top of page

The seven great grey elephants and how they’re transforming the world

'Grey elephants' are defined as significant yet often overlooked forces of change that have far-reaching implications. They represent major socio-economic, environmental, and technological trends that are visible but often ignored by businesses and society. 


Grey Elephants

"Seven great grey elephants represent the highly probable and impactful, yet often overlooked, forces of change reshaping our world. Each elephant possesses immense disruptive potential, and their convergence is driving change at an unprecedented scale.

  • Are you effectively monitoring these transformative forces?

  • How is your organisation preparing to adapt and thrive amidst these changes?

  • Which of these significant forces might be currently overlooked by your organisation?

  • How can you harness these grey elephants into strategic opportunities for growth and innovation?"

How seven great grey elephants are shaping the future of work

In the modern business landscape, the future isn't just a horizon to approach, it's a canvas to co-create. While significant trends like public discontent, technological advancements, and climate change (aka "grey elephants") loom large, they hold not just challenges, but uncharted opportunities for forward-thinking leaders.


By incorporating an awareness of grey elephants into strategic planning, enables businesses to anticipate challenges, seize opportunities, and remain resilient in the face of change.


Through our co-creation approach, TTC believes in proactive future-shaping, not passive anticipation. We empower businesses to not just navigate these grey elephants, but to harness their transformative potential and design resilient, adaptable strategies that shape and create their own destinies.


In this guide, we explore each grey elephant in detail, their implications and how to unlock their transformative potential for your business. 


click on the chapter below to navigate

Angry People

Ageing Populations

Angry Planet


elephant AdobeStock_254308848 [Converted].png


The Big Squeezes

Intelligent Advances


1-Angry People

Chapter 1
Angry People

The rising tide of public discontent isn't just a headline - it's a potential tsunami crashing onto business shores.

The Rise of Public Discontent 

From boycotts crippling revenue to supply chains tangled in protests, the "Angry People" grey elephant can disrupt operations, tarnish reputations, and erode employee morale.

Cycles of violence are not uncommon or necessarily unproductive – think of the suffragette movements. Nor is the anger remarkable in itself, but as it becomes widespread it can become a dominant societal force of change. This is why Angry People has the potential to be the most damaging and frightening of all the grey elephants.


Indeed, everything comes back to economics. Shortage anxiety turns very quickly into contagion anger and scapegoating. With violent riots flaring up in the US and globally, this grey elephant’s impact is highly visible. 


Populist activists are using sophisticated production capabilities to spread anger virally. From anti-vaxxing rhetoric, to stirring up hatred against the “elites”, the neoliberal democratic system is under attack. In 2024 we will see that Trump has not gone away and the populist fire is on the rise across the world. “It is not enough for people to be angry,” said Martin Luther King; the “supreme task” of a leader “is to organise and unite people so that their anger becomes a transforming force.”


On the flip side Angry People could also propel the kind of new thinking required for a radical redesign of the global economic  and social system to something fairer and more inclusive.

"Cycles of violence are not uncommon or necessarily unproductive – think of the suffragette movements"

AdobeStock_191023523 (1) [Converted].png-panaramic.png

Business in the Eye of the Storm 

Businesses are increasingly caught in the crossfire of global social unrest, the cost-of-living crisis and heightened unrest in regions around the world. These situations demonstrate how companies can be directly affected or become collateral in broader social movements. 


Alongside economic and political factors, societal issues like access to opportunity, environmental justice, and cultural representation can also contribute to public discontent. Understanding these deeper roots is crucial for businesses seeking long-term solutions.


To address the 'Angry People' grey elephant effectively, businesses can take proactive measures. 


Strategies for Ethical Navigation 

Instead of weathering the storm unprepared, proactive leaders can chart a course through choppy waters. Agile business continuity plans adapt operations during unrest. 


Real-time risk intelligence platforms pinpoint potential protest flashpoints, staying informed about potential protests, revising business continuity plans, and enhancing security at key locations. And open communication channels forge trust with communities, turning potential adversaries into allies.


It's also crucial to protect supply chains and review insurance policies to cover potential risks associated with political violence and social unrest.


Creating a Positive Impact 

Beyond risk mitigation, businesses can play a constructive role in addressing societal issues. This involves engaging in corporate social responsibility initiatives, fostering community relationships, and supporting causes that promote equity and justice.


The 'Angry People' grey elephant presents both a challenge and an opportunity for businesses. By adopting a sensitive and ethical approach to navigating social unrest, companies can mitigate risks and contribute positively to societal change. 


Embracing this approach leads to stronger, more resilient brands that resonate with the values of their customers and society at large. A study by the Institute for Global Conflict Resolution found that businesses facing sustained public discontent saw an average 15% drop in brand loyalty and a 20% decrease in employee engagement. 


The cost of inaction is clear - proactive strategies are not just ethical imperatives, but prudent business decisions. While navigating the immediate business disruptions is crucial, understanding the deeper societal roots of public discontent is key to long-term resilience. 


Economic inequalities, environmental degradation, and erosion of trust in institutions fuel the flames of anger. Businesses that address these root causes through responsible practices and community engagement not only mitigate risks but also contribute to a more stable and equitable future - a win-win for business and society.


According to a recent study by the World Economic Forum, businesses that actively address public concerns and implement sustainable practices experience an average 12% increase in brand loyalty and 8% improvement in employee engagement.

