O mundo dos negócios está em constante mudança, e as empresas que querem prosperar precisam estar preparadas para essas mudanças. A tecnologia, a globalização e a mudança do consumidor são algumas das principais tendências que irão moldar o futuro dos negócios. As empresas que estiverem preparadas para essas mudanças estarão bem posicionadas para prosperar no futuro.
Para entender mais e saber, exatamente, quais as mudanças em ascensão, o Economia SP Drops conversou, com exclusividade, com o futurista Roger Spitz, que traz uma análise completa sobre os desafios do futuro empresarial.
Roger Spitz utor da coleção de livros “O Guia Definitivo para Prosperar na Disrupção”. Reconhecido na indústria como especialista em antecipação, escritor, palestrante e investidor em IA, Spitz preside o Centro Techistential para Inteligência Humana e Artificial e é conhecido por cunhar o termo “Techistencialismo”.
Com duas décadas liderando negócios de bancos de investimento e capital de risco, Spitz aconselha CEOs, fundadores, conselhos e acionistas em suas decisões mais críticas, avaliando a estratégia de suas organizações sob incerteza e antecipando futuras interrupções.
What are the most impactful trends you foresee for the coming year?
Roger: The 10 Drivers of Disruption Will Continue in 2024. To truly comprehend disruption, we need to understand its fundamental drivers and the underlying forces, influences, and factors behind the resulting radical changes.
The individuals and organizations best positioned to drive and thrive on the disruptions ahead are those who can interpret the emerging signals and anticipate their inflection points. However alien these signals can seem, one can learn about, unlearn from, and adapt to these emerging changes. In these disruptions, however unsettling, there will be winners and losers.
- Key Insights: 10 Key Drivers of Disruption Across Five Metaruptions
We see 10 key drivers of disruption across five categories:
- New Change: The first metaruption is #1 “New Change.” The driver of disruption encapsulated in this metaruption the new nature, velocity, multiplicity, and interconnectivity of disruption networks. Disruption is never a single phenomenon. It is the confluence of many drivers, each amplifying, magnifying, and impacting each other. The next-order implications of these changes will ripple through society, its cultures, and economies. These cascading changes also generate opportunities for those who are able to exercise their imagination and curiosity.
- Hyper Premium on Relevancy: The second metaruption is #2 “Hyper Premium on Relevancy” which is exemplified by the Red Queen Race. The bar to become and remain relevant is higher than ever. You need to run faster to stay in the same place. Even if you do, you could still end up behind. The Red Queen Race necessitates being fast and being astute. Speed alone is not sufficient.
- Irreversibility: The third metaruption is #3 “Irreversibility,” which states that the underlying disruption may be irreversible. It is this irreversibility which means that however beneficial these developments might be (e.g. technology, AI), the risk is that these evolutions continue their journey and advance to such a degree that the potential impact on society is transformative but hard to reverse. Depending on the outcomes, these metaruptions can even be existential. We include in these “Irreversibility” drivers of disruption:
- (iii) Climate
- (iv) Technology
- (v) AI
- Systemic Paradigm Shifts: Fourth, we focus on drivers of disruption which represent the metaruption #4 “Systemic Paradigm Shifts,” namely in relation to:
- (vi) Complexity moving to center stage: Rigid structures are rejected.
- (vii) Society: Radically evolving societal, generational, and consumer expectations (in an increasingly transparent, immediate, and traceable world). This is overlaid with global demographic forces which are experiencing population stagnation and longevity.
- (viii) Information: Warp speed, exploding connectivities.
- Rapidly Approaching New Eras: Fifth, we show drivers of disruption that arise from our metaruption #5: “Rapidly Approaching New Eras”:
- (ix) Quantum computing and artificial life: These don’t presently exist but are benefiting from significant developments; they could reach their inflection points within the next decade or so.
- (x) New frontiers, geopolitical and global economic reshuffling: Changing world order and the new space frontiers.
Disruptions may seem slow, often initially appearing isolated and specific to a company or industry. However, we need to pay careful attention to the cumulative exponential and converging metaruptions which could constitute an irreversible tipping point to a new era. This is especially so in the context of misalignment and conflicting agendas, political technology, and complex systems.
