Fourth Industrial Revolution

Strategic Intelligence Outlook 2022: navigating complexity and interconnected systems

Strategic intelligence capabilities can help plan for uncertain future scenarios and help organizations be better prepared.

Strategic intelligence capabilities can help plan for uncertain future scenarios and help organizations be better prepared. Image: World Economic Forum

Stephan Mergenthaler
Head of Strategic Intelligence; Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum
Abhinav Chugh
Content and Partnerships Lead, World Economic Forum
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  • The World Economic Forum organised the Strategic Intelligence Outlook from 1-2 December 2022.
  • The event was held as compounding global crises continue to impact organizations and individuals across sectors.
  • The Outlook summit provided an assessment on 2023, and helped participants understand how to build foresight and future preparedness capabilities.

The world has transitioned from a period of relative predictability into an age of increased uncertainty and fragility. Climate change is driving natural disasters and extreme weather events that are taking a toll on lives and livelihoods. The war in Ukraine triggered a global energy and food crisis. And, technological innovation and transformation are evolving at a speed that policymakers can’t keep up with. This is in the shadow of COVID-19, which the world is still recovering from while preparing for other future health risks.

Organizations cannot be caught off-guard by external threats. They must build a capacity to foresee and predict unforeseen circumstances while also developing an understanding of current challenges.

As the international organization for public-private cooperation, the World Economic Forum set up its Strategic Intelligence platform to support this. It helps businesses, government, civil society and young changemakers understand the complex forces driving transformational change across economies, industries and global issues. The platform's transformation maps, a monitoring framework within a dynamic visualisation format, bring users to the foresight horizon.

Strategic Intelligence Outlook 2022

Along with World Future’s Day championed by UNESCO, the Forum organised the Strategic Intelligence Outlook from 1-2 December 2022. The summit featured live expert briefings, panels and workshops to over 1,500 participating digital members.

This event was designed to promote awareness of futures thinking, help participants understand how to build foresight capabilities and to provide a strategic outlook on the most critical issues which will gain significance in 2023 relating to the global economy, geopolitics, workplaces of the future, technology governance, and nature and climate.

The Outlook also featured a series on Future Readiness to help understand how individuals and organizations can be future-ready and resilient with leading global experts sharing best practices on how to build foresight capabilities, how small- and medium-sized enterprises can approach ESG, and the digital transformation of industries, along with the launch of the Future Readiness of SME and Mid-Sized Companies Report 2022.

The Strategic Outlook for 2023

The Strategic Intelligence Outlook 2022 featured a series of sessions providing a strategic outlook on the global economy, technology governance, nature and climate, and geopolitics. Here are some highlights from leading global experts:

Guy Miller, Managing Director and Chief Market Strategist, Zurich Insurance

"When you’ve had excess liquidity (in the past), it was easy to access funding with any idea you had. This was a waste of capital, returns and capital were not what they should be. This now forces business and institutional investors to focus on the fundamentals, to make sure there are good business models, to make sure you get a return on your equity, and to make sure you get your money back."

Pamela Coke-Hamilton, Executive Director, International Trade Centre

"Poverty has increased in the global South. There wasn’t any extra cash flowing around, and no funds from the Government because they just can’t afford it. What she’ll like to see: there needs to be a real, honest, direct and engaged dialogue between the North and the South, especially at the business level. In the North, people got lovely packages to support them, 2 years’ salary, 80% salary but this wasn’t the reality for 7 billion people in the South.

"For companies that are huge, there’s been a lot of liquidity. But the fundamental challenge for small businesses has always been access to finance - real access. The money is there, money has never been the problem. The problem has always been how to access this money that will enable small businesses to not just survive, but to make it to the next level."

Pamela Coke-Hamilton at the Strategic Outlook on the Global Economy at the Strategic Intelligence Outlook 2022
Pamela Coke-Hamilton at the Strategic Outlook on the Global Economy at the Strategic Intelligence Outlook 2022 Image: World Economic Forum

Mohit Kapoor, Executive Vice-President and Group Chief Technology Officer, Mahindra Group

"A large focus area going forward should be to use technology to drive positive change for the people and planet - since we make automobiles, we focus on how to make them safer; while making tractors, we focus on how to make them smarter to help farmers produce more from their land; we focus on using good technology for irrigation with less chemicals being used to improve the quality of the produce. The digital public infrastructure in India has helped accelerate the journey. We’re able to engage with the customer digitally and physically, use of data for good outcomes, being able to exchange credit to those who are knew to credit, new to banking."

