Chief executives are warned to prepare for cyber attacks and a US withdrawal from the world economy

A business-world under cyber attack, the US withdrawing from the world economy and employee behaviour controlled by implanted micro-chips are all possible scenarios for business in 2018, according to a study from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI).

The study identifies 17 possible scenarios facing organisations across the insurance sector in the next decade. It analyses current trends, past experience and the views of economists, an academic and business leaders to predict what the world of work will look like in 2018.

CMI said the study would be used to help business leaders in the sector understand what needs to be done, today, to prepare for tomorrow.

The findings imply that holograms, robots and ‘intelligent’ computers all have a role to play in the insurance sector’s future business landscape. However, chief executives in the sector will be more concerned by changes to current business models, trade blocs and the UK’s ability to compete on a global scale.

Some key predictions include:

- business markets: trade blocs, within and across markets, will experience more competition and conflict. According to the insurance sector executives surveyed, global corporations will exert more influence than governments (51 %) and surveillance of work will increase on all levels (93 %). The data also suggests that the marketplace will be heavily influenced by new players from Brazil, Russia, India and China

- supply and demand: business models will change their nature, becoming more open to external influences. Two-thirds of respondents in the sector (63 %) suggest customer participation in business decisions will increase. 60 % predict that environmental concerns and regulation will create products with longer lifecycles

- business structures: organisations will alter in character, reflecting changes in society. For example, 66 % in insurance believe ‘teams will be more multi-generational’, and 36 % say ‘increased numbers of senior women will have changed management styles’

“Looking ahead ten years, it is clear that the successful organisations will be those who can do more than embrace change – they will anticipate, identify and drive it.

Mary Chapman, chief executive, at the Chartered Management Institute

- 17 scenarios: predictions range from terrorists attacking the internet, bringing work to a halt, through to a world dominated by digitally controlled employees. With this in mind, the study calls for a focus on ‘intellectual property banks’ to balance requirements for openness with business protection and argues that ‘brain enhancement technology’ must be monitored to avoid misuse

- virtual reality: only a small proportion in the sector think that holograms (30 %), robots (23 %) or implanted bio-chips (4 %) will be used to drive business efficiency. However 74 % argue that ‘virtual businesses’ will be commonplace and 81 % say the nature of work in 2018 will lead to increased ‘virtual contact’

- projected skills need: organisations across the sector will still need many of the skills required today, but the ability to drive change will be prized. The research shows that 72 % believe project management skills will be necessary for all, with 64 % agreeing that ‘innovation and creativity will be key to most tasks’

- home is where the heart (of business) is: the study predicts that the ‘work needs’ of employees will change as they operate across wider geographical areas. 68 % of executives in the sector expect working from home will be commonplace to reduce the carbon footprint. 88 % suggest work-life balance will be the key to job choice

Mary Chapman, chief executive, at the Chartered Management Institute, said: ‘Looking ahead ten years, it is clear that the successful organisations will be those who can do more than embrace change – they will anticipate, identify and drive it. Of course we cannot determine the future, but that does not mean we shouldn’t forecast and prepare for it to ensure that organisations and teams are effective, capable and competitive.’

The report goes on to identify ‘humanness’ as a key factor for future organisational success. It suggests that positions and job titles might be removed if they hinder collaboration.

Looking at the ‘private needs of people’ the study also shows that changing demographics will compel organisations to offer more tailored lifestyle benefits to employees.

Chapman added: ‘A greater degree of emotional intelligence will be required by managers and leaders so they can understand how people work and their likely reaction to change. They will also need to shift from today’s input-driven approach to a focus on output, achievement and a better integration between work and personal lives.’