updated 4/19/2003 6:27:42 AM ET 2003-04-19T10:27:42

For NEWSWEEK’s Online Forum “Facing the Future,” a panel of experts—from the CIO of Krispy Kreme to an author of best-selling business books—took part in a four-day online discussion with readers about the future of business. Here are excerpts from the forum.

IMG: Facing the Future: Is Your Company Ready
Will the economic climate improve this year? (New York) Michael Marks (CEO, Flextronics):

I don’t think we will see too much improvement this year, but of course I hope so. For us, evidence of a turn-around is when our customers start increasing orders from what they had previously forecast, rather than the reverse, which has been happening for the past couple of years.

Will technology replace workers in the future or create more jobs? (Oakland, Calif.)

IMG: Hood Caricature
Frank Hood

Frank Hood (CIO, Krispy Kreme):

Technology will continue to make business and industry more efficient. As we have seen since the Industrial Revolution, jobs will shift from place to place within the economy. But if we begin to consider technology as anything but a series of tools used by humanity to further the goals of humanity, then there is a chance that jobs will be lost and not replaced.

How has technology affected how you do your job? (Emeryville, Calif.) John Riccitiello (President/ COO, Electronic Arts):

Keeping pace with technology is a life-or-death proposition for a videogame company. Today, it takes 18 to 30 months to make a top-quality game for the PC. When the studio team begins, the PC they’re creating the game for hasn’t even been invented yet. We’ve already started working on theoretical models for games that won’t appear in stores until 2007.

How important is an M.B.A. compared to experience? (Poughkeepsie, N.Y.)

IMG: Ong Caricature
Laureen Ong

Laureen Ong (President, National Geographic Channel):

I won’t say a degree isn’t important, but nothing beats experience. When I look at potential employees, I look at what they have accomplished in the past that I can use to help metomorrow.

Will we be doing all transactions by computer one day? (Seattle) Steve Elterich (President, Fidelity eBusiness):

As broadband access becomes a reality, we’ll integrate different channels—the phone,, our investor centers, wireless pagers—more into the customer experience. But there will always be a need for human interaction.

How can you ensure your job is safe with the economy so shaky? (Washington, D.C.)

IMG: Bennis caricature
Warren Bennis

Warren Bennis (USC professor, author of “Geeks and Geezers”):

No job is safe. Never will be. The half-life of any particular skill set is, at most, five years. And that’s on the long side. What will keep you alive? Be curious, be willing to learn, have a moral compass and know what gives your life meaning.

When the job market is this bad, how can you distinguish yourself as a job candidate? (Raleigh, N.C.) Jim Citrin (board member, executive-search firm Spencer Stuart):

Know the company, its competitive position, recent announcements, stock-price history. Do a Google or Yahoo search on the person you’ll be meeting with and you should be able to find something about him or her. Then develop an “outsider’s view” of their key needs and opportunities. Do everything you can to be the solution to someone else’s problem.

I’m graduating from business school this spring. Any job advice? (Boston)

IMG: Briles caricature
Judith Briles

Judith Briles (CEO, The Briles Group consulting firm):

If you haven’t already secured an internship within your chosen field, do so now. Take any internship; forget about being paid. You are after two things: experience in your field and the opportunity to check out/hook onto a potential employer. Your connections, and your connections’ connections, will be the hot ticket to get you in the door for job interviews.

© 2003 Newsweek, Inc.

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