Rob Floyd, Director for Innovation and Digital Policy, African Center for Economic Transformation

"One important takeaway from this is interoperability. Learning from the Brazil and Africa experience, where we have regional trade blocs where interoperability should be employed but is not, and I believe the World Economic Forum has a role in taking this conversation forward."

Elena Manaenkova, Deputy Director-General, World Metereological Organization

"In 2022, we came to COP27 with another year of breaking records. This is due to a higher concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This year alone we've seen a jump in methane which is higher than any other trend in the past - this is a worrying sign. There is irreversible change occurring in the Earht's cryosphere which will be gone by the end of the century. In this year alone, due to the extreme heatwaves in Europe, the glaciers in the Swiss Alps lost 6.3% of their mass which is around a 3-4 metres reduction - there is a similar trend in the Hindu Kush and the Andes too."

strategic intelligence Elena Manaenkova, Deputy Director-General, World Metereological Organisation
Elena Manaenkova, Deputy Director-General, World Metereological Organisation with Nicole Schwab Image: World Economic Forum

Thomas Crowther, Assistant Professor, Global Ecosystem Ecology, ETH Zurich

"There needs to be a change in biodiversity being viewed as a co-benefit to being a key driver in our move towards global sustainability. Nature traps millions of tonnes of carbon for millions of years - this carbon capture happens as a by-product of healthy biodiversity, including the people who are integral to the maintenance of healthy ecosystems. We need to move away from the idea that nature is just a tool to capture carbon from the atmosphere as that could lead to monocultures propagating which can be quite harmful to biodiversity. Nature is the reason why we are trying to address climate change because it's the essence of life on Earth."

Anabel Gonzalez, Deputy Director-General, World Trade Organisation (WTO)

"We still see significant momentum behind trade and globalisation notwithstanding the trade frictions that are overwhelming global trade systems. Global merchandise trade volumes are at record highs, and digital trade is booming thanks to decisions of businesses and consumers all over the world. However, globalisation is changing fast with global supply chains getting reconfigured and we're seeing investment decisions being made to move production elsewhere. The key question here is: how much are leading economies willing to mix security of supply chains with techno-nationalism and distortionary industrial policies? If we risk going too far, we end up in a lose-lose situation."

strategic intelligence Borge Brende, Anabel Gonzalez, Scott Weber and Peter Maurer at the Strategic Outlook on Geopolitics
Borge Brende, Anabel Gonzalez, Scott Weber and Peter Maurer at the Strategic Outlook on Geopolitics Image: World Economic Forum

Scott Weber, President, Interpeace

"We need collaboration at the international level. However, there is a massive crisis of trust in institutions at the international level. There is a degree of polarisation and a sense of double standards that we have to address. Everything that we do going forward, we need to ensure we build trust internationally, nationally and locally. Trust is really the core challenge to address in building a peaceful world."

Building future preparedness

Foresight is a systemic, inclusive, reflective process that looks at short- to long-term potentialities and enables better decision-making, alignment with stakeholders and builds consensus towards a common vision. It empowers decision-makers and policy planners to use new ways of thinking about, talking about and implementing strategic plans that are compatible with the unfolding future.

This also relates to organizational future-readiness, adaptiveness and agility. Its ability to rapidly navigate and learn from change, while maintaining its core values, relies on the strategic use of key resources to facilitate foresight, scenario planning and future preparedness. The scanning of the periphery is key to building forecasting and future-preparedness capabilities in organizations.

Here are some highlights from the Strategic Intelligence Outlook Future Preparedness series:

Mmaki Jantjies, Head of Innovation, Telkom

"What we have been seeing over the years is increased competition for telecommunication companies as non-traditional tel-coms are moving into the space of communication. The positive effect of this was that we became more collaborative with service providers. During the pandemic, the collaboration increased more as telecommunication companies saw regulators as enablers... so what we are seeing is more collaboration between key players in the digital transformation of industries."

