- While the world faces crises such as an uneven economic recovery and geopolitical instability, other threats also lurk on the horizon.
- The World Economic Forum's Strategic Intelligence Outlook saw experts from different fields explore anticipated trends for 2024.
- Here's what some of the event's participants had to say on the outlook for issues such as climate, geopolitics and global business.
The world faces a multitude of interconnected crises – a spiralling climate emergency and the collapse of natural ecosystems, increased fragility and lack of trust in the global order, an uneven economic recovery, geopolitical instability and conflict.
Other threats also lurk on the horizon, such as the profound societal disruption from rapidly evolving artificial intelligence (AI) and evolved health risks from growing antimicrobial resistance and climate change triggers.
At the same time, the mass mobilization and implementation of commitments necessary to address global challenges gather pace, aided by rapid progress in many technological domains that offer promising opportunities for business, government and wider society to build a more prosperous and sustainable future within planetary and social boundaries.
Strategic Intelligence Outlook 2023
The World Economic Forum recently organized the Strategic Intelligence Outlook 2023 event in Geneva, which gathered experts from industries, academia, international organizations and think-tanks, along with a virtual audience of the Forum’s digital members, to explore the trends they anticipate will become increasingly prominent in 2024.
They also contributed to building a transformation map, a dynamic knowledge tool that enables users to explore and make sense of the complex and interlinked forces that are transforming economies, industries and global issues.
The Strategic Intelligence Outlook 2023 featured a series of sessions providing a strategic outlook on the global business trends, climate risk, artificial intelligence, and geopolitics, enabling participants to understand how to build foresight and future preparedness capabilities.
Here are some highlights from leaders who joined:
Outlook on geopolitics
“What the war in Gaza illustrates is that we are facing a very serious crisis in peace-making. Diplomatic efforts and economic tools like sanctions to end wars are failing and the deal making is getting a lot harder, leading to a distrust in the international system.
“The other trend line is another set of fresh conflicts where no region has been spared. Not only are there more wars, the wars are lasting a lot longer along with human suffering and catastrophe. ”
– Comfort Ero, President and CEO, International Crisis Group
“War is once again an acceptable grammar of negotiation. The reluctance nations had over many decades to use conflicts as a means of dialogue is over. Countries with the power to impose themselves are not holding back anymore.”
– Samir Saran, President, Observer Research Foundation
Outlook on artificial intelligence
“Customers are really curious about how generative AI, and more broadly artificial intelligence, can help them with their business growth and many organizations are now looking at areas within their business which can be supported by this technology and in some cases even undertaking proof of concepts and programmes.
“I expect that trend to continue with more use cases for this technology coming to the fore and more organizations looking at opportunities within their businesses for these sorts of technologies.”
– Amit Sinha, App Innovation, Microsoft
Global business outlook
“There are five provocations that I would put out for corporate strategy making in companies. First, companies are not very good at understanding what policy means and how that impacts their business model. Second, few companies have fully designed their base scenario, and I think its de-risking.
“Third, global companies have not been trained in synthesized multi-polar views on the world. Fourth, companies are trying to use new capabilities, like trade compliance or supply chain analytics. And finally, companies need to track the foreign policy strategy of the country where their headquarters are situated and what quality of relationships it has with the US, China and other players.”
– Markus Herrmann, Co-Founder and Managing Director, China Macro Group
Outlook on climate risk
"When something is too obvious, we don't talk about it and we don't value it. Everything that we depend on – clean air, water, food, our mere existence – is about nature, but we never think about valuing it because we always took it for granted and at a very conceptual level, as an economy, we should start valuing what nature gives us.
“If we think about the economy, over 50% of GDP comes from nature; if we start losing nature, so many businesses are dependent on it if not directly, then indirectly through their supply chains and clients, it’s an important thing but such an obvious one that we don't talk about it enough.”
– Sung-Ah Lee, Deputy Director General, Corporate Services, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
A series of sessions also helped thought leaders expand their perspectives on the challenges facing the world.
“The coming surge in demand for quantum-safe ecosystem solutions will be propelled by new standards and regulation. We will start to see regulations and regulators acknowledging 'quantum' as a new risk category, and companies will be expected to have plans to keep customers and data safe with the latest practices and technologies.”
– Michele Mosca, CEO, EvolutionQ, Canada
“A shift towards regenerative development models is crucial for mitigating environmental damage, addressing social inequality, and building the resilience needed for ecosystems and communities to evolve and adapt harmoniously. A positive relationship between people and the planet can be achieved through circular and ethical practices.”
– Özge Aydogan, Director, SDG Lab, Switzerland
“Disinformation is deepening polarization and division around the world – and much of it is focused on migration. Disinformation and hate speech about migrants can stoke xenophobia and direct hostility and discrimination at innocent victims, which in turn can lead to the legitimization of anti-migrant policy by government authorities. These links between disinformation and policy are, however, frequently overlooked and unmeasured.”
– Marie McAuliffe, Head, Migration Research, International Organization for Migration (IOM), Geneva
Other session explored themes to help business, government and society prepare for the future and enhance their future-preparedness and resilience.
Building strategic intelligence
“We should describe an augmented intelligence, rather than an artificial intelligence, where the practitioner is still the centre of innovation and creativity and they leverage these technologies as an augmentation and a force multiplier.”
– Igor Jablokov, Chief Executive Officer, Pryon Inc Business in the Digital Age
What is the World Economic Forum doing about helping business navigate the trade war?
Emerging technologies, the world’s climate emergency and growing trade tensions between the US, China and Europe are disrupting global trade.
The World Economic Forum, in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), announced in September 2019 a new Strategic Value Framework to help all stakeholders along the global value chain understand and respond to disruptions brought on by significant global trends.
The Strategic Value Framework explores three global value chains: the cotton, electronics and automotive industries. It explains that by measuring and effectively responding to disruptions in these three global value chains, the total value could increase by about 65% over three years. No response to the disruptions could result in a loss of up to 28% across the value chains.
The Strategic Value Framework is an initiative of the Forum’s Platform for Shaping the Future of Advanced Manufacturing and Production. Companies are invited to join the platform to access this advanced tool and support ongoing industry-specific implications and outcomes through workshops, dialogues, interviews and more.
Business in the digital age
“The small to medium enterprise segment has historically been underserved by banks. Globally, SMEs need financing to the tune of $5 trillion in developing countries alone.
“In the UK alone, there are 5.5 million SMEs that make 99% of the businesses and provide 60% of the employment. […] This makes SMEs a very crucial sector and their development is a top priority for governments.”
– Kanika Hope, Chief Strategy Officer, Temenos
Mastering foresight for organizational transformation
“We are not building foresight to predict the future, we are doing this to understand the present, to understand the forces and factors likely to shape our long-term future but also to understand the choices, the options, and the policies which can help bring one of those potential solutions to life.”
– Maria Langan-Riekhof, Director, Strategic Futures Group, National Intelligence Council (NIC) of the US
“Foresight is not something some people should do all the time but something all people should do some of the time...
“We must be engaging the general public in conversations around the future so that they can feel that the future is not happening to them but is something they are engaging with […] and that they can play an active role in it. […] We must be including people in designing futures that they want to feel, touch and be part of.”
– Abdulaziz AlJaziri, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Chief Operations Officer, Dubai Futures Foundation