Table: The Red Queen Race – Hyper Premium on Relevancy
|Red Queen Race
|Reduced barriers to entry and to movement
|DemocratizationAbility to compete with large established businessesVirtualized, digitized, decentralized
|Available to everyoneIncreased competition
|Compressed life cycles
|Innovative ideas and speed to marketConstantly new opportunitiesBetter, cheaper, faster
|Constantly fading mini- and micro-trendsStaying relevant over time
|Competing with machines
|Automate repetitive tasksStrong synergies with AI (big data, pattern recognition)
|AI is more involved in every aspect of decision-making AI is moving up the value chain
|Hyperconnectivity drives events to cascade rapidly
|Startups/entrepreneurs can launch and scale with extraordinary speedNetwork effects allow rapid scaleWeeks/months not years/decadesMillions not thousands
|The speed and reach does not distinguish between ideas, information, or projects worth promoting from those that are not
|Knowledge and learning
|Abundant opportunities (skills, self-actualization, employment…)Low cost of launching a project with self-knowledge and creativity
|Less structure, less formal employmentNo playbook: trial and errorRequires resourcefulness and curiosity
Source: Disruptive Futures Institute
Table: Irreversibility Threats & Opportunities to Address
|Opportunity to reinvent industries / technologiesSustainability is the new digitalInnovation: every company becomes an energy companyR&D in new forms of affordable low-carbon clean energyCheaper renewable energiesEnergy storage developmentsClosed-loop economies
|Human health and migrationWater and food qualityExtraction and depletion economic modelsInterconnection between economic, social, environmental spheresRisk of irreversibly destroying biosphere
|Eco, innovation, circular, sustainable, regenerative, affordability, sufficiency, extractive, greenwashing, bluewashing, accountability
|Technology is everything, everything is technologyEvery company becomes a technology company
|Alive, God, magic, safeguards
|Colossal investments and opportunities across every industry & organizationAdvances in machine learning increase scope and scale of AI deploymentEnable new businesses, products and toolsBig data
|How society gets reorganized as AI develops and impacts value systems, work, employment, worthRadically transform all existing sectors
|Accountability, transparency, privacy, impartiality, augmentation, automation
Source: Disruptive Futures Institute
Table: Complexity, Society, Information Paradigm Shifts
|More agility as rigid structures are rejectedAddressing root causesSystemic solutions
|Singular point solutions are ineffectiveCurrent incentive structures ill-suited to a complex world
|Education, systemic, decentralization, holistic, incentives, interconnectivity
|Transformative change and redistributionRadical transparency & traceabilityStakeholder capitalismMaximize society’s benefitValues creates valueProfit through purposeHuman capitalClean supply chain
|Seismic effects of global inequalityWealth distribution affects everyone – rich and poorStewardshipGen Z & MillennialsMeasurability of stakeholder returnsActive retirementAging demographics
|Accountability, alignment, authenticity, human capital, human rights, equality, fairness, gender identity, inclusion, impact, intergenerational, values, traceable, transparent, longevity, retirement
|Data provides information, knowledge and insightsOpportunities for data-driven innovations across every sector, industry, business
|Rise of disinformationData as a new languageWarp speed: information can change everything in an instant
|Misinformation, disinformation, info-ruption, Internet of Existence, privacy, ethics, fake news, custom-make truth
Source: Disruptive Futures Institute
“Rapidly Approaching New Eras.” These disruption drivers bring an entirely new meaning to our lives and world order with:
- (ix) Quantum computing and artificial life
- (x) New frontiers, geopolitical and global economic reshuffling
Table: Rapidly Approaching New Eras
|Quantum Computing & Artificial Life
|Quantum computing can perform exponentially more calculations than current supercomputersAdvancing cures for diseases, drug discovery, gene therapy, genetic engineering, genomics synthetic biology, personalized medicine, cell-based therapies, molecular genetics, and digital therapeutics
|What might a quantum-mature world look like?Next-order implications of maturing and fusing biotechnology, nanotechnology, AI, and roboticsCybersecurity rules may be rewrittenGene editing: playing God in a dangerous pursuit of perfection
|Quantum, qubit, subatomic, Schrödinger’s cat, artificial life, synthetic BioTech, gene editing, human cloning, mind uploading, de-extinction, biomimicry, transhumanism, singularity, cryptography
|Geopolitical and global economic reshuffling
|New regions of growth across Asia, Africa, Latin AmericaGlobal world, new capital flows within Asia, between Asia and Africa
|China’s growing ambitionsGlobal competitiveness in AISpace & Quantum raceAfrica population growth Russian geopolitics
|Decoupling, new era, new world order, decline, clash, war, nuclear, splinternet, space, Earth, China, Russia, Africa, AI
Source: Disruptive Futures Institute
New Frontiers, Geopolitical and Global Economic Reshuffling
- Decoupling: The Reversal of Globalization
The rapidly approaching new era is one where new frontiers take shape at the same time as geopolitical and global economic reshuffling. The rise of China, the geopolitical changes following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, together with China and Russia’s aligned interests are disrupting globalization. These all result in fractures to global connectivity, technology standards, marketplaces, supply chains, and economies that have been prevalent for decades. Reshoring, backshoring, and onshoring are now replacing offshoring and outsourcing.
- Geopolitical Competition Intensifying & the Rise of Autocracies
As the United States sanctions Chinese tech companies, China is boosting its research and development efforts to achieve autonomy in critical sectors such as AI, quantum computing, and space. This new phase of enhanced tensions between the US-China relationship has widespread implications for international geopolitics:
- Increasing spheres of influence: China’s economic and technological developments and geopolitical influence are growing in Southeast Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East. At the same time, their strategic natural resources, long-term foresight, and investments are driving a significant reshuffling in the world order.
