Millennials admire Elon Musk but worry about the speed of digital change

A new global study has revealed the fears of the next generation of future business leaders.

Paypal, Tesla and SpaceX entrepreneur Elon Musk at Ted2013

Source: Elon Musk, serial entrepreneur, at TED2013: The Young, The Wise, The Undiscovered. Wednesday, February 27, 2013, Long Beach, CA. Photo: James Duncan Davidson via Creative Commons creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/

A new global study of CEMS Masters in International Management graduates has revealed that these millennials are concerned about the rapid rate of technological and digital advancement, and how how these developments will impact their future careers.  Respondents also clearly saw the innovative and positive mastery of technology as a key business driver and the mark of a successful business leader. Almost a quarter (24%) considered Tesla/SpaceX Founder Elon Musk as the world’s most effective business leader, followed by Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson (10%).

CEMS Survey Results

These millennials feel that the rapid rate of technological and digital advancement will be the biggest challenge they face as future business leaders - ahead of political, economic and environmental concerns. The breakdown of the challenges:
  • Rapid rate of technological and digital change and advancement - 68%
  • Shifts in world economic and political powers – 60%
  • Environmental challenges such as global warming and energy consumption - 59%
The majority of those who participated in the study were:
  • between 24 and 27 years of age
  • from 32 countries around the world
  • with 78% now employed by multinational companies.
Florian Smeritschnig, who graduated from the CEMS programme in 2014 and subsequently secured a role with management consultancy McKinsey, said, 'The increasingly rapid rate of technological and digital advancement means that 21st century business leaders will need to reinvent their companies at much faster pace than their predecessors and innovate to stay ahead of the curve.' 'Changes in technology and new markets have the power to create completely new business and operating models.'  This could potentially improve the value proposition to the customer and/or reduce costs of the offering drastically. This also means that 'leaders will have to work even harder to keep up with competitors,' continued Smeritschnig.

Digital Disruption

Earlier in the year international management consultancy A.T. Kearney, a CEMS corporate partner, worked with CEMS students from the University of St Gallen on a business project looking at the impact of digital disruption on the future of retail.
Read more about the digital future:
Frederic Fernandez, senior manager of the consumer goods and retail practice at A.T. Kearney commented, 'These days digital enhancement is at the core of any business model. If everybody agrees that the digital revolution is changing the way we are doing business, very few leaders today understand fully the scale of this change. Leaders need to react quickly and constantly reinvent themselves as they often work far too slowly, with a piecemeal approach, losing ground to competitors and doing far too little too late. Every business needs to ask itself how it can innovate digitally at every stage of the chain. Can they become quicker? Can they target customers better? Can they target them with better products?''The Consumer and Retail industry will change more over the next 20 years than over the last 200 years. We have never lived in such exciting time. It is at times like these that we will recognize the true leaders and innovators,' Fernandez concluded.

Harnessing Rapid Technological Change

Roland Siegers, Executive Director of CEMS, said, 'It is clear that keeping up with the rate of digital advancement - for example automation, harnessing big data, emerging technologies and cyber security – will pose significant challenges for future leaders, including our own graduates, and will add a whole new layer of complexity as they try to stay ahead of competitors and innovate.''At the same time our graduates regard the most effective business leaders in the world to be technology innovators such as Elon Musk and Richard Branson,' Siegers continued. These are 'figures who are successful because they are able to harness rapid technological change and use it for social good, rather than seeing it as a hurdle.'Siegers explained the CEMS focus. 'At CEMS we believe that this is a unique period in world history, which requires exceptional leaders, who can overcome major political, economic and environmental challenges. The focus for our international education is to ensure that future leaders can use technological, economic and political change to their advantage, to lead effectively, and importantly look beyond profit maximisation towards creating long term value for an inter-connected society.'

More information about the CEMS Masters in International Management

CEMS was founded in 1988 to unite international-calibre professors from leading universities and business schools, multinational companies and non-profit organisations. They jointly design and deliver both theoretical knowledge and practical know-how through the CEMS Master’s in International Management.The CEMS network includes:As of 2016-2017 there are:
  • 1,217 current MIM students of 66 nationalities enrolled 
  • 12,000 alumni of 85 nationalities, working in 75 countries
Upon graduation, students’ careers take a truly international path in a great variety of sectors and in many cases within multinational companies:
  • 95% are employed or continuing their studies
  • 46% are living outside of their home country
  • 78% work for multinational companies