By Johan Norberg, author, lecturer and documentary filmmaker

You might have missed the news, but it is the big story of our time: at the moment, we are witnessing the greatest improvement in living standards ever to take place. Poverty, malnutrition, illiteracy, child labour and infant mortality are falling faster than at any other time in human history. A child born today is more likely to reach retirement age than his forebears were to live to their fifth birthday.

This progress occurred because people have gained the freedom to explore new knowledge, experiment with new technologies and solutions and exchange the results; we are therefore able to come up with ever better ways of satisfying our needs and solving our problems.

People have been empowered by increased means, even in low and middle income countries. Globalisation, digitalisation, smarter technologies, the sharing economy and a more individualistic culture have all affected our world in the same direction: more people than ever can talk to, learn from and challenge each other.

Transaction costs have diminished, so ideas, innovation and disruption can suddenly come from anywhere. Decreased barriers have allowed people to find new business partners and create new challenges. Micro-multinationals can immediately launch new products all over the world.

Such developments are challenging traditional institutions in politics, culture and business. It has become more difficult for governments to win elections, for trade unions to keep their members, for businesses to keep their customers, for media to keep its audience and for the militarily powerful to win wars against weaker opponents. And this is only the beginning.

Even those who hate these changes have become empowered, in cyberspace, at the polls, and militarily. They can protest, disrupt and destroy. And they can elect politicians that turn against this openness.

This is why it feels like we have greater opportunities now, but we are also more exposed. They are two sides of the same process: It is easier than ever – but for everybody, for your competitors and opponents as well.

To thrive in this new world, organisations have to be built for change. They have to constantly look at the world, incorporate the best new ideas even when it’s not invented here, and have to change with their customers.

Giants like Apple and Google won because they opened up ecosystems for millions of other entrepreneurs, so their offerings evolve every second. Henry Ford said that you could have any car you wanted as long as it’s black. But a company like Toyota thrives because it produces its cars in almost 3 million different versions each year.

So in a way, this is a golden era, in which we innovate and create more and better for the whole of mankind.