- Despondent West: China will benefit from enhanced geopolitical influence as key Western powers seem to be less responsive to the new world disorder and unable to contain populism. It took Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to wake up the West, which had become less coordinated, less aligned, and even despondent in the face of world crises such as the Covid pandemic, climate and geopolitical threats.
- Weakening democracies: Social media fueled by destabilizing influences from Russia, China, and Iran, including disinformation, misinformation, and their expansionist ambitions, further weaken liberal Western democracies.
- Dual-use technology and scale: With a different approach to privacy and governance, China’s breakthroughs will continue as dual-use technology races ahead (AI, supercomputing, sentient machines, quantum, and space).
The combination of China’s economic growth, technological development, strict governmental control, strategic long-term investments in education and innovation, and infrastructure projects throughout Asia and Africa make it a viable contender to become the world’s economic and political leader. China could be on track to potentially becoming the world’s largest economy by 2030, while the US is mired in short-termism, dysfunctional political governance, a polarized society, and record-high budget deficit.
The US-China competition for faster growth, development, geopolitical and technological influence (in particular AI and quantum supremacy) may intensify in both countries, including the regions under their spheres of influence.
China’s successes in space – landing on Mars, several moon landings, and a low Earth orbit space station – signal the push for Chinese space supremacy as a new frontier.
China may well become the world’s largest and most influential economy, supported by the world’s most powerful technologies. How the West decides to engage and react to China’s rise will be an epoch-defining driver of disruption.
How might international order be reshaped, and the US displaced, given China’s financial, military, and technological strength? What might be the geopolitical, economic, and technological ramifications of China’s rising power and ambitions, increasing Chinese spheres of influence, and ongoing decoupling?
- China’s New Friend: Russia’s Expansionist Strategy
In February 2022, as the Ukraine situation escalated, US intelligence services correctly evaluated that any invasion by Russia would probably be preceded by cyberattacks on Ukraine’s electrical network, communication systems, and internet, as well as the government itself. This is the nature of today’s geopolitics and warfare. As we have seen with Ukraine, Russia has now perfected, for extended periods, its weaponization of hybrid strategies of cyberwarfare and disinformation. To add to these destabilizing and expansionist strategies, Russia’s weaponization of energy and commodity sources is added to disinformation and cyberattacks. Those governments and organizations which do not build the resilience, deep cyber capabilities, and diversification of energy infrastructure sources will suffer in this new geopolitical era of cyber insecurity and geopolitical reshuffling.
Do you identify any significant challenges that businesses or governments will face in 2024?
Roger: We believe that “Disruption 3.0” will create significant challenges – and sometimes opportunities too – for 2024.
The single most dangerous mistake is looking at disruption as isolated, special cases or independent single episodic events The complex network of interconnected forces driving disruption reinforces the inherent dislocations, paradoxes, pluralism, and diversity of perspectives, problems, and responses.
Together, this environment conjures a new type of disruption. This disruption is omnipresent and systemic. It establishes entirely new paradigms, which themselves will evolve. We label this Disruption 3.0.
- Beyond VUCA: Updating for Velocity & Connectivity
The “VUCA” concept spread across the military’s leadership from the 1980s. Twenty years later, it made its way to business strategists.
The VUCA traits – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous – were not new to the world in the 1980s, nor are they now. But thanks to their significant increases in magnitude, they have been insightful to our decision-making. In a VUCA world, if you’re not consciously confused, you’re ignorant. And if you’re not preparing, you’re negligent.
If you compare the search popularity of VUCA in 2023 to its popularity a decade earlier, we can see that interest increased nearly fivefold. In other words, for each time someone searched for VUCA in 2013, there are five people who searched for it a decade later. This interest in VUCA coincides with Stephen Hawking’s prediction that the 21st century will be the century of complexity.
Today, VUCA’s ingredients are further amplified due to cascading effects from:
- The velocity of growth in interconnections, networks, and ecosystems.
- The warp speed of instantaneous communication.
- The tipping points of artificial intelligence and climate change.
- The explosion of emerging and converging technologies.
Despite that backdrop, the world remains intent on behaving as if structure, control, and predictability are still dominant features. For a VUCA environment, our tools and systems are becoming increasingly ineffectual, from education to governance and leadership.
There is a broad consensus that our world is now facing new tensions, contradictions, complexities, and uncertainties which go beyond VUCA which needs updating. This new reality is the basis for our own version of the VUCA acronym, updated with two additional features: Intersecting and Exponential. In an UN-VICE world, the concepts of Intersecting and Exponential are equally important alongside the UNknown, Volatile, and Complex. We must go beyond automatically relying on advice and start forming our own UN-VICE to survive. We realize that proposing yet another acronym is risky, but we hope that the acronym police will be merciful as they chase abuses and misuses.
