Anything we can imagine — pandemics, social unrest, political upheavals, water wars, rising food insecurity — might happen. So, expect the unexpected. Promote resilience and seek opportunities to shape the future positively.
And as our team says – if we wait for these ‘grey elephants’ to appear, it will be too late to prepare for them…
So, think about what the future might look like and test your business strategy.
Imagine how employees, partners, supply chains and customers will change. Consider how you can satisfy new needs and what your organisation must do today to build a competitive advantage in tomorrow’s world.
Below is somewhat the TomorrowToday Consulting team have to say on 4 of the 7 grey elephants (feel free to read further over on their website here.)
The Impact of Ageing
More than half of all the people who have ever turned 80 are still alive. By 2050, for the first time in history, there will be more old people than young. We are the first generation of humans on this planet who think that 80 is a little bit young to die. Just 100 years ago, 80 was something that only the super wealthy and the rich could expect to reach. And most of human history people, the average age that people have died has been in their 40s and 50s. And yet here we are living in a world where life expectancy has increased dramatically over the course of our lifetimes, and it is now highly likely that anybody under the age of 30 today will see their 100th birthday. The impact on people and society will be profound.
The Angry Planet
The late Wally Broecker, the iconoclastic guru of the climate debate, was fond of saying: “The earth is an angry beast, and we are poking it with sticks.” The beast has only just begun to snarl, humanity must stop poking or the beast will bite. Front and centre is climate change. Studies show that it is the hottest it’s been in a billion years. In less than two decades, Greenland’s ice sheets have already shrunk at a rate of 269 gigatons a year. That’s the equivalent of melting 50 billion 7-ton grey elephants! And, yet there are still climate change doubters. It is worth reflecting that “the climate emergency has no nationality, no race, no sexual preference and certainly no political or religious affiliation. The transition we are in will create completely new global tensions,” says Sasja Beslik. The BBC video series, “Life at 50 Degrees” is worth watching to get a broader perspective. If greenhouse gas emissions are not dramatically reduced, three-quarters of the global population will be impacted by extreme temperatures. The resulting death toll could rise by more than 2,000 per cent within this century. The World Bank predicts that a quarter of a billion people will be forced to migrate by 2050 as climate change turbocharges severe storms, droughts, fires, hurricanes, coastal storms and flooding. The cost of ignoring this grey elephant will be catastrophic.
The Big Squeezes
While Christmas was not cancelled, many retailers warned shoppers to be prepared for higher prices, fewer discounts and reduced product ranges than normal last year. With the cost of living rising fast and wages falling behind inflation, most people are experiencing a squeeze on several fronts. Those who can afford stuff, are discovering they cannot get cars, furniture, clothing or toys due to supply chain and labour disruptions. The rest are discovering that they have significantly less disposable income. Rising costs in energy, transport and healthcare are depressing consumer spending as people are forced to divert spending from other goods and services. The big squeeze is systemic and more complex than pandemic-driven supply disruptions and HGV driver shortages alone. Wages have stagnated for decades, and adjusted for inflation, many workers are poorer in real terms, and this is despite record corporate profits. Health and pension benefits have grown stingier, and job security has shrivelled. The big squeeze is starting to take its toll.
The Angry People Revolution
“It is not enough for people to be angry,” said Martin Luther King; the “supreme task” of a leader “is to organise and unite people so that their anger becomes a transforming force.” The cost of anger and resulting violence is not just told in wars. It may come as a surprise, but every year far more people are killed outside war zones than in them.
From doomscrolling — the act of consuming an endless procession of negative online news — to violent unrest. Anger is on the rise globally and from ageing, climate change, rising inequality and the big squeeze there is no shortage of fuel to stoke the fires of peoples’ anger. Cycles of violence are not uncommon or necessarily unproductive – think of the suffragette movements. Nor is the anger remarkable in itself, but as it becomes widespread it can become a dominant societal force of change.
This is why Angry People has the potential to be the most damaging and frightening of all the grey elephants. The wealthy should not comfort themselves that we live in a civilised society in the 21st century. The last time these levels of inequality were seen was during the French Revolution and back then heads rolled. Populist activists are using sophisticated production capabilities to spread anger virally. From anti-vaxxing rhetoric to stirring up hatred against politicians, the neoliberal democratic system is under attack. On the flip side, this could also propel the kind of new thinking required for a radical redesign of the global economic system to something fairer and more inclusive.
Great opportunities exist for leaders who are tuned towards change.
Please connect if you’d like to start a conversation with our team to help you and your team to keep your eye on the future.
Dean van Leeuwen is the co-founder of TomorrowToday Consulting – a futurist consultancy working with leading organisations around the world. He is an expert on global trends, innovation, and strategic business transformation.
You can access Dean’s latest research on ‘Closing the Innovation Gap – The 7 strategic and cultural essentials that separate successful large-company innovator’s here or chat with us about our ‘Full blown innovation’ keynote presentation.