Chapter 2

The Grey Elephant of Ageing Populations

2- Ageing Pop

Understanding the Ageing Phenomenon

As life expectancy increases and birth rates decline globally, the world is witnessing a significant demographic shift. By 2030, for the first time ever, people over 65 years will outnumber children aged 0-9 years (1.4 billion vs. 1.3 billion). 


The ageing trend is particularly pronounced in developed nations, with Europe expecting a 25% increase in over-65s by 2050, compared to a 15% increase in developing regions. Although this trend is not limited to developed nations. By 2050 the median age in China will be 50. Meanwhile, industries like healthcare and financial services stand to be more significantly impacted by workforce demographic shifts. 


This unprecedented ageing trend presents both challenges and opportunities for businesses and societies.

AdobeStock_323712741 [Converted].png

Economic Implications of an Ageing Population 

The shift towards an ageing population poses significant economic challenges. A shrinking younger workforce and increasing healthcare costs will impact global economies. 


A study by the World Bank projects that global GDP growth could decline by 1% every decade due to a shrinking workforce. In countries like Japan, the burden on pension systems is already reaching critical levels, with dependency ratios exceeding 4:1.


The Healthcare and Social Challenge 

The ageing trend demands a re-evaluation of healthcare and social support systems. As the population ages, there will be a higher demand for healthcare services, alongside the need to address the social and mental well-being of the elderly.


The rising demand for healthcare services must be met with innovative solutions that ensure affordability and accessibility for all. This involves exploring alternative healthcare models, leveraging technology for remote care and patient monitoring, and ensuring equitable access to quality services for geographically and financially disadvantaged older adults.


Ageing and Consumer Markets

Businesses must adapt to the changing needs of an ageing population. This includes rethinking product designs, marketing strategies, and service offerings to cater to older consumers. The rise in 'silver economy' offers new opportunities for businesses willing to innovate and respond to this demographic shift.


Older consumers prioritise health and wellness, valuing products and services that promote active ageing and independent living. Sustainable and ethically sourced goods gain more traction with this environmentally conscious demographic.


The global "silver economy" is projected to reach a staggering $28 trillion by 2027, making it a market segment with immense purchasing power. Older consumers spend significantly on healthcare, wellness products, travel, and technology, offering vast potential for businesses that cater to their needs.


Technological Innovations and Ageing

Technology plays a pivotal role in addressing the challenges of ageing. Innovations in healthcare, assisted living, and AI can enhance the quality of life for the elderly, while also providing new business opportunities.


For instance, AI-powered robots are assisting with daily tasks and companionship for the elderly, while advancements in telemedicine allow remote monitoring and diagnosis. Wearable health trackers collect real-time data, empowering seniors to proactively manage their health.

Ageing Elephant stands before us, demanding our attention. We cannot shrink from its shadow, but by embracing proactive planning, intergenerational collaboration, and innovative solutions, we can transform this demographic shift into a springboard for economic prosperity, societal well-being, and technological advancement. 


Countries like Germany are expected to lose a third of their workforce in the next decade, raising questions about workforce sustainability, pension viability, and the burden on younger generations.


Experienced workforces contribute institutional knowledge and mentorship, fostering innovation and bridging generational gaps. Senior employees excel at problem-solving and critical thinking, adding valuable expertise to teams.


Businesses need to explore flexible work arrangements, upskilling programs, and intergenerational collaboration to address the changing workforce landscape. As well as encourage policymakers to consider innovative solutions like phased retirement and pension portability.


Recognising that generational biases and communication styles differ, businesses can foster collaboration through mentorship programs, reverse knowledge-sharing initiatives, and inclusive workplace cultures that celebrate diverse perspectives.

The Ageing Elephant stands before us, demanding our attention. We cannot shrink from its shadow, but by embracing proactive planning, intergenerational collaboration, and innovative solutions, we can transform this demographic shift into a springboard for economic prosperity, societal well-being, and technological advancement.  

Chapter 3

Angry Planet: Climate Change and Environmental Degradation Require Sustainable Practices and Innovation

3- Angry Planet

The scorching heat waves crippling supply chains in India, the rising sea levels threatening coastal property values in New York, the droughts decimating harvests in Kenya – these are no longer distant whispers of a climate-stricken future. They are the present-day challenges gripping businesses large and small, painted in the searing brushstrokes of climate change and environmental degradation. 


The alarm bells aren't just ringing; they're blaring in boardrooms and echoing through executive corridors. The past year, as documented in the State of the Transition 2023 report, served as a grim reminder: "every week seemed to bring another once-in-a-century natural disaster." 


While greenhouse gas emissions soared to record highs, wildfires ravaged continents, and glaciers wept as they melted, a stark truth emerged – ignoring sustainable practices and innovation isn't just an environmental misstep, it's a gamble with the very survival of businesses and economies.

The Heat is On: Record Temperatures and Their Impact

Last year shattered climatic records, becoming the hottest year on record with global temperatures soaring. North America, Southern Europe, North Africa, and China experienced extreme heat waves; hundreds of times more likely due to human-induced climate change. 


In July, typically the warmest month, 2023 outpaced all previous records. This unprecedented heat has had devastating effects, from health crises like heat stroke and cardiovascular diseases to exacerbating wildfires.


Wildfires: A Fiery Indicator of Climate Change

Canada witnessed its worst fire season on record last year, with hundreds of megafires forcing over 200,000 evacuations. The Boreal region, containing a third of the world's forests, was particularly affected, leading to significant carbon emissions that further amplify global warming.