With intersecting, cross-impacts will more frequently determine outcomes. The more connected everything is, the more combinatorial effects will overlap, interact, and mesh. These drivers to disruption are multiplicative and amplified. They ricochet into unexpected change.
With exponential, change is initially slow, but inflection points are rapid. The term exponential relates to the velocity and shape of change. Exponential change can be misleading because it starts slowly and our cognitive biases expect change to occur linearly. The deceptive nature of exponential growth causes people to miss inflection points.
Of course, we are not just experiencing isolated changes or individual sources of disruption. There are multiple changes happening all the time, constantly generating cascades of new impacts with unexpected effects. The accelerating connectivity, increasingly complex interconnections, and rapid evolution means that these exponential and intersecting drivers move us to a higher disruptive frequency.
- What is our UN-VICE in the context of Disruption 3.0?
To sum it up, UN-VICE is an updated way of capturing the state of the world. Framing the dynamics of systemic disruption as UNknown, Volatile, Intersecting, Complex, Exponential provides an empowering response. We are not helpless victims buffeted by changes and unable to make decisions. With UN-VICE, we have the power to shape our own futures.
- KEY POINTS: OUR UN-VICE ACRONYM FOR DISRUPTION 3.0
- UNknown: Uncertainty becomes our comfort zone. Recognizing that you can’t know anything perfectly, and that many of our decisions are based on assumptions. Increased uncertainty lowers the value of advice and requires increased self-reliance. We learn to achieve knowledge and how to respond regardless of the lack of precedents in the UNknown.
- Volatile: Harness change for gain. Our world, and change itself, is evolving faster than ever before. Volatility is not inherently good or bad, nor is it new; its impact simply can’t be ignored today. In volatility, we see the shifting speed and texture of the changing environment.
- Intersecting: Respect that everything connects to everything else. The broader our lens, the greater the insights gained from realizing how boundaries are disappearing, connecting new areas through combinations.
- Complex: Notice emergent properties and adapt continuously. In complex environments, inputs do not map clearly to outputs. Practitioners must acknowledge these environments’ emergent properties and simultaneously reconcile the immediate with the indefinite. Such systems require critical thinking, experimentation, and judgment. As we observe and evaluate emerging issues, we build resiliency if we can learn to adapt to the expanding complexity.
- Exponential: Pay attention to nonlinear types of change that increase in growth rate. We see rapid acceleration of seemingly-small shifts. Monitoring early on the rates of change will mean less surprises.
Is there any emerging area you believe will gain prominence in the upcoming year?
Roger: Info-Ruption: Information as an Existential Disruption to Democracy. Information, misinformation, disinformation, and data: We might not know what to call it, but we certainly are drowning in it. Today, every organization, institution, and nation is exposed to info-ruption, the disruption of information. As the speed of technological innovation and the amount of information we generate grows exponentially, the rise of misinformation and disinformation could be described as an arms race. Our society has now entered the age of info-ruption, and how we navigate the path forward will define our future.
With the world hyperconnected through devices as extensions of our bodies, information can easily be used as a weapon. A new normal has been established in which an undeclared and invisible war is fought entirely through algorithms, narratives, and manipulated media. These “Weapons of Mass Disinformation” (WMDs) don’t play by the same rulebook as traditional warfare:
- Limited investment: Low entry costs for anyone to productize and export highly effective disinformation at minimal marginal cost.
- Precision targeting of critical assets: The ability for “bad actors” to tamper with or alter any infrastructure anywhere in the world for nefarious purposes.
- Unattributed: Blurred lines between public and private, legal or illegal, international and domestic, truth or untruth, making it near impossible to identify or respond to these anonymous bad actors.
Unlike traditional wars that battle over territory, the wielders of these WMDs have an entirely different objective in our age of info-ruption: the widespread polarization of Western democracies.
Whether you look at the latest US midterm 2022, 2020 and 2016 elections, Brazil’s 2022 elections, UK’s Brexit vote, or initial vaccine intentions, the outcomes were close to 50:50. According to a February 2021 survey, just before the widespread rollout of the Covid vaccination, 49% of respondents did not intend to receive a vaccine or were unsure. One year later, despite vaccines being the most powerful tool available to protect from Covid, only 48.7% of the population over the age of 12 had been vaccinated and received at least one booster dose in the US, according to the CDC.
These high-stake societal events have in common that they are all split down the middle. All these debates have profound impacts on the futures of their countries, including their relative geopolitical and economic positions. Each of these hot-button debates was polarized in large part due to intentional misinformation, disinformation, and interference.
The puppeteers who pull the strings of info-ruption have simple objectives: polarize Western democracies so they focus solely on hot-button issues instead of aligning on a longer-term strategy. Polarization ultimately weakens democracies so they become ungovernable.
