations place high value on social change. It is no longer enough for brands to equivocate value with revenue as the sole driver and metric for success. And this doesn’t just sit with employees. According to the same study, 87 per cent of customers said they would be willing to buy a product or service based on a company’s advocacy concerning a social matter, whilst 78 per cent went as far as to say they would decline to do business with an organisation that held views and supported issues that conflicted with their beliefs. To put it bluntly, if you don’t find your brand’s social conscience it will not only prevent you from attracting talent, it will also impact your bottom-line
And the Third Wave doesn’t stop within organisations. In London, for example, a series of coworking spaces have recently been created for social entrepreneurs. Established by business leaders and senior figures from the media and human rights sectors, The Conduit is a club designed for individuals passionate about driving social change. Arboretum, on the other hand, takes a more focussed approach and invites green-minded entrepreneurs to become members. The club serves as a space for meeting and co-working: ‘The difference here is we are trying to build a community of people who want to make a difference, people who want to make a social impact’, explained hospitality entrepreneur and founder Ronald Ndoro.
The Third Wave brings with it a tsunami of opportunity and, like all great, natural phenomena, it won’t be stopped. Its momentum comes from those generations who are driven to create something new; not only in redirecting the technological growth but also refashioning the existing culture. As Case wrote: ‘The Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stone. It ended because we invented something better.’