Newsletter 2012

Newsletter - Foresight and Strategy 2012

December 2012

It is traditional at this time of year to look back over the year, with its highlights. However in many ways this has been a depressing year, with many forecasters foreseeing a lost decade for Europe. So we thought that looking for signs that the consensus could be wrong would be helpful.

One of the authors of the 1972 “Limits to Growth” report has published “2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years” (Chelsea Green, June 2012). Jorgen Randers has set out the most likely roadmap, which has five highlights:

  • “Global population will stagnate earlier than expected because fertility will fall dramatically in an increasingly urbanised population”.
  • “Resource and climate problems will not become catastrophic before 2052”, due to increased social investment, but there will be much unnecessary suffering.
  • The short term focus of democracy and capitalism will ensure that “the wise decisions needed for long term well being will not be made in time”.
  • “global population will be increasingly urban and unwilling to protect nature”
  • The impact will differ among the five regions of the world, “the most surprising loser will be the current global elite, particularly the US — China will be the winner”.

Counter to this is Mark Stevenson’s “An Optimists Tour of the Future” (Profile Books). He concedes there are problems – helping 9 billion people make some kind of decent life in the next few decades without wrecking our planetary support systems will be a non-trivial task. He talked to innovators across the globe – Boston where he confronts a robot with mood swings, and went to Australia to question the Outback’s smartest farmer. He clambered around space planes in the Mojave desert, gets to grips with the potential of nanotechnology, delves deep into the possibilities of biotech, sees an energy renaissance on a printer, a revolution in communications, has his genome profiled, and glimpses the next stage of human evolution. And as a result he argues that with some determined innovation, perhaps we can make a success of the next few decades. This is a more popular approach to the material covered in Megachange: The world in 2050, the Economist book that I mentioned last month.

The Scientific American of December 2012 leads on 10 World Changing Ideas. I found three especially thought provoking. One is a way of cleansing dirty waste water or desalinating seawater water using a directional solvent, which could be far less expensive than existing methods. The second is “sugar powered pacemakers” – the glucose in our blood driving medical implants: so reducing the cost of treating chronic diseases. Thirdly, the impact of drones – unmanned air vehicles – over the next decades, in surveillance, crop spraying, fire fighting and warfare. While there are many safety, regulatory and privacy issues to be resolved, the impact of UAVs will be considerable in a number of areas.

With that may I wish all eSAMI readers best wishes for 2013.

November 2012

We have been surprised by an upsurge in interest in long term thinking to 2050. This has prompted us to start to pull together a number of scenarios, reports and projections. Here are some of them – and if you are looking for a specific topic not mentioned below, please contact us.

The basic projection is from the UN’s Population Division. Population has historically been reasonably straightforward – excluding wars and major disasters. But now the forecasts of population for 2050 are for 8.9 billion or – if the move to cities accelerates, and longevity does not extend, a forecast of 7.4 billion. On the other hand if longevity does extend and the move to cities does not lead to a decrease in family size, maybe 10.6 billion. This degree of uncertainty is unprecedented, and the graph can be found in the “In Safe Hands” report on the SAMI web site.

Energy scenarios are often used as a basis for modelling –

The underlying trends and drivers of change have been brought together in a volume of twenty chapters by Economist contributors, charting the rise and fall of fertility rates across continents; how energy resources will change in light of new technology, and how different nations will deal with major developments in science and warfare. The book is calledMegachange: The World in 2050 – it is worth a read for anybody interested in strategic thinking.

If you have found good researched scenario sets in addition to those above, please share them with us and we will publicise them via a future eSAMI.

October 2012

A new set of scenarios from the “Challenge Forum “ discuss the period to 2025. They assess the deep uncertainty that is paralysing decision-taking. They identify the roots of this as the failure of the social model on which the West has operated since the 1920s. Related and pending problems imply that this situation is not recoverable without major change: for example, pensions shortfalls are greater in real terms than the entire expenditure on World War II, and health care and age support will treble that. Due to the prolonged recession, competition will impact complex industries earlier than expected. Social responses which seek job protection, the maintenance of welfare and also support in old age will tear at the social fabric of the industrial world. There are ways to meet this, implying a major change in approach, and a characteristic way in which to fail to respond to it in time, creating a dangerous and unstable world. The need for such change will alter the social and commercial environment very considerably. The absence of such change will alter it even more. More can be found on A similar train of thought was the subject of the recent Wincott Foundation lecture by Professor Raghuran Rajan, the slides of this are on

