Are we entering a brave new world?

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Seven megatrends are shaping our lives in the new world order.

Across the planet we are in a period of enormous upheaval with huge changes taking place that affect the personal choices and decisions we make every day. There are seven megatrends that are reshaping our lives, communities and countries.

This new world and new context are bringing with them moments of uncertainty and crisis, and we need to pay attention, notice and understand the impact they are having on our lives. Therefore, a leader needs to master “contextual intelligence”, the capacity to connect the dots and anticipate the systemic changes impacting the sector, country and company where they operate. So what are the seven megatrends?

Climate emergency

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Unless you have been living under a rock, you will have noticed that extreme weather events have reached unprecedented dimensions. While no single extreme event can be exclusively attributed to climate change, all these disasters would have been incredibly less likely in a world that had not warmed by 1.1º C.

So, what does that mean for you and for your personal and professional development? Understanding your personal resilience, and that of your community, to the effects of climate change is essential and offers opportunities to mitigate risks and adapt to the unavoidable component of the change. 

Understand also how your current industry is exposed to the net-zero transition: is it heavily dependent on a future with continued emissions like coal mining or oil & gas exploration? Could it shift to zero emissions, but with profound transformation, like the automotive sector? Or is it exposed to unsustainable models that are indirect but strong, like a financial institution deeply invested in fossil fuels?

Inequality and trust

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The recent pandemic has shone a spotlight on the inequalities we face right on our doorsteps. Economies are traditionally assessed by GDP [gross domestic product] growth but this growth measures the size of the cake, not how the cake is distributed. The real problem is not limited to creating growth but to achieving shared prosperity. Regrettably, the world is going exactly in the opposite direction.


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It is hard to think about any big issue – whether socioeconomic, environmental or political – that is not somehow impacted by demographic trends and shifts. When devising strategies and policies, governments make decisions every day based on demographic considerations.

One trend everyone should be aware of is the diverging age profiles between advanced economies, which are getting old rapidly, and the increasingly youthful developing world. For ageing and advanced economies, it means that the working-age population is shrinking compared to the many people society must support (mainly children and retirees). The bottom line is that rich countries will find it harder to pay pensions and cater to the healthcare requirements and other needs of older adults, with fewer and fewer people working. Young developing countries are facing the opposite challenge. Many are still experiencing high population growth, which means they need to deliver good jobs and opportunities in large measure to develop sustainably and foster social cohesion.

We need to encourage more investment to flow from rich countries to developing ones, and recognise that immigration is a necessary win-win for both youthful and ageing societies. Advanced economies will need to adopt public policies to make up for their ‘missing’ workforce, including openness to migration as well as greater participation by women in the labour market. Changing perceptions around migration is top priority.

Technology and AI

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Changes in technology are disrupting how we live as they proceed at exponential speed. With AI becoming more and more sophisticated, it is going to be able to do more and more complex tasks, eventually taking over some jobs that are currently done by humans. Humans will be left with only the jobs that require creativity and human interaction. While this may seem like a scary prospect, it will also free up humans to do the things that they are best at, which will ultimately lead to a more prosperous and efficient society.

It might sound like doom and gloom for people working in industries where AI can take over their jobs, but it will lead to a new class of workers such as AI trainers and could be a catalyst for a revolution that pushes the limits of human creativity and performance.

Infodemic and reputation

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We are in an infodemic! It just takes a click to get news on anything from everywhere in the world in real time, where around 4bn people access the web through their smartphones.

The quantity of content published is astounding: every minute, 571 new websites come online and 2m people search the internet.

Beyond the negative phenomena that are attracting attention – carefully crafted fake news, bots that comment on social media, post-truth – there is considerable demand for authoritative, in-depth answers to the big questions we’re facing today, at a time when uncertainty abounds. How do we spot fake news in a world where news travels so fast? The answer is critical thinking but how do we do it?

  1. What is happening? Gather the basic information and ask the right questions.
  2. Why is it important? Ask yourself why it’s significant and if you agree.
  3. What don’t I see? What is missing?
  4. How do I know? Where does the information come from? Has it been verified? By whom?
  5. Who is saying it? Is there any conflict of interest or hidden agenda?
  6. What else? Are there other ideas?
  7. What if?

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Geopolitics encompasses a wide range of topics and examines how geographic location, resources, boundaries and the distribution of power impact the foreign policies, conflicts and interactions between countries and regions.

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We are confronted with rapidly changing geopolitical landscapes and the question of whether we still think that the post-Covid world will inevitably return to a path of globalisation. With divisive international politics resulting in conflicts, do we still wonder why the number of refugees and internally displaced persons has been rising exponentially over the past 15 years?

We have massive unemployment among vulnerable workers with obsolete skills

Yet there are other critical issues such as climate change, demographic growth, massive inequalities in terms of access to education, health services and job opportunities, regional tensions and never-ending conflicts. All this will also shape the future geopolitical landscape, which still requires a truly global collaborative effort and a shift in values and priorities.

What do workers want? The world of work

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These megatrends have a visible and measurable effect on job markets, our careers and our professional choices.

The employment outlook has changed dramatically. Since the First Industrial Revolution, employment has been strong during phases of economic expansion, while unemployment has been dramatically high during recessions.

We now have massive unemployment among vulnerable workers with obsolete skills, coupled with a high number of job vacancies. Many companies are struggling to recruit and retain workers. Then we have a new category of people who are not unemployed – they are unemployable because they offer market skills that are no longer relevant. At the same time, a few professionals are in high demand and command salaries even three or four times higher compared to traditional, rapidly disappearing jobs.

A day doesn’t go by without a global news story hitting the headlines and giving us another WTF moment. These megatrends are affecting us in real time. We need to be prepared and have the tools to react to uncertainty and acknowledge failures and crises as opportunities to grow.

Paolo Gallo is a keynote speaker, executive coach and author of The Seven Games of Leadership – Navigating the Inner Journey of Leaders (Bloomsbury Business £16.99)

Image credit | iStock


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