Inter Business — Framework for the fourth industrial revolution

By Michelle Sandberg & Johanna Hallin

We are standing at a crossroads, where we can either choose to cling on to our current systems and structures (that obviously isn’t working too well anymore) — or we can choose to embrace the opportunity to change and reshape our relationship to the world, each other and our lives. The fourth industrial revolution, as some call it, highlights the need to focus on human abilities in an interdependent world.

Previous industrial revolutions have enabled us to reform and change our societies drastically through steam, electricity, and later digitalization. The fourth industrial revolution is about merging. It’s about bringing together the digital world with the physical and biological world, and use our ability to innovate and be creative with the intent of creating a safe, healthy and just world.

It’s about bringing together the digital world with the physical and biological world, and use our ability to innovate and be creative with the intent of creating a safe, healthy and just world.

The discussion about a new and upcoming paradigm shift in the form of a fourth industrial revolution was first brought to light by the World Economic Forum. WEF states that this is something different than our previous industrial revolutions. According to Klaus Schwab, WEF Founder and Executive Chairman, the fourth industrial revolution have the possibility to fundamentally challenge the whole concept of what it means to be human.

When talking about the fourth industrial revolution, IOT (internet of things) and VR (virtual reality) often comes up. New technologies like these are making new possibilities endless for industries and how we interact as humans. But the fourth industrial revolution isn’t all about the rise of machines. It’s about us. It’s about us as people and our empowerment.

And we are truly living in an exciting time — but also a stressful time. We face urgent challenges that require drastic measures that moves away from siloed efforts and acknowledges our interconnectedness. As UN’s former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon put it:

“Saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty, advancing economic growth… these are one and the same fight. We must connect the dots between climate change, water scarcity, energy shortages, global health, food security and women’s empowerment. Solutions to one problem must be solutions for all”

Ban Ki-moon also stresses that a sustainable development must be a development that is equitable and serves all. In other words, the time where the problems are someone else is long gone.

And globalization makes this apparent. The decisions that we make here have impact — what we choose to do and consume affect others. And this we all know. What isn’t as apparent is that we can actually can do something about it.

“Every human has four endowments — self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom… The power to choose, to respond, to change,” says Stephen Covey, author of 7 habits of highly effective people

And frankly, we no longer have a choice. We need to choose to respond and change, and we need to do it now. But to be able to do this, we need frameworks to support a large-scale system and value-shift. And one way to do this is by changing the way we do business. Companies have the possibility to make great impact through their business — which they already do, but today they do so mostly in a negative way, affecting both people and planet.

Businesses have both means and capacity to make this large-scale shift that we so badly need. And this is where Inter Business comes in. Inter Business provides a framework for businesses that focuses on the skills of holistic sustainability, purpose, empathy, system approach and transformation, that acknowledges the integration and interconnectedness of all.

And these skills are not to be taken lightly. Traditionally, businesses have solely been focusing on the so called vocational skills, and undermining interpersonal skills like empathy. Skills like this are often called “soft skills”, but like Seth Godin says, we should acknowledge them for what they really are — real skills.

“Just because they’re difficult to measure doesn’t mean we can’t improve them, can’t practice them, can’t change. Of course we can. Let’s call them real skills, not soft,” says Seth Godin

And it’s not our vocational skills that will change the current the structures and save our world from ourselves. It’s the real skills. The skills that makes us human and drives action.

The fourth industrial revolution is ultimately about maximizing human well-being. And if we are to create a fair and just world built on equality we need the practice these real skills. I mean, how are we supposed to change anything without empathy and concern for others? How are we supposed to empower ourselves if we can’t see the system that we are all a part of?

The fourth industrial revolution creates new possibilities — but also challenges, raising questions about safety and how human connection and relationships will look in the future. And it’s up to us to ensure that the development goes in the right direction in a fair and responsible way. After all, new technologies are just inventions and tools created by and for humans.


The Inter Business Initiative

The Inter Business Initiative is a knowledge lab, an ongoing collision of thought — developing framework towards holistic value creation where business can act as change agents in a world where sustainability, responsibility, agency are business as usual.

We are a non-profit, founded by Johanna Hallin and engaging a tribe of individuals and businesses. Together we have identified the need for independent and iterative examinations of how we make the shift, what it means and what it entails.

We arrange think tanks, discussion, seminars. We publish insights and articles, sprung from discussions and dialogue. We produce research papers, reports and books. All our activities aim at challenging and strengthening Inter Business, which provides framework for business strategy to shift perspective.