This uncertainty is affecting areas that previously have been forecastable, such as demographics. Historically, apart from major epidemics, population has been forecastable from fertility rates and mortality statistics. A recent Financial Times article pointed out that studies across many countries and cultures show a correlation between women’s education and fertility rates. For instance in Indian state of Kerala, where girls generally go to school, women have on average 1.7 children vs 4 or more in other parts of India. This means that in order to estimate the population in 2050, significant changes in fertility rates need to be forecast. At the same time, people are living longer . So far this is mostly due to better public health and survival of disabled babies. However, there have been game changing advances in treating one major cause of death, heart disease – if there are break-throughs in cures for other killer diseases, longevity could shoot up by several years. This uncertainty at both ends of the demographic calculation mean that the UN’s forecasts for global population are for 9 billion with a low scenario of around 7 billion and a high scenario around 11 billion. Since population drives so many other global variables, this is a very pressing cause of uncertainty. The graph can be found in the report “In Safe Hands?” on

SAMI Associate Chris Yapp has meanwhile been blogging on three separate blogs – on Long Finance, and on education on – he is also working on an exciting new project that SAMI is undertaking, funded by the Technology Strategy Board, on “Bite sized business content across PCs, laptops and phones”. The project will complete next summer.

Finally, there are still some places at the workshop to be held at UCL on the morning of 14th November 2012 on “Meta Commerce”, as part of the Long Finance Programme. For more details and an invitation, please see


September 2012

Four short items as we all get back from a summer that here in London has been amazing – marked by crowds of people who got caught up in the atmosphere – all enjoying themselves – and spectacular sporting triumphs throughout. After all the very British doubts beforehand – a success all round.

Meanwhile, on more serious matters, Richard Walsh has written an article for Cover magazine, called “Keep It Simple Stupid”, commenting on the review of simple Financial Products as a significant strategic development in the protection sector. He highlights some key issues and a few problems in the making, such as the proposed approach of not allowing add-ons, and the lack of consumer perspective in the report. He concludes that “it is essential that a medium to long term strategic exercise is undertaken to look at the —- potential impacts on the scheme of external drivers and uncertainties. Whatever we come up with should be fit for the future”. The article can be found on the SAMI web site here. (1.8mb)

The effect of external drivers and uncertainties on industries was also the theme of our second “Blowing the Cobwebs of your Mind” event, held at Cass Business School. What are the forces that will change industries over the next 40 years? What are our assumptions and mental models now? How have they changed over the last 80 years and how might they change over the next 40 years? We focused on the ICT and entertainment industries, and have captured some of the ideas in a short paper which can be found on the SAMI website as a pdf here.

The drought in the farmlands of the US has heightened interest in food supplies – and I was talking to Roumiana Gotseva of the Foresight Alliance about the recent report Food2040 on the food supply issues in East Asia. The report suggests that, driven by rising demand and resource constraints, East Asia is likely to emerge as a bioscience leader. The emerging Asian diet is also likely to be healthier, as traditional Asian perspectives on nutrition converge with 21st century science and technology to address problems of aging and diseases of affluence. The report can be found on

SAMI was involved at several stages in a major foresight project on Higher Education in 2025 for the Rumanian Government. The project has been written up in a chapter in a book published by Springer on European Higher Education at the Crossroads, and the pdf with more details can be found on the SAMI website here. The project web site is though the Romanian version has more information than English version. SAMI also contributed through Wendy Schultz to the wiki design, which is at worked in parallel with the foresight exercise. A short video of Martin Duckworth and John Reynolds at a series of workshops during the project can be found on

August 2012

An insightful short book from Peter Schwartz, author of the seminal book “The Long View”, was given to me by Napier Collyns, a co-founder of Global Business Network (now part of Monitor). It is called “Learnings from the Long View”, and as well as presenting three scenarios for 2025, it discusses three successful case studies and four “bad calls”. When I teach scenario thinking it is always the “lessons learned” that are most valued, so here is a summary of the reasons behind each of four “bad calls” that he describes.

  • Anticipating the start of war: the day of the invasion of Kuwait, this scenario was not being considered – why? Because the mental model based on the history of the oil industry was not challenged. Lesson – experience can mislead.
  • Anticipating the Mexican peso crisis of 1994: of eight scenarios developed two weeks before the crash, none included it – why? The group of people who created the scenarios were not diverse enough, and none pointed out that a new president was often accompanied by a devaluation of the peso. Lesson – ask about history.
  • After a scenario workshop on the future of mining, many of the team who took part were fired by the CEO – why? The scenarios work had been at the instigation of the Board and the CEO used it to find people who were not “100%” aligned to his Official Future. Lesson – scenarios are about people as much as intellectual challenge.
  • Anticipating the financial crisis: scenarios developed for Singapore in spring 2008 did include an extended recession but did not anticipate the magnitude of it: why? Two factors – lack of understanding of the interconnectedness of the global economy, and perhaps more important in this case, the fact that much of the global GDP was “shadow”, so did not appear on balance sheets: and even the Bank of International Settlements and the International Monetary Fund did not have a complete view of the size of the shadow economy. (Nouriel Roubini,, who did, was thought to be a outlier). Lesson – question the data – could there be systemic gaps or errors?

