Thinking the Unthinkable: confronting fast changing global leadership challenges

5 August 2016, 14:30 - 16:00

Room 1.25b, David Attenborough Building, University of Cambridge

How can top leaders in C-suites and public service confront the fast changing ‘new normal’ of unpalatable global leadership challenges?

CSER is pleased to host this talk by Nick Gowing (King's College London), a respected former BBC world journalist with decades of experience in diplomacy, defence, and international security. 

Gowing is running an project called "Thinking the Unthinkable", exploring the preparedness (or not) of people at the top of government, business and elsewhere for the rapidly-changing digital/technological/globalised world. 

Executive leadership at the highest levels of corporate, public service and political life faces new vulnerabilities that few in these positions are willing to share publicly. In 2016, they are greater than at any time in recent history, and the implications are deeply troubling. A proliferation of ‘unthinkable’ events over the previous two years has revealed a new fragility at the highest levels of corporate and public service leaderships. Their ability to spot, identify and handle unexpected, non-normative events is shown not just to be wanting but also perilously inadequate at critical moments. They threaten careers and reputations. They are potentially existential for both corporates and governments.

The examples of the ‘new normal’ keep stacking up. They include Brexit, the inadequate, belated handling of Europe’s migration crisis; the implications for many energy producing nations and energy corporates after the unexpected 60% fall in oil prices; and the new frailty of political stability as traditional parties are challenged by the new disruptive age of digital empowerment, big data, meta data and public disillusionment. And who a few weeks ago would have raised the prospect of US President Donald Trump? Like Brexit, his impact confirms the impact of the new normal of unthinkables. 

These challenges pose big questions about the appropriateness and configuration of the executive human capacity of those at the highest levels to both cope with - and respond to -this new proliferation of ‘unthinkables’. New evidence confirms how pressures often overwhelm executive capacities at high speed, and in an ever more compressed time scale. 

Solutions and answers need to be found rapidly, especially in the areas of Behavior, Culture and Mind Sets. An important way to do that is to share experiences and perceptions in a safe space with your peers.

Free to attend and open to all, but please email to register if you would like to attend.