Rising Seas and Melting Glaciers: A Watery Warning

Sea levels have risen at more than twice the rate of the late 20th century, reflecting continued ocean warming and melting glaciers. In 2023 alone, the Antarctic Sea ice reached its lowest extent on record, and Swiss glaciers lost about 10% of their volume in just two years. These phenomena are not isolated; they are indicators of a rapidly changing global climate system.


Socio-Economic Impacts: Beyond Environmental Damage

The socio-economic impacts of these climatic events are profound. Weather and climate hazards have exacerbated challenges with food security and population displacement. Droughts, floods, and extreme heat have triggered new displacements and increased vulnerabilities, particularly in conflict and violence-affected regions.


The Need for Sustainable Innovation

The data and recent events underscore the need for sustainable practices and innovation. Renewable energy capacity, led by solar and wind power, grew by nearly 10% in 2022. But more needs to be done. Addressing climate change requires more than just reducing emissions; it calls for innovative solutions that can sustain modern life. We must commit to sustainable agriculture, efficient water management, and renewable energy to mitigate these challenges.


Actionable Solutions: Glimmers of Hope

Renewable Energy Revolution: In Chile, the Cerro Dominador solar plant harnesses the Atacama Desert's sunshine, powering over 200,000 homes and showcasing the potential of solar energy to tackle energy needs while preserving landscapes.


Vertical Farming Boom: Singapore's leafy skyscrapers demonstrate the viability of urban agriculture, minimizing land use and offering a sustainable food source close to consumers.


Bioplastics Breakthrough: Companies like Avantium are developing biodegradable plastics made from readily available sugars, offering a promising alternative to petroleum-based plastics that pollute our oceans and landfills.


Community Resilience: In Kenya, solar-powered water pumps and drought-resistant crops empower farmers to adapt to changing weather patterns and ensure food security for their communities.

These examples, spanning diverse sectors, prove that innovative solutions already exist. We need to scale them up, encourage further research, and create supportive policies to pave the way for a greener future.


As we face an angry planet, the time for action is now. The record-breaking temperatures, wildfires, sea level rise, and socio-economic impacts serve as a clarion call.


"Not being wasteful is very important, but getting the entire world to pull back on the realities of modern life is not an effective or fair strategy to address climate change" Bill Gates.


Bill Gates rightly points out the limitations of individual efforts, but we can't ignore the role of personal choices in fostering broader change. A successful path forward requires us to embrace both individual responsibility and collaborative action, pushing for sustainable solutions on all levels.


We must embrace sustainable practices, building on the inspiriting solutions explore above, and foster innovation to navigate these challenges and secure a resilient future for our planet. The challenge is daunting, but the opportunity to forge a resilient, sustainable future is within our grasp.

Chapter 4

Multipolarity::The shift in global power dynamics necessitates a re-evaluation of international business strategies


The Rise of Multipolarity

The emergence of a multipolar world, where power is distributed among several nations or power blocks rather than being concentrated in one or two superpowers, is a significant "grey elephant" in today's geopolitical landscape. 


This shift signifies a significant departure from the previous era of bipolar dominance, shaped by the Cold War rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union.  Multipolarity is characterised by the relative decline of Western dominance, the ascent of China, and the strengthening of other major economies such as those in the BRICS consortium (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). A multipolar world impacts various aspects of international business, particularly supply chains.

AdobeStock_133088675 (1) [Converted].png

China's Growing Influence

China's emergence as a global power is a key driver of this multipolarity. With an economy surpassing the combined economies of all 27 European Union countries, China is now the largest trading partner to more than 120 countries. Its Belt and Road Initiative and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank are just two examples of its growing influence on the world stage.


China has also gained dominance in strategic industries from 5G telecoms to battery technology. According to the Benchmark, a London-based agency, in 2019, “China accounted for 23 per cent of the global mine-output of battery minerals. Yet its chemical companies churn out 80 per cent of the world’s processed battery-grade raw materials and 66 per cent of the global production of cathodes and anodes for Li-ion batteries.” In terms of battery factories, China now dominates. In 2020 China led the world’s battery cell production with a 63.2 per cent share, while the US was in second place with 14.2 per cent.


None of the western powers want to live in a world where China controls 90 per cent of the active ingredients for antibiotics and dominates battery and other strategic technology. Climate change activists and consumers are also demanding more sustainable and locally produced supply chains. 


As globalism unravels companies will pull back with attempts to manufacture locally. But building back capabilities long handed to the East will be difficult and costs will rise. Stagflation beckons and the era of easy money has come to an end. 


BRICS: A New Powerhouse

BRICS, expanding to include nations like Argentina, Ethiopia, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, is becoming a formidable force in global governance. 

According to the IMF and World Trade Organisation, with it’s new membership, BRICS nations contribute 29% of GDP and represent 46% of the world population. With high-population-growth countries like Ethiopia, BRICS could soon represent over half the world’s population. They also pump 43% of the global oil production and have a 25% share of global exports. However, the BRICS impact is tempered by internal political tensions and the absence of comprehensive trade agreements among its members. We expect this to change as the multipolarity grey elephant gains in strength.

bear AdobeStock_131771181 [Converted].png

The Russian Bear: A brief history of multipolarity

On March 24 1999, in a plane high above the Atlantic, Yevgeni Primakov, the Russian Prime Minister, was heading to the United States for an official visit. Halfway into the flight, he learned the combined forces of NATO had started bombing Serbia, a close ally to Russia. Immediately Primakov ordered the pilot to return to Moscow in a manoeuvre dubbed “Primakov’s Loop”. It was time to activate his plan. 