Stanislas Bocquet, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, PALO IT Group

"We are seeing that economies around the world are decoupling... this means we have to be more and more local, and companies need to reallocate their resources and investments globally. Digitisation is a way to provide solutions in order to adapt and have the agility toward this de-globalisation and the decoupling of several economies."

Paulo Carvalho, Professor and Researcher, University of Lisbon

"It is important to allow people to learn how to think about the future, give them the basic principles, concepts and tools so that they can explore the future and not be completely passive as the future unfolds."

Jeanette Kwek, Head, Centre for Strategic Futures and Director, Futures Directorate, Prime Minister's Office, Singapore

"Our Leadership has always understood that we must be aware of what is happening in the world (…). To be prepared for an uncertain future is necessary for Singapore’s success. In order to do that, we have instituted strategic foresight as a critical government capability."

Christian Mohr, Chief Customer Officer, UnternehmerTUM

"Research shows that companies who are focusing their activities on innovation and technology during crises tend to outperform their competitors by an average of 30%."

Rashimah Binte Rajah, Lecturer, National University of Singapore

"Energy crisis, hyperinflation, increasing demands from consumers for sustainability, these are hitting SMEs and mid-sized companies hard. While it is understandable to be in survival mode, we hope however that this research shows that digital transformation, sustainability and talent can go hand in hand and secure SMEs and mid-sized company’s long-term future readiness. These should be viewed as core fundamentals in the business as opposed to nice to haves."

Caroline Casey, Founder and Director, The Valuable 500

"We are starting to see a trend from training to therapy. It's not just about training but understanding who we are as individuals and what drives us. We need a sense of self-acceptance otherwise we cannot lead well. Individuals moving to the top of organisations are deeply investing in more therapy and self-development - and that is what is required for the future."

Kate Bravery, Global Advisory and Insight Leader, Mercer

"There are two trends that will be a lasting legacy of this post-pandemic period, the first being that all future of work discussions have been reset along more humanistic values as opposed to technology and digital innovation driven - it's how people are changing and their attitudes towards work are changing. The second is agility - here how we manage makes the difference by looking at the emergence of agile talent pools, and innovations around talent sharing and talent marketplaces. Designing agile teams and building more skills-based organisations will need to be balanced with employee well-being."

Jason Jay, Senior Lecturer, MIT - Sloan School of Management

"Efforts to elevate the standards of business often target large enterprises but they end up having ripple effects throughout the supply chain including for the SMEs. The challenge for small enterprises to comply with ESG mandates can squeeze out resource-limited suppliers and so capacity building is incumbent on the big players for their smaller partners. A lean management set of techniques and practices provided to suppliers to support ESG, especially where financing options are made available as well, can result in a partnership approach that is more effective than a mandated policing system. There are technology platforms that are enabled to help companies draw out the data they need from their suppliers on ESG metrics, in the same way the SMEs can access these platforms to see what is required from them to become players in the supply chains for larger corporates.

Laura Murray, CEO, The CETA Approach

"Invest in people, invest in their wellbeing and their mental health to support physical safety and emotional wellbeing for a highly productive team. A real system of care, addressing a diversity of needs and focused on equality, is needed to centralise a people-first approach in a business model, and has the benefit of supporting the retention of workforce and boosting financial health. Regional concerns also play a role, we have to be aware of the stigma associated with mental health, so SMEs need to think through their options for how they resource this as an organisation and consider outsourcing it. Technology is a supporting factor but can also be overwhelming in terms of how many platforms and systems companies need to integrate and it can sometimes be more useful to keep things simple and human-centred."

Discover how you can get involved and watch the sessions on-demand from the World Economic Forum’s Strategic Intelligence Outlook 2022 here.

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Related topics:
Fourth Industrial RevolutionStakeholder CapitalismGeo-Economics and PoliticsEconomic GrowthClimate ActionJobs and the Future of Work
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