The Future of Driving Is Electric

15 Sep­tem­ber 2017 | Lead­ing with Fore­sense

Peter Valdes-Dape­na (@peterdrives) report­ed yes­ter­day that the end is com­ing for petrol-pow­ered ver­hi­cles. “A num­ber of coun­tries around the world are look­ing to move away from fuel-burn­ing auto­mo­biles. India, France, Britain and Nor­way all want to aban­don gas and diesel cars in favor of clean­er vehi­cles. Even in Ger­many, the coun­try that lit­er­al­ly invent­ed the inter­nal com­bus­tion car, there is talk among politi­cians about even­tu­al­ly doing away with them.”

The arti­cle, on CNN Tech [link], is (ahem!) elec­tri­fy­ing! It shows a num­ber of con­cept cars from the likes of Mer­cedes, Hon­da, Volk­swa­gen, and BMW — with a video to whet your appetite for what’s com­ing down the road. Of course, Valdes-Dape­na accu­rate­ly notes that no one is going to replace your gaso­line machine imme­di­ate­ly. He notes, “None of this means the rum­ble of pis­ton-pow­er will be gone overnight. Or even over the next decade. The tran­si­tion to elec­tric cars will take many years and will involve a slow tran­si­tion.”

Nonethe­less, I have been track­ing auto­mo­tive indus­try-chang­ing trends for some time:

… Tes­la has announced that the first mass-mar­ket Mod­el 3 is mov­ing toward a full-scale pro­duc­tion [link]

… Vol­vo has pledged that they will cease man­u­fac­tur­ing of com­bus­tion engine-only vehi­cles by 2019 [link]

… Sherisse Pham (@Sherisse) of CNN Mon­ey reports that “Chi­na wants to ban gas and diesel cars” com­plete­ly (date not set) [link]

… And, right now, Euro­pean car enthu­si­asts are hot about elec­tric cars. Writes Jonathan M. Gitlin (@drgitlin): “Elec­tric cars all the rage at Frank­furt Auto Show, but we can’t dri­ve them yet.” [link]

Moves such as these are like­ly to accel­er­ate the tran­si­tion of the entire indus­try away from inter­nal com­bus­tion and toward ful­ly elec­tric and hybrid vehi­cles. Ever heard of Amara’s Law? It goes like this: “We tend to over­es­ti­mate the effect of a tech­nol­o­gy in the short run and under­es­ti­mate the effect in the long run.” The source is Roy Ama­ra, past pres­i­dent of The Insti­tute for the Future [link].

Think­ing about this in terms of all those vehi­cles pow­ered by petrol, it seems to me that it is quite pos­si­ble that (as excit­ed as we may be) we can’t today ful­ly imag­ine what the world will be rid­ing on in 10 – 20 years time. I actu­al­ly show video clips of the 1960s car­toon series, “The Jet­sons”, to awake some audi­ences to the dis­tinct prob­a­bil­i­ty of a future far dif­fer­ent from what it is today [link]. And, yes, I quite grasp the irony of show­ing a video clip made almost six­ty years ago to demon­strate dra­mat­ic change in the future.

Car Plug 2The ques­tion I sub­mit to the world­wide auto­mo­tive indus­try is this: are you going to real­ize the irre­versible trends and con­vert the indus­try into one that pro­vides “smart trans­porta­tion”? I say that for a sim­ple rea­son. Think about the era of the stage­coach. How many of the com­pa­nies that made those coach­es became pio­neers in the field of petrol-pow­ered trans­porta­tion? The time to begin fore­sens­ing the shape of trans­porta­tion is at hand.

What Tes­la, Vol­vo, and sev­er­al oth­ers rep­re­sent are pow­er­ful exam­ples of what lead­ing with fore­sense looks like. (My third, quick-read­ing e-book is all about that [link to PDF].)

The notion of get­ting out in front of change and using it as a cat­a­lyst for reori­ent­ing, first, your com­pa­ny and, even­tu­al­ly, an entire indus­try may seem daunt­ing; but it is absolute­ly essen­tial to lead­er­ship. Being an actor in the shap­ing of a new order sets the stage for shap­ing things in a way that could fuel com­pet­i­tive advan­tage as well as progress.

The auto­mo­tive indus­try is not alone in being put on the spot by such trans­for­ma­tive futures, and it will indeed pose a for­mi­da­ble chal­lenge to count­less lead­ers in the com­ing weeks, months and years. That is why we at The Nextsens­ing Project feel such chal­lenges will define the near-term lead­er­ship con­text and why we believe get­ting to next rep­re­sents a big oppor­tu­ni­ty for many orga­ni­za­tions.

Trust Peter Druck­er on this: “The rel­e­vant ques­tion is not sim­ply what shall we do tomor­row, but rather what shall we do today in order to get ready for tomor­row.”

Joseph PistruiJoseph Pistrui (@nextsensing) is Pro­fes­sor of Entre­pre­neur­ial Man­age­ment at IE Busi­ness School in Madrid. He also leads the glob­al Nextsens­ing Project, which he found­ed in 2012.

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