Primakov’s plan was to create a multipolar world, aimed as a strong rebuke to the fallacies of a ‘romantic western’ worldview. The doctrine had two primary points. First, Russia must end its subservient foreign policy guided by the US. Second, the Kremlin must renew old ties with India and strengthen the newly-discovered friendship with China. 


Primakov argued that a multipolar world would enable economic and social fortification for like-minded nationalistic and authoritarian regimes not allied to the West. His vision was prompted by the realisation that Russia could not compete toe-to-toe with a globally dominant United States, and a desire to see more regional power bases established. A young aid to Primakov was Vladimir Putin. 

Putin’s desire to dismantle the West’s dominance has long been apparent and he has gleefully and skilfully continued to deliver Primokov's strategy. But the grey elephant of Multipolarity, a highly probable, high-impact force of change has largely been ignored by the West. It can be no longer. Like the pandemic, this grey elephant is no longer sitting quietly in the corner of the room.

Supply chain risks in a multipolar world 

The transition to a multipolar world presents several risks to supply chains:

  1. Geopolitical Tensions and Trade Disputes: Increased geopolitical tensions can lead to trade barriers and disruptions, affecting supply chain reliability and costs.

  2. Regionalisation of Supply Chains: There may be a shift towards more regionalised supply chains, affecting global operational efficiency and costs.

  3. Diversified Trade Relationships: Navigating a broader range of trade partners brings complexities related to different regulatory, cultural, and business environments.

  4. Infrastructure and Investment Inconsistencies: Variations in infrastructure and investment in emerging economies can impact supply chain efficiency and reliability.

  5. Currency Fluctuations: Shifts in global power can lead to unpredictable currency fluctuations, affecting procurement and financial planning.

  6. Cybersecurity Risks: A more connected and complex geopolitical landscape increases exposure to cybersecurity threats.

  7. Environmental and Social Governance (ESG) Compliance: Varying ESG standards across regions complicate supply chain management, especially for companies adhering to high ESG standards.

  8. Competition for Critical Resources: Intensified competition for essential resources like rare earth elements could lead to supply bottlenecks and price increases.

Implications for Business

  1. Diversify Trade Partnerships: Move beyond traditional Western markets. Explore resources: Utilise market research tools and leverage cultural intelligence training to navigate diverse regulations.

  2. Navigate Regional Blocs: Understand emerging powerhouses: Adapt to the nuances of regional blocs like BRICS, considering their economic, political, and regulatory landscapes.

  3. Embrace Proactive Risk Management: Develop robust strategies: In a multipolar world, geopolitical and economic risks are dynamic. Invest in risk management expertise to mitigate disruptions.

  4. Cultivate Cultural Intelligence: Bridge cultural gaps: Equip your teams with cultural sensitivity training to navigate diverse business practices, communication styles, and legal frameworks. This unlocks access to new talent pools, resources, and exciting market opportunities.

  5. Align with Sustainable and Ethical Practices: Embrace responsible growth: As emerging economies rise, expect increased pressure to adhere to ethical and sustainable standards. Be mindful of diverse practices across regions and proactively align your operations to ensure responsible and compliant global expansion.

Industry-Specific Impacts

The rise of multipolarity reshapes the global competition landscape for various industries. Technology companies, reliant on rare earth elements for their devices, must navigate complex sourcing dynamics with emerging economies like Mongolia and Bolivia, requiring strategic partnerships and innovative solutions to secure resources. 


Meanwhile, in the manufacturing sector, companies face a patchwork of labour regulations and environmental standards across multipolar regions, demanding agile adaptation and cultural sensitivity to ensure ethical and efficient operations.

Two case studies

Alibaba's African Expansion: In a bold move, Alibaba established regional hubs in Kenya and Nigeria, capitalising on the rising e-commerce appetite in Africa. By adapting to local preferences and forging partnerships with local businesses, Alibaba has carved a dominant space in a previously untapped market, demonstrating the rewards of venturing beyond traditional Western economies.


Siemens and the "BRICS Belt": Recognising the increasing economic clout of BRICS nations, German industrial giant Siemens diversified its supply chain by forming strategic partnerships with companies in Brazil, India, and China. This not only secured access to critical resources and talent but also positioned Siemens as a key player in the developing infrastructure markets within the BRICS bloc, showcasing the benefits of proactive engagement in multipolar trade networks.


The shift to multipolarity isn't merely a new chapter in global politics; it's a transformative force reshaping the landscape of international business. While potential disruptions and risks exist, this multipolar future also holds immense opportunities for growth and expansion. 


By diversifying trade partnerships, cultivating cultural intelligence, and embracing proactive risk management, businesses can unlock untapped markets, access hidden talent pools, and navigate the complexities of regional blocs like BRICS. 


Those who choose to adapt and engage proactively with this evolving power dynamic will not only survive but thrive in the diverse and dynamic multipolar economy. Embrace the challenge, invest in becoming antifragile and understanding, and prepare to embark on a new era of global success.

Chapter 5

Inequality - A Global Business Concern


Widening Chasm: Inequality's Global Grip

The chasm of inequality is widening across the globe, casting a long shadow on economies, societies, and even business success. The eight richest individuals now possess as much wealth as the bottom half of the world's population – a staggering statistic that paints a stark picture of our current reality. 


Income inequality remains at its highest in 150 years, but this gap extends far beyond mere finances. Gender, racial, and educational inequalities carve additional layers of disadvantage, limiting opportunity and perpetuating societal divisions. 


The COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated these disparities, pushing the most vulnerable to the precipice and leaving deep scars on social progress. This widening chasm not only poses significant challenges for global prosperity and stability but also presents a critical business concern demanding immediate attention.