In relative terms, this strategy provides its puppeteers with a great deal of flexibility:
- Unattributed and uncoordinated, disinformation somehow self-reinforces between the perpetrating entities (states, organizations, and individuals).
- Given their expertise at seeding, packaging, and spreading hot-button stories at a massive scale, unreliable sources of information collide then reverberate across society, as every individual interprets it differently.
- Governments, indirectly targeted by these campaigns, then find it difficult to control anything, as the spillover effects cause rampant confusion and further polarization.
This strategy can create the geopolitical equivalent of an autoimmune disease. The precise outcomes of these WMDs are irrelevant to the puppeteers, as they desire no direct political gain. Instead, they just want to distract and weaken their rivals so they can focus on their own strategies, such as interfering with or invading neighboring countries. For instance, many of Russia’s information attacks around the 2016 and 2020 US presidential elections did no immediate harm to recipients, but inflamed polarization and internal issues.
Western society is only starting to understand the broad reach and facets of information. Only in 2017 did the US Joint Chiefs of Staff add information to their list of joint functions, making information part of their “framework for what a [collaborative military] staff can and should do at the operational level of war.” The importance of epistemic security and cybersecurity is now comparable to that of national security.
Now, as we struggle to determine effective responses to the many mounting existential threats to our species, polarization threatens the systems by which we operate. To address this, there are no simple fixes. We must think and act systemically with regards to our institutions and regulations:
- Updating education: Media literacy is essential to countering the spread of fake content. We must teach data literacy to our children, lest they emerge illiterate in our accelerating info-ruption. To adapt to our complex world of weaponized information, should schools treat data itself as a language, as fundamental to our existence as our other linguistic substrates?
- Government preparedness: Cyber and data breaches of some of the world’s most sensitive government agencies and infrastructure are so frequent today that they may soon become banal. Governments and organizations which do not build resilience and deep cyber capabilities will suffer in this new era of cyber insecurity.
- Alignment and incentives: Establish accountability and penalties for excessive and deliberate disinformation or insufficient investment in preventing false information. Media platforms could be assessed and rated in terms of degrees of misinformation, disinformation, and fake news.
- Algorithm disclosure and transparency: We must determine how to audit algorithms, and whether disclosures will help assess the extent of the problem and enable workable remedies.
- Existential risk management: By prioritizing organizational resilience, we can anticipate the impacts from prolonged breakdowns of our communication networks, energy and infrastructure attacks, and real-world spillover from mounting geopolitical tensions.
- Technological developments e.g. ability to detect deep fakes, fake news etc.
Supporting a thriving democracy in the age of info-ruption is not easy. It’s essential that we all become familiar with the way media and technology works, including our ability to distinguish trusted information sources from fake and malicious content. With the right dose of anticipation, education, and capacity building, we can prepare ourselves to adequately address the existential threat that information warfare poses. If we don’t, info-ruption may lead to disastrous consequences for society.
What do you think is the most important thing for people to understand about the future?
Roger: The most important thing for people to understand about the future is the increasing cost of relying on unchallenged assumptions.
Fixed assumptions are like making a singular bet on a specific future, often to the exclusion of all else. An embedded bias in assumptions is taking for granted that the future will resemble the past. The danger lies in relying heavily on the completeness of what is known in relation to the assumptions made and the implications of those assumptions if they prove to be flawed. Assumptions are not limited to businesses, governments, or decision-makers; everyone makes assumptions. The determining factor lies in how much we choose to rely on those assumptions and what else we decide to imagine beyond the assumptions themselves.
Holding on to flawed assumptions will have an increasing cost, including missed opportunities. The future is unknown, and we all constantly make assumptions. But to rely on assumptions as if they are definitive facts is often costly, and sometimes dangerous. Economic forecasts abound, but they did not protect the world from abruptly waking up in 2022 to the highest levels of inflation experienced for half a century. The mighty US Treasury ended up having to acknowledge its total lack of understanding of the impact of what it qualified as “unanticipated” shocks to the economy. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen stated: “I think I was wrong then about the path that inflation would take…”
Russia’s approach to invading Ukraine, and to a degree the expectations of the world, rested on a number of assumptions. According to CSIS, the first assumption was that Ukraine was deeply divided and would not provide a unified or effective response. Second, Zelensky was a weak leader. The third assumption was that the Russian armed forces were highly effective, and the fourth that Ukrainian forces were weak. Fifth, Russia assumed the US and NATO would be slow and limited in supplying weapons to Ukraine. These were not arbitrary assumptions; they were each based on analyzing available data points. If the past was a proxy for predicting the future, they could have transpired as correct assumptions.
The assumption that interdependence with Russia would produce stability, predictability, and even alignment determined Germany’s energy policy, military strategy, and defense budgets for decades. This assumption proved to be extremely expensive. In 2022, Germany found itself heavily reliant on Russian energy supplies and realized that for decades it determined its defense budgets and strategy based on assumptions of stability.
