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People-Self Realization in New Forms of Enterprise

People-Self Realization in New Forms of Enterprise

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Published by Femi Beecroft
An examination of the role and importance of individuals in enterprise, despite the changing face of business in the 21st century.
An examination of the role and importance of individuals in enterprise, despite the changing face of business in the 21st century.

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Published by: Femi Beecroft on Nov 16, 2010
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11/02/2011

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PEOPLE-SELF REALIZATION IN NEW FORMS OF ENTERPRISE
 
An examination of the role and importance of individuals in enterprise, despite the changing face of  business in the 21
st
century.
In his famous treatise,
The Wealth of Nations
, Adam Smith wrote that “
the propensity totruck, barter, and exchange one thing for another 
” is an intrinsic characteristic of humannature. In recent times, this propensity to trade has become the major determinant of thekind of relationship existing between not only peoples, but also nations. New alliancessuch as the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and the EuropeanUnion (EU) threaten to monopolise the direction of trade among individuals and nations.The recent drama in which the European aeronautic company, Airbus, overtook itsAmerican counterpart, Boeing, after years of manipulations by the EU is proof of the power such alliances now wield over us. Also battling for this position (or perhaps theycomplement each other) are the series of multinational corporations (MNCs) now dottingthe horizon. In future years, these corporations might dictate to us how we sleep, eat anddress. The spectre of these organizations are not false and their impact on nations and people could be disastrous: Nigeria’s crushing debt of about $35 billion dollars to theParis and London clubs and the way it has shaped our national and economic policies is acase in point. Gone are the days of the entrepreneur. Gone are the days when a man couldsingle-handedly decide what to produce and what to trade and barter. We seem to have become mere pawns of these conglomerates and regional powers. At least, this seems to be the prevailing attitude of the times.But is it entirely true, that in the equations of 21
st
century enterprises, in the age of globalization and free trade, that the human factor is so insignificant? Careful studies of  past and recent trends indicate otherwise. Like old times, the world still belongs toindividuals who venture out with the strength of their convictions.In ancient times, commerce was restricted mainly to local markets. What peopleneither grew nor gathered themselves, they obtained through trade. But as human wantsand needs grew, commerce began to traverse the boundaries of local markets. Individualswho needed new markets in which to offer their products, and so escape suffocation by‘mini-cartels’ pioneered this move which soon translated into long distance commerce.
 
As merchants began to form associations, long-distance trade became safer. Thedevelopment of ocean-going vessels and the subsequent cost reduction in transportationin the 15
th
and 16
th
centuries led to a rapid expansion of international trade. This gave birth to new forms of commercial organizations. Legal partnerships were born out of informal associations. Shareholding broke down social barriers and made possibleinternational trade for small traders.In the 18th century, the industrial revolution was born. The revolution has beenrightly attributed to the development of steam power and other inventions. But more thantechnology or resources were involved: enterprise was required. While society gained interms of creation of wealth and the production of jobs (between 1750 and 1914, worldtrade increased in value fivefold), it was a few enterprising individuals that reaped mostof the gain. Unfortunately, while the American and European countries which were richin human resource developed and became trade partners, regions such as Africa, rich onlyin natural resources, became heavily dependent on foreign markets.This same trend can be seen in the post-war eras of the 20th century. Due toefforts by organisations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), exports more thandoubled in volume and increased eight times in value between 1954 and 1974, but not allcountries shared equally in this growth. Exports from the industrialized nations of NorthAmerica and Western Europe expanded rapidly, while exports from developing countriesfell behind. Again the determining factor in the balance of trade of trade was obvious: the presence or absence of human capital.International trade in many products is dominated by a few private companies – five car companies control 54% of world automobile production. These powerfulcompanies are all concentrated in the northern hemisphere where literacy levels are veryhigh. But more important, they are mostly founded by people who in the face of stiff opposition, had strange ideas of great proportions, mobilised capital to power their dreams, and forged ahead. Akio Morita and Masaru Ibuka would found Sony and becomeworld leaders in electronics, in spite of companies such as Toshiba and TexasInstruments, from humble beginnings as manufacturers of cooking stoves; Micron, a newcompany with small capital outlay, would breakthrough in 64K DRAMS after the failureof giant companies and billions in research funding. All these point to one single fact as
 
illustrated by George Gilder in
The Spirit of Enterprise
;
“…the crucial capital of industryis not money or machinery, but mind and spirit…”
 Now in the 21
st
century, though the face of enterprise has changed, the challengesand opportunities facing us are still the same. Globalization and free trade have led tooutsourcing and offshoring and these are progressing on a massive scale. By the late1990s, 60,000 Transnational Corporations with over 500,000 foreign affiliates accountedfor about 25% of global output. The benefits of globalisation are numerous: the percentage of people in developing countries living below $1 per day has halved intwenty years; life expectancy has almost doubled in the developing world since WWII;child mortality has decreased in every developing region of the world; Income inequalityfor the world as a whole is diminishing; global literacy increased from 52% to 81% between 1950 and 1999. There are similar trends for electric power, cars, radios, andtelephones per capita as well as access to clean water.Again the key words are knowledge and entrepreneurship – the human resources – and this explains why Africa, according to the United Nations Environment Programme(UNEP), is the only region in the world where poverty is expected to increase in the 21stcentury. Individuals would always play significant roles in new enterprises: individualvision would always prevail over the corporate leviathan. The question is
“who will choose to be relevant?”
Bill Gates, a young dropout who saw the future, built a companythat has surpassed IBM, the goliath of the computer industry, and is now the richest manon earth. But it takes first of all a realization of the power of the human resource.The rise of the techno-capitalists has also brought about a rush of change andunprecedented wealth. They hope to turn workers into free agents and, via the Web, giveeveryone the same access to information and markets. The new Internet, they say, willend the cultural isolation of poor countries and poor people. Information andcommunication technology has placed at our disposal the tools needed to competefavourably with the largest corporations. No longer does an entrepreneur need to travel athousand miles at great cost to trade; a phone-call will do. The internet will provide himwhatever information he needs and allow him to send information to a partner half-wayaround the globe in an instant. Markets are migrating to cyberspace or some combination

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