Thinking The Unthinkable

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Executive leadership faces new vulnerabilities. Many leaders privately concede them, but few are willing to talk publicly about them.

“Unthinkable” events since 2014 have revealed a new leadership fragility at the highest levels. And the pace of change in 2016 shows that the uncertainties are greater than ever. Is this the “new normal?”

Thinking The Unthinkable is a rolling, ongoing, dynamic investigation into why leaders have appeared more unable or unwilling than ever to anticipate the biggest issues of our time. Since 2014 these have included the new assertiveness of President Putin’s Russia, the rise of so-called ‘Islamic state’ the sudden oil price crash, growing cyber-vulnerability, and the exponential growth in mass migration and people movements.

In an era of “wicked problems” why are current leadership behaviours and culture apparently not fit for purpose? What are the causes of so many failures in policy and strategic forecasting? Are they human frailties? Or are they  systemic failures to embrace smartly new realities?

These critical questions were put in extended confidential interviews with over 60 C-suite executives and senior public servants. Hundreds more have been engaged in conversations and conference sessions since early 2015.

This interim report written by Nik Gowing and Chris Langdon draws on the candid responses. The findings so far are scary and disconcerting. They are available to download here.

For a quick insight into what Thinking The Unthinkable is about watch these short videos by co-author Nik Gowing:

Latest Update

What does the next generation want? That was question debated by new generation leaders from across the world.
Nik Gowing was the moderator of the Northern Light 2017 Summit pre-conference in Helsinki on June 29 2017.
Starting off the discussion were two prominent political leaders, Anders Borg (former Swedish Finance Minister),
and Alexander Stubb (former Finnish Prime Minister).