2013: Understanding a new world (Part 2)

In my last post 2013: Understanding a new world (Part 1) I emphasised the point that we need to look for signals that could give us an early warning of a dramatic change in the world order – something that many businesses are probably ill-prepared for. I set out some of the ‘tremors’ that I’m keeping an eye on with include:

• Social cohesion in Europe
• Rising nationalism in Asia
• Conflict (1), not in military terms, but in terms of the emergence of economic imperialism
• Conflict (2), in military terms, as the hypothesis that the world is becoming a safer place needs to be tested. The South China Sea and Iran head up the list
• The impact of NATO’s scheduled withdrawal from Afghanistan
• Emerging indications of a rejection of consumerism
• Unfolding events in the Middle East particularly pathways to or away from democracy, the robustness of current geographic borders and the emergence of theocracy.

Now, I’ve just made the point that many businesses may be ill-prepared for a radically different future that any one, or a confluence of the above ‘tremors’, could produce.

To try to increase the resilience of your organisation, I’d suggest that you spend some time considering the following what would we do ifs

#1: ‘What would we do if global growth stumbles for a decade?’ There is emerging thought that we may face a world without growth or even de-growth. There is a gathering ‘perfect storm’ of factors that could drive the emergence of this scenario that range from the need for a new industrial revolution to drive growth through to increasing geo-political tensions. The area of no-growth/de-growth is so important that it’s one of my major research areas.

#2: ‘What would we do if consumers stopped spending?’ Very much linked to #1 but driven by a rejection of outward displays of wealth and concerns of the moral implications of the ‘commercialisation of society’.

#3: ‘What would we do if new iron curtains appeared?’ Some of the long-standing assumptions underpinning economic globalisation are looking shaky now. Where could the divisions appear? Will it be possible to trade across boundaries? How would existing value chains be affected?

#4: ‘What would we do without social media?’ An interesting point. Recent debates about who could control the Internet, Press freedom and the rising influence of autocratic powers could influence the acceptability and role of social media in our societies.

So the future is demanding but, as always, there are real opportunities to be grasped by businesses that explore a new emerging world whilst their competitors gaze at a past world. For a full process that you can use with your team to explore future worlds – read The Era of Global Transition: crises and opportunities in the new world.

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