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Hybrid working: planning for the future
Hybrid working: planning for the future

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1.5 Future global trends and risks

The COVID-19 pandemic sought as a reminder that the external environment is not something we can control. While we adapted and found solutions to live with COVID-19, we continually have to develop an awareness of our external environment and ensure that we have plans and strategies for dealing with the knowns and unknowns.

It is not realistic or appropriate to plan for every possible scenario but having an awareness and focus on those that are most likely to happen, or impact your organisation, is sensible. Most of these are likely to be areas that you already monitor through formal and informal channels and are embedded within your organisational planning.

The UN report Shaping the Trends of Our Time [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] (United Nations, 2020) identifies the following five megatrends at a global level:

  1. Climate change and environmental degradation
  2. Demographic trends and population ageing
  3. Sustainable urbanization
  4. Digital technologies
  5. Inequalities

These are equally reflected in the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2022 (World Economic Forum, 2022a). This report and the resources on the website provide insights into areas organisations need to have an awareness of and which risks they have control over and can contribute to mitigating the impact of. Knowledge of these can potentially prevent negative outcomes both within their organisation, and externally through collaboration.

The figure below shows the Global Risks Horizon – when the risks will become a critical threat to the world. You may already be familiar with many of these. Most organisations now have net-zero targets and focus on cyber security and digital capabilities, and while mental health and the wellbeing of those within in your organisation have always been important, they have become more of a priority as the impact of COVID-19 and hybrid working, both on our mental and physical wellbeing, started to be more fully understood.

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Figure 8 Global Risks Horizon (World Economic Forum, 2022a)

Activity 5 Explore the Global Risks Report 2022

Timing: 15 minutes

Explore the Global Risks Report and the data on global risk perceptions on the World Economic Forum website.

1. Consider how you, your team and organisation can respond to and help minimise the impact on your stakeholders from the short-, medium- and long-term risks the World Economic Forum have identified. Make some notes on this below.

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2. Answer the following question in the report by voting in the poll below.

How do you feel about the outlook for the world?

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The Global Risk Report is something that many people in organisations do not need to engage with at a detailed level, but you may have seen similar themes and trends that you are focusing on within your organisation.

Your response to the poll will be based on your own experiences, what is of interest/concern to you and how you feel about uncertainty. Do you actually worry about the trends identified or are they a fleeting concern?

The results from respondents as part of the report for this question are available in two places from the World Economic Forum, one within the report and the other on their website. Interesting these are displayed different in the two images (figure 9 below) One is presented left to right, negative to positive and the other, left to right, by percentage biggest to smallest.

Does seeing the data in the different ways change your reaction to how worried/concerned you might need to be?

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Figure 9 Ways of presenting data. Source: World Economic, Forum Global Risks Reports 2022

Later in the course we explore how to present evidence and data to your stakeholders in a meaningful way.

Although there are many views of future trends (and some are certainly bleaker than others), it must be understood that these are only possible futures, that may or not come about, and need to be understood in the context of your sector, organisation or project.

Traditional planning normally relies on past and current factors whereas, according to the OECD’s OPSI Futures & Foresight website, futures and foresight methods ‘embrace uncertainty and encourage the analysis and consideration of a range of future possibilities to inform decision making’ (OECD, n.d.). They suggest that there is ‘no absolute future, but there are many relative futures’ which ‘can take many different forms: predicted, projected, preferred, path-dependant, probably, plausible and possible’.