By Claire West
BBC journalist Maggie Philbin says crisis-driven thinking is breeding a generation of lost business opportunities — but technology could help to turn that around.
The recession has made many British businesses depressed and inward-looking, and a leading journalist says short-term thinking is not only stifling recovery, but threatening to blight the prospects of the coming generation.
Growth in the UK remains unlikely, with business confidence at its lowest level in 20 years, according to a recent survey by accountancy firm BDO. The economy continues to shrink and unemployment is expected to rise further because private firms are reluctant to hire, and some are retrenching.
But many British businesses could be performing so much better if they focused more on the long term and invested in technology that could stimulate growth, says Maggie Philbin, one of the judges in Greentree’s GAME ON competition.
TIME TO GET UP TO DATE
Maggie is one of British television’s best-known faces. For 30 years she’s worked on a wide variety of science, medical and technology programmes, and is currently seen regularly on BBC 1’s Inside Out. She says outdated thinking and business practices could be changed with the help of the technology now available.
“The problem is, if your systems are holding you back, your competitor may have a better system that allows them to sneak ahead, even though their offering isn’t as good as yours,” she says. “I’m not saying that there’s a perfect system that will be right for everybody, but it’s worth investing time in taking a look at them to see whether you could do things a different way.”
Maggie believes it’s important for businesses to take the long view, “because if you focus too much on what’s in front of you, you just trip over your feet”.
“I don’t set myself up as any kind of economic expert,” she says, “but I think there are interesting changes afoot. I think for a long time we have perhaps prioritised the wrong things. It’s not always just thinking about the bottom line; it’s actually examining what you’re doing, and why, and how.”
Maggie feels that some businesses that shed staff, to relieve immediate economic woes, will regret the loss of expertise later. She concedes that sometimes there isn’t a choice, but warns that when we emerge from recession, some organisations will struggle to find staff with the right skills. She’s also concerned that young people aren’t being informed enough about careers in technology, which could be both exciting and rewarding.
Maggie is the founder and CEO of TeenTech, who work collaboratively with leading Science and Engineering companies and regional partners, to create events that aim to interest the scientists and engineers of tomorrow in technology careers. It targets 13-year-olds, who are on the cusp of deciding the focus of their education, and their future employment.
“They’re the ones in danger of becoming the lost generation,” she says. “We want them to have the right kind of skills; we want them to have gone into decisions about subjects with their eyes open, and we want them to know what the real opportunities are out there.”
A CHANCE TO CHANGE
Greentree GAME ON offers UK businesses the chance to win a £150,000 software implementation, by explaining what a new business system would do for them.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing how companies — perhaps through entering the competition, let alone winning it — start to re-examine what they’re doing, and perhaps think about how technology could help them do it better,” Maggie says