“Learnings from the Long View” is available from Amazon.

Another use of scenarios, this time around climate change: David Physick of Glowinkowski International Ltd writes:

    • “I have got to know and respect David Wasdell and his work of the Apollo Gaia project. I know the whole subject of climate change is a highly emotive one but I think David brings an honesty to his analysis that demands it be heard and considered. His latest paper, which he presented at an event in Istanbul, is highly thought provoking and, if correct as a scenario, demands some very monumental change be inaugurated in how we operate our organisations and conduct our lives. I thought you might be interested in seeing the paper, which is accessed via the following link –

     – and, perhaps, referencing it in a future SAMI newsletter. “

We were interested to see SAMI Associate Dr Suzy Walton featured this month on the new web site of the IoD, She has been involved in the IoD for many years as a Chartered Director and the Vice Chair of the Chartered Director Committee. Suzy has over a decade’s experience in Whitehall as a Senior Civil Servant.

And, finally, we are running another of our successful “Blowing the Cobwebs off your Minds” events on 5th September. This uses a combination of futures and strategic thinking to explore the mental models from our industry and/or our culture – and test whether they are still fit for purpose. For more information, and for an invitation, this is the link .

July 2012

Joe Ravetz is Co-Director of the Centre for Urban and Regional Ecology (CURE) and a SAMI Principal and passionate about cities. He writes:

    “How is it that cities, with all their waste and pollution, are actually the most ecologically sound way to cope with our way of life? If there is an answer, it lies in the cities themselves – global hubs and gateways to enterprise, sinks of poverty and deprivation, but everywhere showing seeds of opportunity.

Overall, while cities are the pattern-makers of economies and societies, they are too often divided and dysfunctional. Here at CURE we work on urban climate issues, but we step out of the door into a looming chaos, where any kind of progress seems very difficult. Overall there is a huge challenge: how to foster our cities – communities, city-regions, city-states, or global urban systems – to ensure survival and prosperity in the urban century?

Across Europe the role of cities is coming into centre stage, so we worked with DGREGIO on the Cities of Tomorrow programme – But ‘cities’ are not only the grey bits on the map – they are spreading rapidly and merging into new forms of ‘peri-urban’ global agglomerations – . For the United Nations, the agenda centres on the developing world – in China alone, 220 cities are expected to enter the 1 million plus bracket by 2025 – so we are presenting at the World Urban Forum in Naples a concept for how economic, social and environmental policies can work together – .

Here in Manchester – the world’s first industrial city – in 2009 we launched an award-winning ‘Carbon Mortgage’ scheme: . This started a new phase of research on the next-generation city, Urban 3.0 . The Urban 3.0 model is based on creative collaboration, networked co-production, and shared intelligence. It promotes inter-connected ways of thinking to respond to inter-connecting problems – climate change, social exclusion, economic dependency, etc – and this involves economic, social, political, ecological and other “3.0” models such as .

With techniques such as ‘synergistic mapping’ and ‘synergy-foresight’, we can be better equipped to face the challenges of cities, such as the re-engineering of industrial cities for ‘One Planet’ environmental performance, the rethinking of local economic development for ‘prosperity in austerity’, or, the rebuilding of communities for ‘smart resilience and well-being’. In each of these we have to look beyond sound-bite sustainability. We have to map the anatomy of complex problems, like intrepid explorers in the jungle. We have to travel the distance for new forms of collective intelligence and synergistic thinking. We can then begin to design pathways towards new forms of cities, economies and communities, fit for the 21st century.

The book ‘Urban 3.0 – creative synergy and shared intelligence for One Planet communities and economies in the 21st century’ is due to be published by Routledge / Earthscan in 2013.”

Joe can be reached on

And, on another topic, we are running another of our successful “Blowing the Cobwebs off your Minds” events on 5th September. This uses a combination of futures and strategic thinking to explore the mental models from our industry and/or our culture – and test whether they are still fit for purpose. For more information, and to sign up, this is the link

June 2012

As we continue to shiver, some thoughts prompted by an excellent collection of 20 essays published by The Economist in Megachange: the world in 2050.

