Industry 4.0 and Its Impact on Business, Strategies for Companies

Dec 14, 2017 | English, Ideas for Strategy, Italy, News & Updates, Strategy, TheColumnist


7 min read

The talk presented by Dr Paolo Frizzi, Ph. D., Regional Director for Europe and Americas
 at Consulus on 7th November in Colombo

  • Presents the larger global context of the 4th Industrial Revolution and impact on business.
  • at the same time how businesses today are becoming extraordinary places where change can be developed and applied. 
  • From this point of advantage, business leaders can have a direct role to positively affect this economic shift, in a way, never before experienced in this scale.

The purpose of my presentation is to introduce the larger global context of the 4th Industrial Revolution and to further present what we learned at Consulus: that is, how businesses today are becoming extraordinary places where change can be developed and applied. From this point of advantage, business leaders can have a direct role to positively affect this economic shift, in a way, never before experienced in this scale.

We are living in a time of astonishing change, a defining era for humanity as a whole. The so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution is the culmination of more than two centuries of technological innovation – “the dissolution of the line between physical, digital and biological spheres”. A revolution without boundaries, neither of nation, race, culture or gender, “spreading across the world with incredible velocity”.

This is how Marc Benioff explains it: “By 2020, more people will have mobile phones than they have electricity or running water in their homes or villages. Cars are becoming intelligent robots on wheels. Factories are automating manufacturing, displacing tens of thousands of workers. Call centres are turning to AI-powered chatbots to manage customer interactions. We have already outsourced a lot of work to algorithms – managing financial portfolios, qualifying loan applications, reading MRIs, recommending products and optimizing travel routes. The human genome has become as readable and editable as a text document, transforming precision medicine”.



It is well known that the industry shift which we are experiencing is offering unprecedented opportunities and risks for humanity as a whole, either in politics, culture, society and of course business. Also, we can even argue that the scale and frequency with which the shift is spreading within industries and economies, is going to create such a high degree of difficulty for policy-makers and economic regulators such that trying to keep up with the rapid pace of change will be even much harder.


Two elements are complicating the global scenario.

The first element comes from the fact that the very “rule-based” international world order is going through a systemic disruption. The larger groups of international organizations born immediately after World War II with the purpose of regulating the international order, like the United Nations, are facing a profound crisis of scope and sense. They are indeed not in a position to address the new challenges the world is undergoing today, like they were in the past seven decades. The crisis affects organizations as well as countries. The so-called West, which led the triumph of liberalism and globalization during the second half of the XX Century, is not in a position to be the global guide of the international order anymore. Reading the political, social and economic turmoil, which are affecting the US as much as the EU, we can argue that the West is retreating from a position of global leadership it undertook for a long time. The second element, deeply connected with the first, comes from the supposed failure of globalization as a systemic way of providing progress and prosperity for the entire human community of nations, societies and cultures. This supposed failure can be understood as the main motivation for the western way of managing the global sphere to retreat, if not entirely disappear, leaving history entering in a new post-western and post-global age of uncertainty and disorder.
Following this narrative, if it is well known how globalization has been pushed by technological breakthroughs, historic jumps in transports and trades and an unprecedented global human mobility; never like in today’s times is the capacity of different regions and macro-regions of the planet to take the lead in the process toward a more sustainable and viable global market and global economy, which will define our shared future.



While the 4th Industrial Revolution is enabling extraordinary levels of innovation and efficiency, it is also not resolving, if not aggravating, the enlargement of the inequality gap. What Industry 4.0 concretely means to everyone is that robots are stealing more jobs than migrants; economic inequalities are growing faster and globally, and new and diverse markets are demanding for companies to change or lose influence and growth. The founder of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab has noted how “The Fourth Industrial Revolution can compromise humanity’s traditional sources of meaning – work, community, family, and identity – or it can lift humanity into a new collective and moral consciousness based on a sense of shared destiny. The choice is ours”.

We need to acknowledge how the new industry is a transformative revolution that goes beyond technology. Indeed, technological and digital breakthroughs are asking for new business models and organizational cultures, more integrated, unified and comprehensive.



At the end, Industry 4.0 is asking everyone to change, starting with organizations. What our experience in transforming companies at Consulus is informing us: 1) the process of change is all but easy, filled with challenges and anxieties; that 2) without change, many businesses are ill-equipped to survive the shift towards Industry 4.0, and that 3) transformative results need time to surface and for this reason change needs to be approached strategically.


I will touch 4 basic principles for change to be effective: 

1) Change from a position of advantage
Every business has a certain existing advantage. This has also been touched on by the Harvard Business Review: in order to positively handle uncertainty the competitive advantage of a company has to be methodically and precisely analyzed. A 360 business and organisation review and study is likely the most precise and accurate way to assess a company’s unique strength and to enhance its advantage with the kind of digital, design and organizational solutions required by Industry 4.0.

2) Change requires unity of purpose
If a transformation exercise is a strenuous process filled with anxieties – in order to maintain the will to change, the company must be certain of its purpose of change, and what this change means for its present and future role as a business. If change is always a matter of great effort – then identifying its purpose matters. It needs time to ensure that the will to succeed will not disappear as the change process will endure for a long period of time.

3) Change requires a new way of collaboration within the company
Industry 4.0 goes beyond technology and it demands a more integrative and better implemented collaboration, where fresh organisational principles and structures needed for this specific economic phase have the chance to facilitate unity of actions from diversity of ideas and identities. Is your company collaborative enough? Finding a positive and proactive answer to this question is even more crucial today. 

4) Change requires giving a new meaning to products and services
By now, is widely acknowledged, how much the approach of customers to products has changed. It is clear that Industry 4.0 is triggering an entire new reflection within many industries as well as products and services. While in the past the narrative was more about the relationship between quality or quantity, now it is more about meaning. What customers are asking: 1) for products and services to inspire meaning in the lives of people and 2) to be engaged in the process of collaboration and co-creation.

The fourth industrial revolution is a reality and companies are asked to fulfill their role as crucial actors, which can help policies and societies to address and hopefully resolve the challenges humanity is facing on many levels and in many regions of the planet.


About the speaker 

 Dr. Paolo Frizzi is the Regional Director at Consulus Europe and Americas 

A strategic thinker, he helps to guide the work and growth of Consulus in the western world. He is a member of Core Circle, the leadership team at Consulus Global and a member of the Culture Commission at Consulus which oversees the development of methodologies and training of Consulites globally.

He specialises in global dynamics with an emphasis on intercultural and inter-religious development shaping globalisation. He is an expert on insights in global trends especially the impact of Industry 4.0. A sought after global speaker whose one of the last presentations was at the European Union, he has spoken before global audiences in Rome, Edinburgh, London, Kiev, New York, Singapore and Jogjakarta.
At the academic level, he is also the Director of the Global Studies Center at Sophia University Institute, a trans disciplinary programme to develop professionals and leaders to be ready for a more disruptive world.



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