Times they are a changin,
come gather round people wherever you roam,
and admit that the waters around you have grown,
and accept it that soon you'll be drenched to the bone.
- Bob Dylan

Sam Palmisano, the recently retired chairman of services giant IBM once reflected on the growing complexity of global business by saying �We occupy a world that is connected on multiple dimensions and at a deep level a global system of systems. That means, among other things, that it is subject to systems-level failures, which require systems-level thinking about the effectiveness of its physical and digital infrastructures.� Palmisano�s words have deep meaning in business today, yet they also possess the potential to prove truly prophetic in almost all areas of governance by the end of this current decade.

In a rapidly converging world, fraught with ambiguity and hidden risks, anyone aspiring to a leadership position in business or policy, must be able to see and understand this �global system of systems�. A leader�s job description now includes the following � the ability to spot trends, to recognize shifts as they happen and the ability to tell apart cause from consequence. We can all improve our ability to do this by raising our individual learning velocity on one hand and by nurturing genuine inquisitiveness towards the unfamiliar on the other. Let�s look at the future of global mobility as an example.

The global workforce today stands just north of three billion people. Given that we have just over four and a half billion people of working age across the planet; what this means in aggregate terms, is that roughly two thirds of our talent wakes up each day seeking to pursue an economic endeavor. But it unfortunately also wakes up to a systemic paradox. While the majority of our workforce continues to be locally anchored, the economic endeavors they pursue are increasingly global in orientation. In a nutshell, circumstances for global business are converging, yet the global talent pool is not.

This builds immeasurable tension in the global system of systems. So how must we respond, and ease this tension? In part by acknowledging the following -

The growing need for global leaders - Being global is no longer an option, but rather an imperative for the world�s top brands, and increasingly the world�s largest companies and brands don�t ascribe to one national identity. They raise capital in multiple locations, hire capability where it is needed most and grow through a complex web of acquisitions, joint ventures and subsidiaries. While capital, technology and intellectual property are now global in nature, we are seeing an increasing demand for �global talent�. This makes absolute sense. How can you lead a dispersed organization today, without a strong world view and a deep global experience?

An uneven playing field - The knowledge economy overcomes it�s labour challenges by moving work across continents seamlessly, while the old economy struggles with a crippling and skewed imbalance of skill demand and supply, often with no short term solution. The economic vibrancy of a number of industrial and services firms today hinge on their ability to access skills in real time.

The growing power of real time knowledge - As technological evolution and the resultant redundancy of knowledge accelerate; both formative education and corporate skill development efforts can often fall behind the change curve. One way of catching up is to import talent which possesses new knowledge. This is the fastest and most efficient way to multiply capability within an industry or academic system.

How the employment equation itself is changing - We must accept that the employee is evolving and hence the very concept of employment must evolve to keep pace. This requires us to think well beyond old-fashioned career paths as well as restrictive buy or build mechanisms of finding and keeping talent, In addition, the 21st century employee turning up to work today is more aware assertive, aware and empowered than ever before; a fact which is challenging the traditional supremacy of 20th century management mindsets still commonly found on shop-floors across the world.

As you can see above, we are entering an age where we must set talent free. This will challenge a host of traditional systems, be they political, policy formulation, economic or educational. If we don�t change, we risk what Palmisano calls a system level failure.

Books such as this guide to international mobility help us all understand and facilitate this future world. It has the power to assist organizations, policymakers and individuals in understanding how the ebb and flow of global mobility will reshape our global economy in the days to come. I wish the book and its collective group of authors all success.

Gyan Nagpal
Author - Talent Economics - The Fine Line Between Winning and Losing the Global War for Talent