The brief – launched in Brussels yesterday (6 October) by the Lisbon Council – claims that the 20th century logic that required large foreign talent pools to achieve a global reach has been ‘stood on its head’ and larger companies are now bogged down in bureaucracy and overstaffing, with slow decision-making processes.
“The result is that large companies are under pressure to deliver more with less – a fact which may well account for the jobless economic recovery we have seen in 2010 and 2011,” the brief says, claiming such large companies will be incapable of delivering the jobs that politicians hope for.
By contrast, it claims that SMEs which utilise the internet and new business platforms can enter the global markets with a minimum of bureaucracy and overheads.
Local motors is an example of a ‘micro-multinational’
Launching the brief, co-author Anthony Williams, the senior fellow of the Lisbon Council, said that Local Motors, an Arizona-based car company which uses an on-line design team of 12,000 freelance designers from 121 countries, is a good example of such a company.
Unlike larger rivals it requires no manufacturing premises or headquarters, instead relying on a network of micro-factories to produce custom-built, off-road vehicles.
Williams said that SMEs are now able to access a vast secondary market for global business services: from cloud computing, mobile-to-mobile connections, online sales and advertising platforms, and a growing army of freelance workers.
In Europe, 32.6 million people – 15% of all workers – are classified as self-employed, of whom 23 million are freelancers, meaning that they work for or in one-person companies. The brief claims this represents an unprecedented pool of talent that can be deployed by micro-multinationals.
New ‘3-d’ printing will change the world
New technology in the pipeline will have a massive impact on this development, the report says, pointing to Chinese ‘three-dimensional printing’, a new type of copying process that can replicate goods.
The brief says: “Yesterday’s factory is evolving into a global community of custom design and personal fabrication services that open up manufacturing to just about anyone with some ingenuity and a good idea.”
Ad-hoc teams coming together and using technology to deliver specialised tasks will become the norm for business, the report predicts, laying waste to a swathe of big business models.
Ann Mettler, the executive director and co-founder of the Lisbon Council, another co-author, said that the implications of the brief for policymakers were huge.
The report makes eight policy recommendations including hastening the move to a digital economy, and creating services and incentive structures designed to foster freelancers.