The world has ten years to solve its urgent challenges or it will be too late, says global firm PwC Strategy and Leadership global leader Blair Sheppard.
In his new book, Ten Years to Midnight: Four Urgent Global Crises and Their Strategic Solutions, Sheppard sets out why that timeline is so crucial, what the most urgent challenges are and the key elements of a solution.
He argues that the 70-year period of economic and social progress kicked off by the Marshall Plan has now unravelled. Instead of a steady story of progress, the world faces four crises, he posits.
Firstly, there is a crisis of prosperity, with rising inequality, poor life choices for young people, the squeezed middle class and a mass of people on the brink of retirement but lacking the savings to sustain them.
Secondly, there is a crisis of technology, as the world’s economic system drives innovation but fails to manage unintended negative consequences which pollute key elements of life support, from the atmosphere to news.
Thirdly, there is a crisis of institutional legitimacy, as traditional institutions try to maintain their existing structures in the face of major global forces and find themselves buckling and warping rather than adapting.
Lastly, there is a crisis of leadership, as those who should help people manage these crises instead focus on narrow priorities rather than leading the world towards holistic solutions.
Drawing on new data and analysis conducted in Sheppard’s role for the PwC network, he argues that businesses, governments and civil society should adopt a fundamentally different approach to the one that drove twentieth century economic development.
He argues for greater emphasis on local economies (local first), as well as on scaling innovative solutions quickly, a fundamental reshaping of innovation policy to bake societal outcomes into technological development, greater use of public-private partnerships with clear goals and more inclusive measures of success.
Having worked with global leaders across a range of fields, Sheppard argues this change requires a new approach to leadership that embraces apparently contrasting elements – to be humanly and technologically savvy, heroic and humble, rooted in tradition as a ballast but also innovative.
What Sheppard and his team advocate for is a new path to rebuilding and reinvigorating institutions, redefining what it means to be a nation or economy, forging shared cultural and social bonds and rekindling innovation for social good instead of harm.
To press these solutions forward as the clock ticks toward a global unwinding, Sheppard also calls for a new level of imagination, cooperation and urgency from the world’s leaders in every sector and every country.