insights

How a storm can boost your organisation

#news and trends  •  08/01/2021  •  Katleen Put

What if an all-encompassing ‘metastorm’ fundamentally changed the way we live, work and socialise? Jo Caudron asked himself this prophetic question in early 2020. His book De wereld is rond (‘The World is Round’, currently only available in Dutch) was elected Management Book of the Year 2020. It outlines a step-by-step plan for businesses to draw up a powerful plan for the future. His holistic approach has only become more topical in recent months.

How does a metastorm arise?

The world is increasingly faced with challenges and changes. Just think of COVID-19, climate change, digital and technological disruption, an ageing population, increasing mobility problems, etc. While entire sectors are transforming (or will have to transform), society is changing as well. Our old ways of living, working and moving around have reached their limits. Driving to work, to the shop and back home by car has long ceased to make us happy. All these trends together form a metastorm: a combination of exceptional storms that reinforce each other to the maximum.

What are the consequences of the storm?

The great uncertainties that lie ahead frighten people. They fear that they will lose their jobs, that their (grand)children will have a harder life and that they will have to give up many certainties, such as their pension and the freedom to live how and where they want.

 

Many businesses are equally uncertain about their future. The American futurologist Alvin Toffler described this phenomenon back in 1970 as ‘future shock’: too many changes in a short time span can traumatise people. If, moreover, each change has an impact on other domains, the tangle seems completely inextricable.

How can we weather the storm?

“The whole system is rotten. Get rid of it!” demand more and more angry people, from climate protesters to Trump supporters. But a hard approach rarely yields the desired outcome. When complete systems are brought down, as happened in Libya and Iraq, the situation afterwards is usually regrettable. Moreover, we are ourselves all part of ‘the system’, whether we want to or not. Instead of anti-system thinking, the world needs a ‘New Deal’: a new pact between people, businesses, governments and the planet, argues Jo Caudron.

 

Such a New Deal does not mean that we change everything radically, but that we will change certain aspects with targeted steps. There will be no revolutions or popular uprisings, but gradual changes across various domains, with new opportunities for people who have been sidelined at some point.

What does this mean for businesses?

The current metastorm seems to confront businesses with an impossible task. After all, it is no longer enough for a retailer to have a plan for the arrival of Amazon, or for a bank for the arrival of Apple Pay. In addition to the digital transformation, businesses must now prepare for the jobs of the future, new ways of living, a radical change in our mobility ...

 

The ‘good’ news, according to Caudron, is that many businesses and organisations are still a long way off. They may have already looked at how they can digitise their existing business, but the chance that they already have a real transformation plan is small. This means that companies can now kill two birds with one stone. They no longer need to look for a vision and roadmap for their digital future, but can immediately make a plan for a broader societal transformation, of which the digital component is a part.

Easier said than done ...

In his book, Jo Caudron tries to outline a step-by-step plan to achieve such a vision of the future. In a nutshell, it looks like this:

  • Take a step back and observe the world. Which disruptive forces from the metastorm can have an impact on the future? In what direction are our ideas about living, working, education, agriculture, and mobility evolving? 

 

  • Look at which forces are linked, and what the impact is of that. For example, if more and more people start teleworking, this will also have an impact on the mobility issue.

 

  • Sketch a plausible picture of future society and consider how that picture translates to your own business activities. If this is the future, what consequences will that have for us? Will our products and services remain relevant? By doing so, companies avoid the trap of classic product innovation. They no longer look at the world as it is, but as it could become. By writing their own optimistic future, companies create a mobilising plan in which all stakeholders can believe.

‘De wereld is rond’, Jo Caudron, Pelckmans Pro

 

Questions about your own sustainable future? We are happy to spar with you. Contact our consultant Sophie Maeseele at sophie.maeseele@pantarein.be to discuss your project.

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