The world is going through a period of accelerating change, as four secular developments illustrate. Firms and governments must make timely adjustments, not only to their business models and operational approaches, but also to both their tactical and strategic mindsets.
LONDON – Firms and governments must increasingly internalize the possibility – indeed, I would argue, the overwhelming probability – of an acceleration of four secular developments that influence what business and political leaders do and how they do it. Decision-makers should think of these trends as waves, which, especially if they occur simultaneously, could feel like a tsunami for those who fail to adapt their thinking and practices in a timely manner.
The first and most important trend is climate change, which has evolved from a relatively distant concern, on which there is ample time to take remedial action, to an imminent and increasingly urgent threat.
The mobilization of various concerned segments of society, owing partly to unusual climatic disruptions in recent years, has greatly increased the pressure on companies to act now. BP’s recent announcement that it intends to achieve “net-zero” carbon emissions by 2050 – a notable promise by an energy company that operates in several highly challenging settings – is the latest example of business responding to such calls. It is only a matter of time until this pressure also prompts governments to take further steps, not only to encourage green activities, but also to tax and regulate those that cause pollution.
Second, privacy concerns have grown alongside technical innovations involving artificial intelligence and big data.
Society is increasingly recognizing that recent technological advances allow not only for more efficient compilation of huge amounts of personal data, but also for using this information to monitor and alter behaviors.
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