The death of the 20th Century organisation


20th Century organisations are increasingly being usurped and out manoeuvered by more agile, more successful 21st Century Millennial organisations that operate, scale and run in entirely new ways.


You could be forgiven for thinking that many of today’s new Millennial organisations aren’t really businesses at all and that under the skin they’re all just cleverly branded platforms.

Uber, the world’s largest Taxi company doesn’t own any vehicles, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube three of the world’s most popular media sites don’t create any content, Alibaba the world’s most valuable retailer has no inventory and Airbnb the world’s largest accommodation provider doesn’t own any real estate.


You know Joy

If I asked you to recite Joys Law to me I’d wager you wouldn’t know what I was talking about but at the same time I’d wager you’d recognize it if I recited it to you.

Joys Law is a management principle first proposed by Bill Joy of Sun Microsystems in 1994 that postulates that most of the world’s smartest people don’t work for you, they work for someone else.

However, while many organisations know that the people who could help them create the next blockbuster or break the next market sit outside their walls they also know that unless they can find and hire them then that IQ will remain tantalizingly out of reach.


Six degrees is now four

The growth of the internet changed all that. It shrank the distance between us all and made it easier than ever before for companies and individuals to reach out and collaborate with each other for each other’s benefit. Suddenly IQ that had previously been inaccessible was at your walls and organisations needed to find a way to harness it, nurture it and turn it into revenue and in a world where digital is the new King the Platform was born.

Just thirty years ago the world was a very different place. The largest corporations were all powerful and the inhabitants of these castles were protected from the advances of Entrepreneurs by policy, burly security personnel at the doors and receptionists at the switchboards while their markets were protected by IP and high barriers to entry.

Walls that were considered impregnable are now porous with every screen providing people outside the walls with new opportunities to engage in new ways and market boundaries that were once clearly defined are now fading as multi sided competitors manage to move into and exploit new  markets with increasing speed and ease.


The 20th Century Corporation is dead

Futurist keynote, Oxford: The Future of Disruption, University of Oxford

To the average observer it’s still hard to see how anything could usurp or upend any of the world’s largest corporations but today every single one of them from Boeing, GM and IBM to AT&T, Citi and Sears are having to pivot their businesses and find new ways to adapt to the increasing amount of disruption undermining their businesses.

These are the organisations that had the capital and the reach to hire the world’s best and brightest people but despite that they’re still struggling to compete because no matter how much money you have you’ll never be able to hire everyone and it’s an advantage the new breed of Millennials are counting on and exploiting.

While their older rivals were sticking with business as usual Industry 3.0 Business Operating Models these Millennials were busy designing a distinctly new style of 21st Century Industry 4.0 Business Operating Model that harnessed the power of the network – developing pure or hybrid platform plays that encouraged people outside their walls to work with them for everyone’s advantage.

There were other benefits though their Platforms created communities and the communities became customers and soon these customers were not only buying the Millennials products and services they were helping ideate, hack, design and build the next and so the cycle continued propelling staggering revenue growth that allowed them to disrupt entire industries and usurp the incumbents in years rather than decades.


A blessing of Unicorns

Today over 180 Unicorns, a Venture Capitalist term for a start up that reaches a billion dollar valuation within a few years of opening its doors have disrupted every industry and created new markets worth over $1.5 Trillion. The genie is out of the bottle and the pace of disruption is accelerating exponentially.



The future belongs to those organisations at the center of the network. Platforms have already transformed the way the world connects and does business. They can give your organisation unparalleled access to the untapped IQ of not millions but billions of people, help broaden and deepen your organisations connections with the outside world and even better they’re hackable.

The 20th Century Corporation is dead and your organisation must learn and adapt or perish. Your journey to reinvent your organisation using new 21st Century principles will be difficult but with a clear vision and strong leadership you’ll find that you still have time to survive and that will be the topic of one of my future articles. Stay tuned for “Industry 4.0”.

About author

Matthew Griffin

Matthew Griffin, described as “The Adviser behind the Advisers” and a “Young Kurzweil,” is the founder and CEO of the World Futures Forum and the 311 Institute, a global Futures and Deep Futures consultancy working between the dates of 2020 to 2070, and is an award winning futurist, and author of “Codex of the Future” series. Regularly featured in the global media, including AP, BBC, Bloomberg, CNBC, Discovery, RT, Viacom, and WIRED, Matthew’s ability to identify, track, and explain the impacts of hundreds of revolutionary emerging technologies on global culture, industry and society, is unparalleled. Recognised for the past six years as one of the world’s foremost futurists, innovation and strategy experts Matthew is an international speaker who helps governments, investors, multi-nationals and regulators around the world envision, build and lead an inclusive, sustainable future. A rare talent Matthew’s recent work includes mentoring Lunar XPrize teams, re-envisioning global education and training with the G20, and helping the world’s largest organisations envision and ideate the future of their products and services, industries, and countries. Matthew's clients include three Prime Ministers and several governments, including the G7, Accenture, Aon, Bain & Co, BCG, Credit Suisse, Dell EMC, Dentons, Deloitte, E&Y, GEMS, Huawei, JPMorgan Chase, KPMG, Lego, McKinsey, PWC, Qualcomm, SAP, Samsung, Sopra Steria, T-Mobile, and many more.

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