The Critical Need For Foresight

Foresight is growing in importance – and it is great to see leaders focused here. In this world of complexity, uncertainty, and rapid pace, generating foresight is not easy. It is a moving target, with change dynamics altering even the safest predictions. We need look no further than the impact of COVID-19 on the pictures of possible futures we were painting just 18 months ago. As difficult as it is, we are fortunate to have people like Alexandra Whittington around to help. She recently tweeted a pandemic influenced view of the future of population, work, and lifestyles.

In some cases, COVID-19 exacerbated trends that already existed. For example, birthrates were already dropping around the world, a phenomenon that grew more acute in the past 18 months. Africa was viewed as the outlier, contributing to future population growth even in the face of declining fertility rates. If the 2020 Oxfam study referenced in the visual below is accurate, a reversing of family planning gains could drive more growth.

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The Implications Of Slowing Population Growth

The power lies at the intersections. When I first started using the term “Combinatorial”, people thought I was making words up. Although I would like to take credit for the word, I first came across it when reading The Second Machine Age, a fascinating book by Andrew McAfee and Eric Brynjolfsson. In a post from 2015, I explored several possible combinations that represented disruptive power. A visual from that post attempted to show how science and technology spawned a number of several scenarios, using two curved lines, one for science and technology, and the other for scenarios. As the building blocks combined across the curves, the world would transform.

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The Great Demographic Reversal

Beginning in 1990, several forces converged to shape the global economy. Globalization, demographics, technology, deflation, debt, and interest rates have all played a role. Now, according to a recent book, at least two of those forces are reversing. In The Great Demographic Reversal, authors Charles Goodhart and Manoj Pradhan describe these forces and their influence on the last thirty years of economic activity. With this convergence, the world experienced an extended deflationary period, which per the authors, was driven in part by a labor supply shock. The book said the following:

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The Future Impact Of Societal Factors

Societal factors are one area of Convergence that is shaping our future. The accelerating progression of science and technology gets a lot of attention, but our various societal issues are a major part of the story. For example, there have been various projections for global population growth during this century. Early projections had the globe exceeding 11 billion people by the close of the century (the world is currently at about 7.8 billion people). The number of people on earth – and where those people live – will have profound implications.

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A Pivotal Decade Lies Ahead

The world is about to enter a pivotal decade. This decade is likely to be remembered as the launching pad to a very different future. The next ten years are marked by uncertainty, complexity, and an inability to predict how an overwhelming number of Dots Connect to shape the decade. In a 2018 post, I looked at some work by Karen Harris and others that focused on some of the Macro Trends that drive the decade. In the supporting insights report, the authors see volatility emerging from the Collision of Demographics, Automation, and Inequality. These three factors drive a very Turbulent 2020s and Beyond.

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