The essays each take a topic and consider its future – with demographics changes as the framing element – that the world average age will be 9 years older in 2050, that 70% will live in towns, and the relative decline of Europe to 10% of the world’s population from 20% in 1950..

Some interesting snippets – by 2050 France could have a larger population than Germany, Nigeria could be larger than the US, the top corporation could be Exxon Hydro as water replaces oil as the resource most in demand. By 2018 China’s wealth could exceed tht of the US. There is a good presentation by the editor, Daniel Franklin on

However, we see the importance of scenario thinking as well as predictions – for instance one example is the UN global population projections for 2050 which are between 7.4 and 10.8 billion – with the wide variations due to assumptions in the magnitude of the effect of reduction in family size as women become educated and move to cities, compared with the effect of increased longevity: see

On another front, a recent article by Richard Walsh for Cover magazine can be found also on the SAMI blog, Under the title “The second pensions time bomb”. The first time bomb, through people not saving enough, has got the attention of governments. Even if they were able to predict their pension based on contributions and market performance, individuals would still have no idea of their final pension because of health underwriting factors: and Richard argues that Government needs to sit down and think about all this in the round.

And finally, I am presenting at the Cemfinance conference on 14th June on scenarios for renewables – based on the SAMI work for the European Health and Safety Agency. {Sorry, the slide set reported in the email version of eSAMI is not, after all, available.}

And hopefully by the next eSAMI in July we will no longer be shivering —

May 2012

As Northern Europe shivers in a wet cold spring, at SAMI we are busy on a number of fronts.

We see a number of signs that firms have decided that Business As Usual will not return, and new thinking is needed. The form that this takes ranges from invitations to keynote at conferences, to facilitate events for the investment and airline industries, to strategy projects for major global firms. Beyond Crisis (published by John Wiley in 2010) seems more than ever prescient in its discussion of what organisations need to do to renew themselves.

The webinar to launch Here be Dragons prompted discussion on topics ranging from how organisations use horizon scanning to how to engage senior and operational managers in future thinking – particularly scenarios. Our blog has short pieces on these and other questions raised by the webinar participants, as well as think pieces arising from our various assignments.

We are starting an innovative project to look at regional differences in attitudes to and access to finance, in ACCA’s “Finance Futures” study. This uses the “workshop in a box” concept to provide everything needed for workshops to be run from Cambodia to Kenya, with skype support from the “expert” facilitator – the resulting report will be published by ACCA later this year.

I went to the launch of the University of Southampton’s new Work Futures Research Centre, which takes a wide view of their brief, covering:

  • Workplace design
  • Work, employment and life chances
  • Labour, migration and economic impact
  • New technology and work
  • Comparative industrial and labour market analysis
  • Pensions and benefits
  • The Third Sector

A recent report for the European Commission on the thinking on futures beyond 2030 identified that “—– one startling fact was that though labor and jobs are of utmost importance for the prosperity and social cohesion of democratic societies especially these fairly developed industrialized nations in the enlarged and enlarging EU (Turkey), jobs and the changes to labour have not been mirrored in the different (139 studies are quoted) studies.(see Global Europe 2030-2050). So the work of the Southampton Centre could fill a major gap.

April 2012

Four snippets this month.

First, the webinar to launch Here be Dragons: Navigating an Uncertain World went ahead on 23rd April 2012. The book was published by Choir Press at the end of last month and is available on Amazon . You can also find short think pieces arising from Here be Dragons on the SAMI blog,

Second, we held an event with Laurie Young called Blowing the Cobwebs off your Mind, at the Reform Club in March. This explored the implications of some of the long term trends for a range of professional services, commercial and NGOs. The feedback included “a most engaging and enlightening seminar “,” Many thanks for such an interesting and stimulating session”, “it certainly blew away the cobwebs”. The write up is on the SAMI web site (1.2mb pdf).

Third, the report In Safe Hands? The future of financial services led to speaking at a Digital Money conference – what are the implications of the scenarios for the infrastructure of digital money, such as global networks? See the SAMI blog for more on this.

Fourth, while the eurozone, the Arab Spring, and nuclear capabilities in the Middle East make the headlines, Chatham House have just published a thoughtful piece on the implications of the opening up of the Arctic, which may have even more significant long term implications. As Charles Emmerson, the author, says “the Arctic is out of the deep freeze geopolitically and strategically”. The risks and opportunities have not however been built into most organisations’ thinking up to now.


