The Nature of Competition is Changing

Mark Gay

I have spent a few decades reporting on people and the integrated world economy. I am convinced that western governments in particular made a big mistake trying to return their economies to the status quo prior to 2007.

It reminds me of a joke by the late satirist Peter Cook: "I have learned from my mistakes, and I am sure I can repeat them exactly."

As Peka Viljakainen tells me in this edition, there is nothing more stupid than to hide a problem that leads to a repetition. It is always time to do things differently.

Even a crowded market has opportunities for new entrants to do something different. Coub is a Russian editing and sharing service that's found a niche for 10-second videos. Even though we live in a visual culture, we don't make enough use of images as a communication tool — as anyone who browses a corporate web site will know.

Crowded, too, is the market for business schools. Yet the Moscow School of Management Skolkovo this autumn is celebrating its 8th anniversary with an effort to imagine the jobs of the future. And not just to imagine them, but to encourage students and young business people to develop them.

Established companies have much to learn from the techniques of the creative industries. Many companies are starting to outsource production. Former manufacturers are becoming designers, brand developers and idea factories.

Consumer product manufacturers can no longer simply push their product onto the shelves but have to engage with the people who have the power to recommend their brand from behind the bar or counter.

Markets are not just competitive. The nature of competition is changing, along with the skills required of sales people and brand managers.

Employees can find the tools to keep their skills up to date not only in conventional corporate training but also in centralized databases that provide personal development programs.

Executive educators are working with corporate universities and consultants to help managers shed their fears and discover their communication and leadership skills. Even horses and jazz musicians play their part.

Recruiters confirm that specialist skills remain in demand, even in a volatile market. Banking, energy, product and brand management, finance, purchasing and accounting and IT need people who can cope with change.  

Instability is here to stay, for now. Slowing growth in Russia and its key markets, the economic tensions resulting from the unresolved legacy of the global financial crisis, and the impact on currency and stock markets will challenge us all for some time to come.

Yet more than half of the Fortune 500 companies were founded during a recession or a bear market. And there's even more good news for contrarians.

Jobs created by startups are no more vulnerable than jobs offered by big companies; you are less likely to lose a job with a startup than through a downturn in the economy as a whole. That nugget comes from the Kauffman Foundation.

It's a good time to start a business!