Birth Rates, Workers, and Volatility

I wrote about a recent analysis conducted by Bain & Company in an earlier post on the Turbulent 2020s and what it means for the 2030 and beyond. An interesting related exchange on Twitter focused on the impact of birth rates on the core issues of demographics, automation, and growth.

In the above mentioned analysis, authors Karen Harris, Austin Kimson and Andrew Schwedel deliver a message that is a core tenet of my work: adaptability and the resilience it enables is the foundation of 21st century leadership. The Fourth Iteration of Business  – and leadership at the broadest level – is challenged by uncertainty, pace, and the volatile nature of our world today. As evident in this Twitter dialog, how this plays out is difficult to predict. The authors state:

How these major macroeconomic trends play out depends on many variables, and their combination and inter-dependencies add to the complexity of forecasting a likely scenario.

Completely agree. The building blocks driving our pace phenomenon add another dimension to the combinatorial dynamic they reference. As described in this look at just one Future Scenario, the building blocks of dramatic change either exist or are emerging rapidly – and they combine in ways that are difficult to predict. This underscores another core tenet of my work – also referenced in the Bain & Company analysis:

Business leaders, investors and heads of organizations and institutions will need to look beyond traditional targets and goals and develop the ability to adjust to a changing and volatile macroeconomic environment. That may require new performance metrics, planning techniques and even organizational structures.

That second core tenet is that massive Structural Change is coming. Our core belief systems and intuitions will be challenged, driving a leadership imperative to think differently, learn, unlearn, and relearn in a continuous fashion. This other message from the analysis underscores the need to think differently:

The crosscurrents of multiple macroeconomic forces will ebb and flow at different times, making it dangerous to assume that signals indicate stable opportunities. Trends that had longer trajectories up until now, such as falling interest rates or even growth itself, may reverse course far more rapidly than in past decades. Companies can prepare for such shifts by making resiliency a high strategic priority and actively managing and monitoring macro risks.

Back to the visual provided in the Tweet by Karen Harris; does labor participation matter if we have automated the jobs away? I imagine that depends on how far we take Automation versus Augmentation – and the time table in which it plays out. Just another example of the unpredictable nature of what lies ahead.

Birth Rates


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