- Hindsight Bias & Convictions
In hindsight, it is easy to believe that certain events were predictable. In making assumptions, the issue is not that what we assumed did not materialize; we inevitably make assumptions all the time, and no one knows the future. The true issues are:
- Unwavering certainty of fixed assumptions: Flawed assumptions often have in common absolute reliance on their accuracy. What is noteworthy is the firm belief of being correct. That certainty eliminates the questioning of explorable alternative futures.
- Building assumptions versus capacity building: Deep convictions may be a personal bias or simply overconfidence, but they result in accepting assertions instead of challenging them. Reliance on fixed assumptions can preclude any preparatory capacity building. Deep convictions, often unfounded, may result in laying foundations that cannot sustain major shocks or even small deviances. Gaps in capacity arise from not being agile enough to make sense of new patterns and emerge with novel paradigms adapted to the actual world – rather than to the assumed reality.
The degree of “wrongness” of any assumption would not matter so much if these beliefs were not relied on so heavily, as a proxy for providing certainty of the future, to the exclusion of anything else.
Our complex and uncertain world requires us to challenge the mental models that sustain our beliefs, values, generalizations, or assumptions:
- Challenging legacy assumptions and decision-making: The once-solid assumptions underpinning our global markets and Earth systems are now in unprecedented flux. Across private and public sectors, every organization has to rewire its decision-making and the assumptions being made.
- The cost of “business as usual” assumptions are increasing: The cost of continuing to run businesses as if the world is stable and linear is increasing. As uncertainty increases over time, it becomes more costly to assume that the world is predictable, as predictability is only viable when parameters are known and stable. The greater the extent of unknown variables, the less predictable the environment. “It has never happened” or “it is unthinkable” provides no comfort nor guarantee as to what may happen in the future.
The world’s consultants spend their time advising on restructuring, optimizing, finding every possible source of cost savings. At the same time, the greatest cost of all is ignored: the cost of assumptions.
The cost of relying on unchallenged assumptions is going through the roof.
Many of the perceived cost savings actually make these organizations more fragile (e.g. “optimizing” supply chains), which drive costs even higher over time. Think how much companies could save if they were more thoughtful about the assumptions they relied on. By holding on to wrong assumptions, this source of savings is completely ignored.
Reframe your assumptions about the world to access the greatest source of savings imaginable. Broadening and reimagining assumptions offers more effective cost savings than skimping on food subsidies, employee benefits, or post-it notes.
No one knows the future and we all constantly make assumptions. We look at numerous examples of flawed assumptions. They often have in common uncompromising authors, all with absolute certainty, and unwavering reliance on every aspect of their limiting assumptions.
For instance, Nokia assumed it would remain the king of mobile phones, as it had always been. In reality, smartphones are miniature computers, and processing power increased exponentially while size and costs declined. Nokia missed the fact that an emerging computer manufacturer such as Apple could provide breakthrough innovation far beyond the easily replicable basics of voice communication.
- What Are the Alternatives to Relying on Assumptions?
While there are no outright alternatives to making assumptions, there are considerations in how assumptions might be used or relied upon:
- Acknowledge the limitations and increasing cost of assumptions: Holding on to beliefs and flawed assumptions will have an increasing cost, including missed opportunities. The futures are unknown, and we all constantly make assumptions – some wrong, some right. But to rely on assumptions as if they are definitive facts is often costly, and sometimes dangerous. Fixed assumptions distort reality, can mislead strategy, policy, and decision-making.
- The futures are open: Outcomes are not predetermined. The future is not a prisoner to any fixed assumptions. Scanning early signals while exploring next-order implications and imagining the futures we desire can galvanize agency to reframe perceptions of what does not yet exist.
- In a dynamic world, static assumptions need constant updating: Even if assumptions are substantiated and proven to be fact at any point in time, situations and contexts evolve. What may have been correct yesterday may not be tomorrow in a contingent, constantly updating world.
- Nonlinearity amplifies assumptions: Appreciate that, when relying on fragile assumptions in nonlinear environments, assumptions will be amplified.
The world is multilayered and change is messy. Over-simplifying the kaleidoscope of possible outcomes is a constraint to the multiplicity of opportunities.
With time, all assumptions magnify and amplify; wrong assumptions cascade and blow-up.
- Futures Thinking & Scenario Development: Asking Questions
looking for a predetermined answer or specific outcome. Foresight is the capacity to explore the possible futures systemically, as well as drivers of change, to inform short-term decision-making. We ask questions, challenge views, broaden possibilities, and explore what we may not be thinking about – what lies below the iceberg. We ask why?, why not?, what if?, what if not?, so what?. For these questions focused on the futures, there is no data. The futures are open and there are no facts relating to what lies ahead. It is an exploration that appreciates the multiplicity of the futures – the exciting, diverse, and layered set of options, opportunities, and outcomes which may arise.