This disparity contributes to broader issues such as poverty, social unrest, and economic instability. Conversely, tackling inequality unlocks expansive new markets, strengthens purchasing power, and fosters a more stable business environment, ultimately boosting overall economic growth and profitability.


Ignoring inequality is no longer an option. Businesses must become agents of change to bridge the chasm and build a more equitable future.

AdobeStock_201854138 [Converted].png

Social Inequality: A Business Risk 

The impact is felt in consumer markets, where rising inequality creates a polarised landscape with high-income consumers at the top and a low-income segment at the bottom, squeezing the middle class. This squeeze affects business, as the middle class plays a crucial role in economic development through spending and human capital formation.


The tech sector, for instance, grapples with a widening digital divide, where access to essential services and opportunities remains skewed towards high-income communities. This not only limits market potential but also raises ethical concerns.


In the business world, inequality manifests in various forms, such as income disparity, lack of diversity in leadership roles, unequal access to opportunities, and differing impacts of economic policies across different segments of society. These inequalities can have profound impacts on consumer markets, workforce dynamics, corporate reputation, and overall economic health. However, despite its evident importance and potential impact on business sustainability and growth, inequality often does not receive the level of attention and action it requires.


The private sector plays a crucial role in addressing these inequalities, with corporations now often dwarfing governments in economic scale. For businesses, systemic inequality presents significant risks, limiting productivity, constraining consumer spending and growth, destabilising supply chains, and jeopardising social licenses to operate. Conversely, addressing inequality presents a significant business opportunity.


Legal, Moral, and Economic Imperatives

Corporations today face increasing legal, moral, and economic imperatives to address inequality. As well as increasing scrutiny, with rising expectations of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) standards. Failure to meet these standards can lead to penalties and personal lawsuits against senior executives. There is a moral imperative for corporations to 'do the right thing,' with frameworks like the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and ESG principles guiding ethical practices. 


Ethical practices are not just a moral obligation but a strategic necessity. Corporations that work toward reducing inequality can significantly impact the wellbeing of their stakeholders and the broader society. 


Economically, there is a symbiotic relationship between social equality and growth. Social inequality and unstable business environments limit companies' ability to compete and grow, restrict the spending power of target markets, and disrupt supply chains.

Transforming into a Purpose-Driven Organisation and the shift from shareholder to stakeholder capitalism

Businesses must recognise social inequality as both a risk and an opportunity for action. It involves recognising the interconnectedness of social issues with business outcomes and adopting more inclusive, equitable, and sustainable business practices.


It also means integrating considerations of inequality into core business strategies and decision-making processes, rather than treating them as peripheral issues. By doing so, businesses can not only contribute to a more equitable society but also unlock new opportunities for growth and innovation.


Frameworks like the UN Global Compact's Principles for Responsible Business and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises offer tangible steps for companies to address issues like fair wages, supply chain transparency, and diversity and inclusion.


Engaging with the community and creating a social compact can help businesses co-design solutions and report impacts. These steps are vital for companies aiming to become purpose-driven organisations.


Patagonia's commitment to fair labour practices throughout its supply chain, Unilever's efforts to empower women in developing economies, and Ben & Jerry's focus on social justice initiatives demonstrate the practical and profitable solutions businesses can implement to tackle inequality.


As we move forward, it is clear that inequality is not just a societal issue but a critical business concern with global implications. Businesses must adopt comprehensive strategies to address these disparities, recognising the interconnectedness of legal, moral, and economic imperatives in their operations. 


As we navigate the era of automation and AI, responsible harnessing of these technologies is crucial to ensure they bridge, not widen, the inequality gap, demanding proactive business strategies and ethical considerations.


By doing so, they can play a pivotal role in shaping a more equitable and sustainable future. Let us join hands, as businesses and individuals, to translate these insights into action, exploring existing frameworks, supporting impactful initiatives, and advocating for policies that pave the way for a more equitable and prosperous future for all.

Chapter 6

The Big Squeezes - Navigating Economic Pressures in a World of Growing Strategic Resource Scarcity, Rising Costs and Supply Chain Domination

6- The BS

The Current Landscape

In recent years, global supply chains have been reshaped by the COVID-19 pandemic and geopolitical conflicts, leading to squeezes in resource and rising inflation. A staggering 71% of companies worldwide now cite raw material costs as a major concern. This has triggered a strategic shift in supply chains from offshoring to near-shoring. 


Amidst global challenges, businesses are grappling with escalating costs and supply chain complexities. After decades of globalisation and the West's reliance on Asia as a manufacturing base these strategic shifts will prove difficult to achieve. Inflationary pressures, linked to supply chain disruptions, are also eroding business margins. A significant number of European business leaders report adverse impacts, with some experiencing cost increases exceeding 10%. The manufacturing sector is particularly hit by rising costs for essential materials like steel and semiconductors, causing production delays in companies like Ford. Retailers are also affected by higher shipping costs and inventory shortages. Additionally, a notable labour shortage in Northern Europe is further forcing companies to rethink their supply chain strategies, increasingly favouring regional over global sources.


This landscape of shifting supply chains and inflation is not only squeezing businesses but also impacting customers. Consumers are facing higher prices for goods, from daily essentials to high-tech products, as companies pass on increased costs. This has led to reduced purchasing power and a shift in buying patterns, with many prioritising essential over discretionary spending. The squeeze on consumers is also marked by a growing concern for product availability, driving changes in consumer behaviour and expectations.

bigsqueeze AdobeStock_216764175 [Converted].png

Inflationary Pressures and Supply Chain Complexities

The correlation between supply chain disruptions and inflation is evident. Studies by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco have shown that a shock to the Global Supply Chain Pressure Index (GSCPI) can lead to a significant rise in inflation. 


European business leaders acknowledge that inflationary pressures are eroding business margins, with 78% reporting a significant impact and 20% experiencing cost increases exceeding 10% compared to the previous year.


In the manufacturing sector, rising raw material costs for steel and semiconductors force companies like Ford to delay production, while retailers grapple with higher shipping costs and inventory shortages impacting product availability.


Skilled Workforce Shortages

Another critical challenge is the shortage of skilled labour. In Northern Europe, for example, over 77% of business leaders cite this as a significant issue. This shortage is prompting companies to rethink their supply chain networks, favouring regional providers over global sources.


The big squeeze is systemic and more complex than supply disruptions alone. 

Wages have stagnated for decades, Adjusted for inflation, many workers are poorer in real terms than they were forty years ago and this despite record corporate profits. Health and pension benefits have grown stingier, and job security has shrivelled. The big squeeze is starting to take its toll. Here is a breakdown of its other major impact:


The food supply squeeze

Whilst we have enough food to feed everyone on planet earth, we have too much of it in the wrong places, and too much of the wrong types of food (High fat, sugar and salt — HFSS). Food wastage has also become a massive grey elephant. The UN estimates that each year, 1.6bn tonnes of food worth approximately $1.2tn, goes to waste –  A new study warns that unless urgent action is taken food loss in 2030 is set to have increased by a third to 66 tons of food thrown away every second. 

The overweight squeeze

For the first time in human history more people are dying from eating too much rather than too little. Obesity has tripled worldwide since 1975 and by 2030 half of humankind will be overweight. The impact of diabetes and other eating related disorders it going to increasingly impact business. The bottom line is that the global food system is unsustainable. Changes are inevitable and as this shift happens supply shortages and higher food costs will add to the big squeeze.


In addition the industrialised production of food such as palm oil, soy beans, and beef is resulting in the extinction of millions of wild mammals, fish, birds and insects. 


The fresh water squeeze

The future of Himalayan glaciers is bleak. If global warming is limited to 1.5 degrees over the next two decades, a third of all Himalayan glaciers will disappear. If temperature increases above 2 degrees Celsius, two-thirds of its glaciers are doomed. You may be wondering why this matters especially if you may live thousands of miles away. The simple answers is it matters massively. Directly or indirectly, 3 billion people rely on the ten big glacier-fed rivers. That’s 40% of the world’s population in an economic region that drives at least 20% of the global economy. 


But like a trickling stream, the impacts of melting glaciers won’t all be felt at once. Rather it will come in increasing waves of disruption. At first, melting water will flood rivers and dams. The next wave will be crop failure as rivers dry up. This will also hamper hydroelectric power plants starving industries of crucial energy. The great water squeeze will hit the poorest the most, especially subsistence farmers in Bangladesh and Nepal. The result, mass migration and social unrest. As water availability evaporates, tensions between geopolitical rivals such as China, India and Pakistan could boil over into water wars. Other regions in Africa and the Americas are also under threat. In parts of Mexico the mighty Colorado river has dried up. As global warming intensifies the risks of water wars erupting over access to fresh water supplies are highly probable, high impact yet neglected threats.


The energy squeeze

As we look towards 2024 and beyond, the global energy landscape is poised to undergo significant changes, influenced by ongoing geopolitical events such as the war in Ukraine and Gaza and growing escalation of Houthi attacks against commercial shipping in the Red Sea. These disruptions are expected to perpetuate volatility in global energy markets, leading to unpredictable fluctuations in oil and gas prices. 


Investments in green technologies are set to rise, driven by the need for sustainable and reliable energy solutions. Economically, regions dependent on energy imports will face challenges, reshaping their fiscal policies and international alliances. 


On the consumer front, extended periods of energy instability could shift demand towards more energy-efficient products and services, influencing market trends across various sectors. Governments might respond with tighter regulations aimed at ensuring energy security and promoting environmental sustainability, impacting how businesses operate. 

Additionally, supply chain dynamics are expected to evolve as companies seek to mitigate risks associated with energy supply uncertainties.


Overall, this big squeeze will likely witness a complex interplay between traditional energy powerhouses and the burgeoning green energy sector, reshaping the global energy narrative in profound ways.

Responding to the Challenges

In navigating The Big Squeezes, businesses must adopt a forward-thinking and expert approach. These approaches positions business leaders at the forefront of industry evolution, driving progressive and sustainable change.

  • Strategic Cost Optimisation: This involves a holistic financial restructuring, focusing on sustainable growth. It's not just about cutting costs, but intelligently reallocating resources for long-term resilience.

  • Embracing Technology and Innovation: Embracing technology should focus on integrating digital solutions for operational and customer relationship advancements. Digital transformation should be central, leveraging AI, machine learning, and blockchain to revolutionise operations and customer engagement.

  • Supply Chain Resilience: This calls for a predictive, intelligent system, adaptable to real-time changes. Moving beyond traditional models to predictive, agile systems that can dynamically respond to market changes is key.

  • Nearshoring for Agility and Sustainability: Nearshoring emerges as a strategic manoeuvre for enhanced market responsiveness. This strategy enhances responsiveness and fosters local market connections, supporting a more sustainable business model.

  • Integrated Energy and Resource Strategy: Embedding sustainable practices in every facet of the business, from energy use to resource management, is essential for future viability. Addressing energy and resource challenges requires an integrated approach, embedding sustainable practices at the core.

  • Revolutionising Stakeholder Engagement: Cultivating a culture of empowerment, collaboration, and shared purpose with employees and customers aligns your organisation with contemporary values and expectations. Engaging employees and customers must transcend traditional methods, fostering a culture of empowerment and shared purpose.

  • Innovative Product and Service Development: Aligning with new consumer lifestyles and market demands, is imperative. This involves creating solutions that are not just market-responsive but also sustainable and efficient. 


The "Big Squeezes" of key resources, rising costs and disrupted supply chains demand an agile dance for businesses in today's turbulent economy. While consumers feel the pinch of inflation, companies find margins strained and production threatened. Yet, within this squeeze lie opportunities for strategic reinvention.


Optimising costs, embracing technology, and building resilient supply chains with real-time data and diversified sourcing are steps companies can take to regain their footing. Daimler's regional sourcing shift for electric vehicles and Unilever's AI-powered forecasting showcase the power of adaptation.


Meanwhile, the horizon holds promise. Automation and re-skilling initiatives offer avenues for workforce challenges, and distributed manufacturing models could reshape the future of production. By embracing adaptability and venturing into these nascent solutions, businesses can not only weather the current squeezes but emerge stronger, ready to thrive in the ever-evolving economic landscape.

Chapter 7

Intelligent Advances - Navigating the Rapid Advancements in Technology, AI, and Automation

7- IA

The Current Landscape

As people look around they can see we are living in an era of rapid technological evolution, marked by 'intelligent advancements.’. The digital revolution, led in part by tools like ChatGPT, is reshaping our world in profound ways. Robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning have ignited a fresh era of automation. Even before the pandemic highlighted the necessity for new workforce competencies, technology was already redefining the future of work. Today, we witness machines that can diagnose diseases, detect fraud swiftly, generate news articles, navigate warehouses, manage stock market trades, and even conduct legal research. The scale and scope of these achievements are expanding constantly.


With such rapid changes, it's natural that concerns about AI's implications for the workforce have also risen. Studies, like those by McKinsey, suggest that due to trends in remote work, e-commerce, and ongoing automation, over 100 million individuals may need to transition to new roles by 2030. Moreover, approximately 400 million jobs might experience disruptions during the same period.

But are businesses and society sleepwalking into a new world that will have profound implications without fully understanding the implications? Who will benefit from these intelligent advancements and to what degree? Will it be the elites, society as a whole or the machines? 



Balancing innovation and its societal implications becomes paramount. While robots can drive economic growth, there's a critical need to ensure they don't exacerbate societal disparities. The interval between tech adoption and job creation can be turbulent. For businesses, the challenge isn't just about how automation alters work but about maintaining purchasing power, especially if automation results in fewer or lower-wage jobs. We must remember, robots don’t consume products or services. A public backlash against perceived automation-first companies is plausible.

Ultimately, AI and automation can be assets rather than adversaries. If executed correctly, they can enhance productivity, reduce tedious tasks, uplift living standards, and lessen inequalities. New roles can emerge, paving the way for more meaningful and human-centric professions. However, unchecked technological progression could suppress wages, intensify workplace surveillance, and magnify biases. The trajectory technology takes lies in our hands, determining if AI and robotics benefit or hamper the future workforce.

AdobeStock_378758920 (2) [Converted].png

The AI Revolution - Accelerating Pace and Emerging Applications

The concept of AI is not new, but its recent breakthroughs such as Generative AI have been transformative. Factors driving this include advanced machine-learning algorithms, increased computing capacity, and an abundance of data for training AI models. For instance, in one study by Google, AI-powered optimisation led to a significant 40% reduction in energy consumption, highlighting the tangible impact of AI on sustainability.


The digital revolution, led in part by Gan AI tools like ChatGPT, is reshaping our world in profound ways. ChatGPT, for example, exemplifies the way artificial intelligence can efficiently and effectively assist in various tasks, from content creation to decision-making processes, demonstrating the transformative power of AI.


Robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning have ignited a fresh era of automation.  From CEOs to taxi-drivers the daily tasks of virtually everyone are undergoing transformation. Today, we witness machines that can diagnose diseases, detect fraud swiftly, generate news articles, navigate warehouses, manage stock market trades, and even conduct legal research. The scale and scope of these achievements are expanding exponentially.


With such rapid changes, it's natural that concerns about AI's implications for the workforce have also risen. Studies by McKinsey, suggest that approximately 400 million jobs will be lost or displaced by 2030.


Balancing innovation and its societal implications becomes paramount. While robots can drive economic growth, there's a critical need to ensure they don't exacerbate societal disparities. 


The interval between tech adoption and job creation can be turbulent. For businesses, the challenge isn't just about how automation alters work but about maintaining purchasing power, especially if automation results in fewer or lower-wage jobs. We must remember, robots don’t consume products or services. A public backlash against perceived automation-first companies is plausible.

AI in Business: Enhancing Productivity and Innovation

Businesses harnessing AI are witnessing enhanced performance, not just through labour substitution but through improved predictions, outcomes, and the discovery of new solutions in complex areas like synthetic biology and material science.


On a positive note, companies succeeding in automation prioritise a 'bionic' approach. This means valuing human capabilities as much as technological ones. Bionic organisations aim to harmoniously merge human talents with AI and data-driven tech to enhance customer experiences, streamline operations, and innovate. The true essence of this approach is to amplify human innovation and intent.


