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Why the Davos Economic Forum was actually interesting

BREXIT / Wednesday 15th of February 2017

A couple of weeks ago the self styled great and the good met at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Some 3,000 business leaders, politicians, financiers and scientists attended to share their views on yes, world economics.

A few days before the Forum, the WEF published its 2017 Risk Report, which incorporates the views of some 750 experts.

The report identified 30 global risks and 13 trends which will have a global impact over the next decade. Which sounds all very depressing, and in some respects undoubtedly is.

While you might be thinking that this all a bit highbrow, strategic and speculative, there is a surprising amount of value in the report.

When considering your organisations Context, ie who it is, what it does, how and where it does it, there is a lot of relevance. In addition, if you consider your business risks and opportunities, which you will be doing and monitoring on a regular basis, information from this report may actually open up new ideas, products and services etc.

See the Report here.

While the charts and the risks identified in the Report speak for themselves, the really interesting output in my view is about the 13 trends; trends which it is speculated will have a major impact in the next 10 years or more.  Herein lies the business risks and opportunities.

  • Growing middle class in emerging countries

They have shown that they are looking for established quality brands, Range Rover and Burberry to name but two. Does your brand fit in here?

  • Ageing population

Is looking for health, medical and associated services, including mobility aids and living support.

  • Rising income and wealth disparity

More income leads to the accumulation of the icons of wealth, property, jewellery, designer brand clothing.

  • Shifting power

Economic power has been moving eastward for years. Integrated in that powerbase is massive manufacturing outputs, often with low labour costs. However, scientific endeavour and product/service innovation is still at the heart of British startups and small business.

  • Increased polarisation of societies

Unfortunate, but it leads to a growth in security related products and services, namely defence procurement, security fencing, CCTV, guarding and personal protection.

  • Increased national sentiments

The Trump and Brexit effect reflect this, a growing nationalism while lauding trade agreements and driving internal investment and demand.

  • Rising cyber dependency

And with it increased need to defend against cyber-crime, through technology and software. The report also mentions “software glitches”. The growth of apps, smart appliances, AI and robotics will increase our dependency.

  • Changing landscape of international governance

Changes in international law, including work of the United Nations and environmental governance might open up opportunities in innovative solutions to crisis management and intermediate technologies.

  • Rising geographic mobility

Increased use of transportation like cars, planes and trains and with that, the infrastructure, components and support they depend on. Lifestyle and fitness choices lead to sport equipment.

  • Degrading environment

The 3 Rs, Recycling, Reduce, Reuse and the associated enterprises. Cleaning up, finding alternative raw materials. I read the other day about increase use of recycled minerals and building waste in paper production. The move away from physical products, ie the growth of music and film/TV streaming.

  • Changing climate

Highly variable and more unpredictable. Different food crops, flood defences, even more Ice Cream! A change in holiday destinations, which might reinvigorate the classic british seaside town.

  • Rising urbanisation

This will lead to demand for improved infrastructure eg Crossrail; residential and commercial building, transport, retail, food outlets and resturants.

  • Rising chronic disease

The demand for more and new medicines, medical devices, biotechnology, assisting robotics. Even alternative therapies.

Its a diverse list and deliberately so. But it demonstrates that almost regardless of your business, these key trends will present both risks and opportunities.

How your organisation fits into these trends, and how you exploit the opportunities, while mitigating any potential risks that they present, could make a significant impact on the success of your organisation over the next decade.

So, the Davos World Economic Forum might not be as irrelevant as we once thought.