Sean Culey: “Everything seems important when you don’t have a goal”

Sean Culey

According to author Sean Culey, the world is in transition as we move from one wave of long-term economic progress into the next. Companies with a clear vision and sufficient employee autonomy, such as Amazon, will survive the current transition. Supply Chain Media spoke to Culey about his well-documented book Transition Point.

By Martijn Lofvers

Much has been said and written about the major changes occurring in the world. For Sean Culey, five years of research culminated in his fascinating book called Transition Point: From Steam to the Singularity. It is about how technology has transformed the world, and why what comes next will be critical for companies and countries.

Why did you write this book?

“Everyone is talking about new technologies such as big data, robotization, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles, but no one is saying what happens when you connect those technologies together or how to do so. The most important implication is that if you do that, the result will be a fully automated supply chain. The companies that understand this, such as the Amazons of the world, will win, because they have the ability to think ahead and to deliver the ‘why’ rather than the ‘what’. So I wrote this book to answer the question of why the world has become volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) and why that has happened now, plus what to do about it. A lot of analysts and consultants say that the world is VUCA just to scare people.”

So why is the world VUCA nowadays?

“We’re in the midst of the transition from the fifth Kondratiev wave (a cycle of economic progress that lasts 50 to 60 years, Ed.) to the sixth. At the end of the fifth wave it was about managing efficiencies and expectations. That’s what managers have been trained to do for the past few decades: to increase shareholder value by cutting costs and creating lean supply chains. But the question is whether this approach still makes sense as we head towards the upswing in the next wave. The sixth wave will have a bigger impact than the previous five put together, because rather than replacing jobs as they did in the previous industrial revolutions, this time new technologies will create completely new human functionalities. We’ll end up with machines that can see, speak, understand, articulate and process.”

Your book includes a detailed description of why the first industrial revolution took place in 18th-century Britain. Why did it happen there rather than somewhere else?

“The key reason was that England was a bottom-up society. Everyone was free. The country made its own laws. Everyone could do what they wanted unless someone told them otherwise, including visit coffee houses. Coffee houses were outlawed in most parts of the world because they were places where people could gather together to talk and criticize the government. We’re now seeing a similar situation developing, with governments in the likes of China, the Philippines and Turkey banning some parts of the internet. Besides the coffee houses, Great Britain had a large group of non-conformist Quakers such as the Lever brothers and Cadbury who became manufacturers as a way of improving social welfare. The Lever Brothers company developed soap for better hygiene and Cadbury produced drinking chocolate as an alternative to alcohol. They all had a social-capitalistic mindset. They were extremely interested in the opportunities presented by steam-powered industrialization.” … … …

Sean CuleyWant to read more?

Subscribe to the digital subscription to read the full version >>


select one of our annual or digital subscriptions to receive the next issue >>

This article was first published in Supply Chain Movement 33 | Q2 – 2019