In foresight, insights from data and analysis that evaluate historic cycles, drivers, and trends are helpful for sense-making, but only insofar as they provide a snapshot of the existing world as a base to start exploring from (not the finality). Our imagination helps build and explore many different scenarios, outcomes, and possible futures. Some of these are more probable and plausible; others may be our vision of the preferable futures; we will also integrate some outliers. These outliers, such as Black Swans (unpredictable and rare but extremely high-impact events) and Butterfly Effects (small cause having outsized spillover effects), are still possible.
After the first atomic bomb was dropped during World War II, the world was confronted with the unprecedented possibility of nuclear annihilation. There were previously no comparable ways of ending civilization. The idea of using scenarios for situations of high uncertainty was originally developed by Herman Kahn (RAND Corporation) for military and nuclear strategy, and Pierre Wack (Royal Dutch Shell) for business strategy in the 1970s.
Foresight and scenario planning build on linear strategic planning, but the fundamental departure is the recognition that the futures are different from the past, that longer timeframes matter (beyond the next few quarters or years), and that unpredictability and next-order impacts need to somehow be captured. Scenarios can help solve problems differently as they imagine a world that does not yet exist. Foresight, with scenario planning, allows the exploration and juxtaposition of a multiplicity of possible outcomes without having to rely on extrapolating assumptions, the compounding effects of these extrapolations, or reliance on a singular, often arbitrary, outcome.
Scenarios typically offer narratives for a handful of alternative futures, some we may wish to create and others we need to prepare for. By looking a decade ahead, we can focus on departures from the world we know. We are focusing on unknowns, acknowledging those deep uncertainties we cannot ignore as we project the next 10 years. We want to integrate the constants and trends we observe as a baseline, while also imagining the cascading impacts which might arise from the drivers of disruption and emerging issues. The scenarios will reflect our appreciation of the degrees of uncertainty, what might be at stake in certain circumstances, and the breadth of imagined possibilities beyond what can be inferred or deduced from analysis.
These scenarios are dynamic living narratives, and require updating as the world itself evolves.
The purpose of scenario development is preparation, not prediction. This readying benefits any eventualities – well beyond the handful of specific future scenarios imagined. The value in thoughtful scenario development is to enhance awareness and mental flexibility for even the most extreme (but plausible) changes, while rewiring how our minds and systems are programmed. The objective is to build comfort with changing environments, which can represent major departures from the world we are accustomed to.
As we evaluate the opportunities and risks that emanate from the scenarios developed, we scrutinize the potential consequences of the different alternative futures. This allows us to build resilience and the capacity to sustain even the most serious impacts and outcomes.
What motivated the choice of the topic “Disrupt With Impact” for your fifth book? Can you describe your new book a bit? When’s it coming out, where can we find it?
Roger: Slated for publication in September 2024, the book will be called Disrupt With Impact: Achieve Business Success in an Unpredictable World. The book will initially be released in English language globally, available to order in print and ebooks on bookstores and digital platforms worldwide.
It is hoped that it will eventually be available in Portuguese for the key Brazilian market.
Designed to help readers steer their business confidently through uncertain futures with practical strategies, frameworks, and guidance, the book empowers impactful change and thriving in unpredictability.
Disrupt With Impact is the ultimate guide to thriving in today’s complex business landscapes. In a world characterized by relentless change and escalating uncertainty, this book provides practitioner frameworks and foresight for effective strategic decision-making. From tackling major challenges like sustainability and artificial intelligence to navigating geopolitical shifts and cybersecurity risks, be empowered to explore uncharted waters with a compass calibrated for the unpredictable. Disrupt With Impact isn’t just a book; it’s your indispensable resource to uncover sustainable value creation opportunities amidst monumental shifts, as industries and business models radically transform.
Roger Spitz has dedicated his career to advising boards, leadership teams, and investors on strategy under uncertainty. As the president of Techistential, a leading climate and foresight consultancy, and in his capacity as chair of the Disruptive Futures Institute, he empowers organizations to become future-savvy. The book distills the futures intelligence garnered from a rich tapestry of experiences. It discards tired and outdated formulas, recognizing the diminishing effectiveness of pre-cooked playbooks in our unpredictable world.
For Spitz, the true impact of innovation isn’t in its disruptiveness. Rather, it lies in its ability to ignite hope, unlock new possibilities, and catalyze positive transformations across systems.
Disrupt With Impact is a guide to embracing the futures with resilience and foresight derived from advising some of the most prestigious and largest organizations in the world.
Capturing the challenges, opportunities, and implications of change, the book will be organized into four parts:
- Part I – Disruption Has Always Existed. What’s Different Now?
- Part II – The Future of Artificial Intelligence, Strategic Decision-Making, and Technology
- Part III – How to Drive System Innovation and Transformative Change
- Part IV – Unleash Your Disruptive Thinking with the Disruptive Thinking CanvasTM
How can business leaders prepare their organizations to deal with uncertainty and disruption?
