The Future Quotient: Managing Seriously Long-Term Risks and Opportunities

By John Elkington

To succeed in the new world order, leaders need to switch from thinking about incremental change to transformational, systemic change.

An old order is coming apart, a new one—for better or worse—self-assembling. To help build and succeed in the new order, leaders in the private, public and citizen sectors need to switch from thinking about incremental change to transformational, systemic change. And to do this they will need to connect wider, analyze deeper, aim higher and invest longer. This is the key conclusion of The Future Quotient, a new study from Volans and JWT, designed to help set the agenda for 2012’s UN Summit on Sustainable Development. Rather than simply diagnose the problem, the report sketches out a process by which we can measure the future-readiness of individuals, teams, businesses, brands and beyond. As part of the project, we undertook a dipstick survey, polling 4,000 members of our global network, with fuller results provided in the report—downloadable for free. As indicated in Figure 1, there was an overwhelming sense that thinking and acting long-term will be increasingly important, yet the overwhelming majority of respondents felt that our ability to think long-term—let alone intergenerationally—is weakening.




This may be understandable in the context of the deepest economic downturn for generations, but too often political  institutions and business have been misreading the runes, concluding that we are simply enduring another recession. By contrast, we predicted the protracted nature of the downturn in our 2009 report, The Phoenix Economy1.

Our central argument was that we were seeing not simply a great recession but the early stages of an era of creative destruction. History tells us that when these periods happen, those who are ill prepared and unwilling to reinvent themselves go to the wall. Eventually, of course, capitalism will mutate and evolve, but not uniformly around the globe.

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