Was that the sound of my risk shifting?

#riskmanagement Jun 01, 2022

If a week is a long time in politics, then six months is a lifetime for business leaders.  As someone who aspires to be a #futurologist , I save surveys and predictions of the future and review them every now and then to see how accurate they were.

I was looking at an Alix Partners ( @alixpartners ) survey of business executives done in Dec 2021. It’s a good survey and I was pleased to see that one of my concerns for the future – AI, automation and robotics had come top of the list of disruptive forces.  The surprise from the survey was that only 3% of executives were worried about Covid.  In spite of that it’s a list that no one could quarrel with.  It’s also a list that works for pretty much all businesses:

Executive’s highest priority disruptive forces in the next 12 months

  1. Automation, AI and Robotics
  2. New competition or business models
  3. Technological advances in materials and processes
  4. Pervasive connective technology infrastructure

These are all sensible things to worry about.  They are genuine #disruptive forces, over time they will impact the future of all business. No one would be fired for worrying about them.  But, scroll forward six months and my guess is that the top two worries of businesses large and small are #inflation and material shortages.  And the Chinese reaction to Covid and its effect on global trade has rather pushed that up the list.

Both Alix partners and those executives they surveyed are smart people.  They have the intellect and the information to look at the world and assess risks to their businesses.  So why did they not see today’s top two worries?

I’d be interested in your views on this.  I have a theory that what has happened here is the difference between imaginable #risk and unimaginable risk; between what we can think and plan for and those things that are too hard to think about.  Very few Executive Team strategy meetings start with an analysis of the existential risks.  Trying to get “what do we do if Russian oil stops flowing?” on the agenda is going to be a struggle.  No one at the moment wants to discuss the next pandemic and the next lockdown.  There needs to be a change of thinking so that these sorts of risk are brought into the open and discussed.  Maybe the outcome will be that there is nothing that can be done, but at least the risks will have seen the light of day.

#defyexpectations #disruptiveleadership #riskmanagement #opportunity