Exponential change coming to Wisconsin

The more I learn, the more I’m convinced that transformational change will impact all of us in Wisconsin. This transformation disproportionately impacts manufacturing — our most prominent industry — so Wisconsin sits squarely in the change crosshairs. In addition, strong growth and two new companies coming to our state will accelerate the transformation even more. All of this creates tremendous opportunities for those who act and significant peril for those who don’t. Leaders must create sensible narratives and practical pathways to create future success.

Punctuated equilibrium causes transformational change. Change expert Adam Hartung describes this as a phase change — a relatively small change that affects everything. One example is the phase change that happens when water freezes. At 40 degrees, rain can be inconvenient, but at 20 degrees it’s dangerous and paralyzing. Look around and you can see phase changes in many different markets — Amazon in retailing, Uber in transportation, and SpaceX in rocketry, for example.

Modern enabling infrastructure makes punctuated equilibrium easier and more pervasive than ever before. The impact of Moore’s law on computing power, storage, and the internet makes information storage and flow free, frictionless, and instantaneous. The ability to learn and use ideas from anywhere in the world makes it even more critical to engage the three Ts — talent, technology, and techniques — to transform your organization. Punctuated equilibrium will happen more quickly and drive deeper than ever before.

In manufacturing, punctuated equilibrium and phase changes will take place around three driving trends. Additive manufacturing, automation and robotics, and connected devices will transform manufacturing and how we create value in our economy. There will be huge changes, and we can already see them coming!

They will hit Wisconsin faster than anywhere else because of our heavy reliance on manufacturing, two new major companies, and the demographic changes behind the body gap. Manufacturing employs about 20% of the Wisconsin workforce and supports a similar number of jobs in other parts of the economy. That’s a solid foundation creating significant value for our state. Two major additions — Haribo and Foxconn — will establish North American footholds in Wisconsin, with Foxconn bringing an entirely new industry to the continent. All of this manufacturing activity will accelerate change, and we haven’t even discussed the body gap.



People and their organizations will adapt or be left behind. Transformation will create flux, opening new advantages for those moving aggressively. Old competitive rules will become obsolete as new players redefine the game. The people and companies who make the new rules will see their wages and earnings rise, and their competitive position improve. Those that remain complacent about the future will wonder what hit them. Make sure you’re one of the winners in this new world.

Here’s one idea. Deloitte’s Michelle Rodriguez outlines five steps to winning in this environment. First, focus intensely on customer needs, because strategy starts in the marketplace. Next, balance short-term and long-term actions in a portfolio approach. You must address both in order to succeed. Third, take a strategic focus. It’s easy to get lost in daily issues and that can be fatal. Fourth, operate outside traditional boundaries by engaging partners and creating collaborations that strengthen market positions. Finally, adapt and persevere. Success rarely happens on the first try. Winners keep at it.

Winners will take advantage of the coming phase change. They will “zoom out” and decide how they and their business will look in 20 years, identifying what’s most critical for future success. Then, they will “zoom in” and decide on two to three things they can accomplish in the next three months to start their journey. The key through all of this is to think big, start small, and move fast!

It’s an exciting time for Wisconsin, and you can be one of the winners in this new environment. Are you ready?

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