Roger: First, leverage on disruption as a springboard to value creation. Disruption is disrupting itself, creating a space for sustainable value creation. Value destruction will arise for those who assume business as usual. In my own example, I learnt to harness human capital and explored how disruption provided me with an opportunity to develop both a foresight practice and an education platform.
Second, in aligning our leadership and decision-making among stakeholders, values, and actions, we have the agency to make impactful changes despite our complex world. Changing the underlying structures to incentivize longer-term thinking is a prerequisite. As we have seen with the Covid pandemic or energy transition, the cost of being prepared pales in comparison with the costs of lacking that anticipation.
Third, embrace ecosystem innovation, with Business Models-as-a-System (BMaaS). BMaaS blur boundaries between partners, customers, suppliers, and competitors. They constantly nurture the creation of new markets and work collaboratively to address systemic challenges, such as how Tesla leverages user data to train self-driving models, pioneers agile over-the-air software updates, and lays the foundation for million-mile batteries.
Fourth, consider the duality of disruption with Greenaissance & Sustainability, as the ultimate disruptive opportunity. We define Greenaissance as an era of renewal with momentous innovation and investment opportunities, aligned across fields with the common objective of sustainable energy transition.
Firth, understand the next phase of digital disruption as industries and sectors converge, intersect, and emerge. The clearly delineated “industries” or “sectors” of yesterday are disappearing. The futures are hybrid; in this liminal world, there are no industry boundaries. The magic happens when intersections create new combinations.
Are there specific strategies you recommend for companies to adapt quickly to unforeseen changes?
Roger: My filter to the world, for organizations to adapt quickly to unforeseen changes, is one where uncertainty is the only certainty. The creation of the Disruptive Futures Institute and The Definitive Guide to Thriving on Disruption (“Guidebooks”) was an emergent process. When we built the Guidebooks and education platform from scratch, I used our own AAA framework (Antifragile, Anticipatory, and Agility) to lead during those times of uncertainty and unpredictability:
- Antifragile benefits from frequent and small errors that provide helpful lessons, so we constantly tested and prototyped our work, treating mistakes as valuable insights.
- Anticipatory refers to the capacity to take proactive steps to ultimately make more informed decisions in response to any futures which may materialize. We kept zooming in and zooming out to the longer-term, developing optionalities along the way.
- Agility describes what is required for emergence such as our ability to emerge in the “here and now” – when there may be no right answers to guide us.
Of the AAA Framework, “Agility” to emerge in the present is probably the one which is most critical to adapt quickly to unforeseen changes (ex post).
- Agility: Emerging in the Present
The third pillar of our AAA framework explores agility through multiple perspectives. A key concept is emergence, which is the process whereby the formation of novel collective behaviors, properties, or phenomena emerge when the parts of a system interact in a wider whole. As the separate parts would not have these properties on their own, emergence generates synergies between individual aspects that occur only thanks to their interactions.
We use two properties of “agility” to describe what is required for emergence in complex environments:
- Emergent agility: Our ability to emerge in the “here and now.” Real-time trial and error as there may be no right answers to guide us.
- Strategic agility: Our agility in reconciling different time horizons. The agility to reconcile the strategic long-term vision with short-term decision-making and problem-solving.
We want to amplify or dampen our evolving behaviors based on feedback, allowing instructive patterns to emerge. Lean and nimble cells that attack problems independently can influence leverage points to create attractors for emergence. These agile strategies have risen in all sorts of areas, from nature itself to lean startups.
In contrast, our uniform, centralized, and hierarchical organizations are not agile. Most move slowly, continuing with unchanged approaches. These fragile strategies do not respond well to constantly changing circumstances.
- Cognitive Agility: Problem-Solving for Systemic Risks
Cognitive agility allows us to respond to change with an appreciation of the entire system; to experiment with emergent behaviors; and to bridge fields to move naturally between disciplines, creating new combinations in a world where patterns are hard to interpret.
- Chief Strategy Officer Out, Chief Bridging Officer In
Just as the changing environments require new decision-making and operating models, leadership roles should drastically evolve as we bridge to the futures. Disruption in the C-suite is underway, with the roles of Chief Strategy Officer (CSO) and Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) fading. We imagine a role called Chief Bridging Officer (CBO) – defined by the agility to connect and bridge the organization’s vision within constantly updating environments.
The CBO’s role is a journey of discovery, with the emergent, strategic, and cognitive agility to anticipate and constantly respond to changes in the external environment. The CBO initiates needed changes, consistent with long-term aspirations. This “outside in” thinking requires anticipating the next-order implications, rather than reacting to them.
Emergencies are not equally distributed. The degree of anticipatory thinking influences our preparations, as well as the nature, responses, and impact of the many possible emergencies that might arise.