March 2012

February was an interesting month, with a number of discussions arising out of the “In Safe Hands?” launch – there was a feeling that there should be a way of engaging politicians in long term thinking. We are looking for the right channel for this – thoughts welcome 

I read a book called Hoodwinked in connection with an appearance on PressTV. It is about “predatory capitalism” which the author John Perkins defines as a form of capitalism in which firms are more powerful than governments, are destructive of resources (environmental, money—) and have a large gap between the pay of the top few and the 99%, so touching a very current theme. He suggests that individuals can fight this in a number of ways but does not see regulation as effective. The Long Finance initiative has also come to question the effectiveness of regulation from a different direction. Are the ideas in the Kay interim report on making equity markets and shareholding more oriented towards long term investment workable? 

Projects on the future of shipping and low carbon vehicles have prompted me to question the assumption – widely held for the last decade – that energy could only get more expensive. I looked at the DECC projections which include high, medium and low prices for gas, oil, and for coal to 2030. The low projections show prices in 2030 less than in 2010 for all three types of fossil fuel. The projections are derived from considerations of supply and demand, and provide food for thought.

With a number of initiatives to raise the profile of manufacturing in the UK economy – like“Inside Manufacturing 2012 Initiative”, and Council of Industry and Higher Education launching its Engineering & Manufacturing Task Force, the launch of our book Here be Dragons is very timely. It tells the story of FutureParts and their Columbus Project, which started their renewal. The book is now available to pre-order through Amazon . The launch will be in the week of 19th March 2012, as a series of 5 webinars, one per day 

We are also continuing our series of Futures Coaching events in March 2012: 


February 2012

Here be Dragons*, comes from the map on our cover: once there was the known world and beyond that was the unknown world – where mysterious and strange creatures such as dragons dwelt, ready to pounce upon unwary travellers. (*Choir Press, shortly available from Amazon)

Here be Dragons was written in response to requests from readers of Beyond Crisis (John Wiley, 2010), in which we first proposed the model “Cycle of Renewal”. Readers wanted to know what the Cycle of Renewal looked like “on the ground”; how would you get started; how would you decide which tools to use; who would do the work; what would it look like on a daily basis; and, most importantly, what impact would you see on long-term business performance?

Thus Here be Dragons was conceived. It is in fact two books for the price of one: the story of the Columbus Project and the Pilot‘s Guide.

The Columbus Project describes the journey taken by a fictional organisation (FutureParts Vehicle Supplies) which was set the challenge of renewing itself. The story describes how it approaches the challenge.

The Columbus Project leads naturally into the second part of the book. This is a Pilot‘s Guide to the tools which the FutureParts change project used to help the business renew itself. The tools are all designed to enhance the ability to think long term while being effective in the short term – balancing the paradoxes leaders face on a daily basis.

We are launching Here be Dragons with a series of five webinars, in the week beginning 19h March 2012. 

The launch of In Safe Hands? The future of financial services attracted a standing room only crowd, and requests for an ongoing “Long Finance Forum of Futurists”. We are thinking about the best way to do this, and ideas are welcome to

We are also continuing our series of Futures Coaching events in March 2012: 

January 2012

The New Year is a traditional time for looking forward. I am part of the Economist Intelligence Unit Opinion Leaders Panel, and we have been comparing notes on the top three concerns for 2012 as seen by members.

As might be expected many issues were raised, with many people focusing on the eurozone debt and its consequences for firms, governments and individuals, and the inability of governments globally to tackle long term factors.

Others highlighted protectionism in the developed countries and low growth in some small countries, and the conflict they saw between economic models and creating sustainable enterprises; or focused on China, speculating on a break up along cultural or ethnic lines.

But most of the comments related to three bundles of concerns, which we also used as the basis of the report for Long Finance, “In Safe Hands? The future of financial services”. These are all long term trends that are having an effect now.

  1. The global population will grow to more than 9 billion and get older. Most of the additional people will be in Africa and Asia. This will cause major shifts of economic power, causing turbulence as shifts follow. The current strains in the eurozone are an indicator of this. The new centres of power may not share the Washington consensus, leading to clashes of ideologies supported by nuclear capability. The world will diverge into haves and have not’s.
  2. Technology developments – info, cogno, bio, nano – will accelerate and introduce changes in personal capacity and lifestyles which governments are ill-equipped to handle. Cyber security is one aspect of this, increased lifespans is another. The global reach of information has a power not yet realised.
  3. Ecological, energy and environmental limits will be tested or breached as the population increases, the percentage of people living in cities approaches 70%, and the new middle class eats meat, uses cars, refrigerators and electronic goods, and travels for pleasure. Limited global resources are leading to food price increases: reckless use is leading to pollution.

We will be launching our new book “Here be Dragons” with a series of webinars in February – look out for the dates and times in the February eSAMI.

We are also continuing our series of Futures Coaching events in March 2012: