Are your customers disappearing and incomes going down while your expenses increase? Perhaps are some of the employees on the bench without tasks, or resources hard to find? Do consumer trends, sharing economy, globalization, or drop in oil prices seem to be impacting on your business?
Hopefully, as the best of scouts, you are well prepared for this quarter, this term, the coming mid-year review or the current fiscal year. Then again maybe not.
What about worse, are you prepared for worse? For possible upcoming longer term challenges?
You may never have thought of the fourth industrial revolution or World Economic Forum’s top global risks, these seemingly quite distant and vague topics. Can you imagine those topics having any impact on your life over the coming years? An impact on you, your work, your community, friends, family or even future grandchildren?
It can be hard to visualise and understand a bigger picture, even more so the unknown future- I have in this text given it a humble try. It is my hope that this attempt may give you too some broader perspective and food for thought.
You can probably hardly imagine a Black Swan landing in your pond, but you may perhaps see glimpses of an Elephant in the garden room. What about that Grey Rhinoceros far down the road?
The Swan is that rare improbable disaster which we are definitely not prepared for. Regarding the Elephant, for sure I see it but let’s not talk about it will you? That Grey Rhino however, so hard to see and when we do it’s too late, and so much worse than the sight of a freed raging bull. This Grey Rhino is highly probable and will have a huge impact but is yet neglected as long as we don’t see its horn or the grey whirls of dust announcing its arrival.
By the way, in my family we used to see a couple of black swans living in the public pond outside our apartment just outside of Brussels, so I know they exist! We do have quite a zoo at home: two black Norwegian Wood cats, fur-y, claw-y and very cuddly. Three ducks coming back each year for a spring pit stop. Not to forget our happy bees producing sweet golden honey! Last year however all our frogs, koi and gold fish died except for one. We never found out why but we assume the cause was asphyxiation from a lack of oxygen due to air pump technology failure. We also have a ‘room-elephant’ in the vicinity, just in case you wondered.
The zoo I am referring to is the symbolic one consisting of:
'We cannot approach the fourth industrial revolution as we have done historically. It's different in character and requires a different thinking' writes Dr. Tor Wallin Andreassen, professor of Marketing and the director of Center for Service innovation (CSI) at NHH Norwegian School of Economics.
Unlike the three first, the fourth industrial revolution is characterised by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres. The speed of change is increasingly accelerating. New technology deeply affects existing business. Some examples of this are sharing economy models like Airbnb, Über and Coursera.
Not only does this impact our trades, it also impacts us as human beings- what we do and who we define ourselves to be. This revolution is not something happening to us independent of our wills. We all share responsibility for the direction evolution will take. Technology is a tool, not the master nor the goal!
Let me simply quote Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum: ‘In the end, it all comes down to people and values. We need to shape a future that works for all of us by putting people first and empowering them. In its most pessimistic, dehumanized form, the Fourth Industrial Revolution may indeed have the potential to “robotize” humanity and thus to deprive us of our heart and soul. But as a complement to the best parts of human nature—creativity, empathy, stewardship—it can also lift humanity into a new collective and moral consciousness based on a shared sense of destiny. It is incumbent on us all to make sure the latter prevails’.
... 'It can also lift humanity into a new collective and moral consciousness based on a shared sense of destiny'. Consider that for a moment !
The figure below depicts the main global risks over the next months and years, assessed from a World Economic Forum-perspective as of January 2016.
Looking closely it is not hard to see that the risks can be gathered into 3 categories:
We may consider combining this with:
We could choose a quite different perspective: Could those results be caused by something outside or independent of human behaviour? Whatever the cause – whose business is it anyway?
But let’s forget about the last questions, let us simply and briefly consider the ultimate consequences.
We are currently consuming an average of one-and-a-half Earths per year (some countries more, some less). We shall soon enough see that this continued overload gradually or suddenly but in any case drastically will change our unique blue-green planet into a 'deadsea-deadground-deadair' planet.
Should we do like Wall-E, just look for another planet?
Botticelli painted this map with Dante’s levels of hell around 1490. Some 525 years later we can recognise some of these levels in too many of our communities. The social deconstruction happening in war zones, as well as all sorts of dehumanising communities, can be thought of as parts of Dante’s downward travel to the dark world below. Each level has its own impact on the people living it, office, organisational or business situations are no exceptions.
I'm very much aware that this is not something new, intermittent war and peace have probably existed as long as humans have lived on this planet of ours. We even hear of signs of improvement.
Nevertheless, do we really want to accept hell on earth? I definitely don’t ! I don’t even want to confront you with one single more hellish picture from daily news across the world. However, just today I spoke with a dear friend who feared for his family’s lifes after 3 bombs going off in his civilised historic city.
We can imagine various possible solutions to counter earth depletion, social deconstruction, dehumanisation and technology idolatry. The solutions should simply and basically fix the causes. So my main view is to dig into what solutions can contribute to. Start with contributions and we will over time handle the causes of consern and solve the problems:
In addition to mitigating our concerns,the contributions to solutions above will participate in providing far better quality of life, as well as improved long term performing organisations.
Some other options are prone to continue the current consumption patterns, demonise people at various levels, or retain technology as main guiding principle. Will they hinder the ultimate consequences I mentioned earlier? Will those options release us, our planet and our cohabitants from depletion or fiendish situations?
All it takes is just one step at a time in the direction You and I choose.
What is required is CONSCIOUS EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP !
I’m proud of my former contribution in teams, as a zealous result driven leader and consultant, to more quality, safety and effectiveness in systems. I’ve experienced joy, awe and gratitude working with and supporting other people and businesses, at local, international and global levels. I love assisting in the development of purposeful, creative, open minded communities. Long term strategic thinking is another of my business passions.
However, I have also BEEN THERE: tried overconsumption, been an unconscious piece of the machinery, an effective technology engineer. If I am to be completely honest, at work I often considered social relations less important than tangible results and hard cash. Over some decades it got me into dark, dreamless, painful and meaningless places.
On my current path, each new step takes me in the direction I believe in. I use my experience and competencies for a meaningful future: Supporting today’s and tomorrow’s leaders becoming more conscious and effective, to ensure their own prosperity as well as that of their organisations, communities and natural environments.
No unseen swan, unspeakable elephant or unannounced furious rhino allowed in my garden !
So here You have it: my attempt at providing a bigger picture, a broader perspective and some food for thought:
Lise Strand Bjarkli
Strategic leadership consultant- walking my path day by day, with reflected, energizing people, care to join us ?