However, technology is merely a tool, to truly leverage it organisations should:

  1. Prioritise purpose, ensuring technology benefits society and doesn't just optimise speed and cost.

  2. Utilise AI to handle repetitive and predictable tasks.

  3. Allow individuals to foster relationships rather than just manage processes.

  4. Transition from a product-centric to a relationship-centric business model.


In the financial services sector, automation in the form of "straight-through processing" has greatly enhanced the efficiency of transaction workflows. This digitisation of end-to-end transaction processes has not only increased the scalability of transaction throughput by 80% but also halved the incidence of errors. This shift demonstrates the remarkable impact of AI in optimising operational efficiency and reliability in a high-stakes industry.


The Disruption of Generative AI

Generative AI, particularly in knowledge-based industries, is set to disrupt industries by enhancing existing products and creating new business opportunities. It's being increasingly adopted in product and service development, marketing, sales, and risk management.


However, the power of generative AI and automation comes with ethical considerations. Potential biases in AI algorithms and the displacement of certain jobs necessitate responsible development and ethical frameworks to ensure these technologies benefit society as a whole.

Automation: A New Era of Work

Automation is reshaping the nature of work. About half of the activities carried out by workers today have the potential to be automated, with implications for roles across sectors. While automation may reduce workforce sizes in some areas, it also creates new jobs and necessitates the re-skilling of existing workforces.

Instead of viewing AI and automation as replacements, we must see them as powerful tools to augment human capabilities. For example, surgeons collaborate with AI-powered surgical robots for greater precision and minimally invasive procedures. Architects utilise AI algorithms to generate sustainable building designs, combining human creativity with data-driven optimisation.


This grey elephant presents an exciting opportunity to redefine work around uniquely human qualities like creativity, critical thinking, and social intelligence, paving the way for a future where humans and technology thrive in synergy.


Hyperautomation - Amplifying Business Processes

Hyperautomation combines several process automation components, enhancing the ability to automate work. AI-powered automation is elevating this to new levels, promising revolutionary benefits for businesses.


Beyond Automation

Innovations in cloud technology, robotics, and quantum computing are reshaping the technological landscape.

  • Multicloud Complexity: Organisations today operate across multiple private and public clouds, dealing with the complexities and harnessing competitive advantages through 'Cloud Smart' approaches.

  • Robotics: Amazon's introduction of Digit, a two-legged robot for repetitive tasks, exemplifies the advancements in robotics.

  • Quantum Computing: IBM’s Heron processor represents a significant advancement, setting new performance standards in quantum computing.


The 5G Revolution and Sustainable Technologies

  • 5G Networks: Accelerating the rollout of 5G networks enhances connectivity and supports the integration of AI and other technologies.

  • Sustainable Data Centres: AI-enabled systems are optimising energy use in data centres, significantly reducing energy consumption.


Enhanced Cybersecurity with Zero Trust

  • Zero Trust Security: The adoption of a 'never trust, always verify' approach in cybersecurity has been a critical development in managing hybrid and remote work environments. According to a global survey by Cybersecurity Ventures, nearly 60% of organisations have already begun implementing zero-trust security approaches, and Gartner predicts it will become the standard by 2024, underscoring its growing importance in today's cybersecurity landscape.

Adapting and learning: Keys to thriving in the age of Intelligent Advances

The "Intelligent Advances" we witness are not mere tools; they represent a metamorphosis of work, learning, and innovation. Businesses and individuals alike must adopt an agile mindset, embracing continuous learning to not just keep pace but co-create with these technologies. 


While the potential for transformation is limitless, so is the responsibility for thoughtful integration and skilling. This demands proactive leadership, fostering ethical frameworks for AI development, and investing in skills that complement technology, not replace it. 


The future belongs to those who bridge the gap between human ingenuity and machine intelligence, collaborating to build a more sustainable, equitable, and innovative world. Bill Gates reminds us: "The amount of IQ in the world that's being educated, the quality of the tools we have to drive forward our innovation… those are fantastic things." 


Let us use these "fantastic things" as catalysts for progress, ensuring that every step forward is not towards a world replaced by technology, but one where humans and technology thrive together.



The seven “great grey elephants" outlined in this guide represent pivotal forces shaping our future. From societal discontent and demographic shifts to the acceleration of technology, environmental crises, global power shifts, growing inequality, and economic challenges, each trend poses unique challenges and opportunities. 


Recognising and responding to these 'grey elephants' is essential for businesses to thrive in an unpredictable future as opportunities for growth and innovation. 


Grey elephants are often ignored in plain sight because they seem too big to tackle, or hopefully will go away and be dealt with by someone else. But we learnt with Covid-19 that it is better to take advantage and at very least be prepared before disruption hits us in the cold light of day. More importantly, being able to strategically respond, ensures sustainable growth and resilience in the face of these transformative forces.


By investing in innovative planning, fostering a culture of antifragility, and embracing sustainable practices, businesses can navigate the complex landscape ahead.  They can also unlock new avenues for growth and prosperity, gain a decisive edge in the marketplace, and attract customers and investors who value responsible and forward-thinking leadership.


Beyond securing their own future, businesses that proactively address these 'grey elephants' can contribute meaningfully to a more equitable and sustainable world, strengthening their social license and fostering long-term prosperity for all.


Let’s not be caught unprepared by the shifting sands of time. Tomorrow is what we make it, so be the architects, shaping a resilient future through foresight, innovation, and action.

GE Conclusion


bottom of page