At Dun & Bradstreet’s 2022 Power of Data event, streamed live from Stockholm to a global audience, former prime minister of Finland, Alexander Stubb took centre stage as a keynote speaker.
The pandemic and the war in Ukraine have both changed our beliefs about the future, Stubb argued, and reminded us of the complexities of geopolitics and macroeconomics. How companies react will play a big part in the years ahead.
“Crisis-driven decisions are suboptimal,” Stubb said.
So how did we get into this pickle? Affluent Western nations were not prepared for the impact of recent events because of their conviction that political and economic liberalisation had won. Stubb referred to the popularity and main theme of Francis Fukuyama’s persuasive book “The End of History,” published in post-Cold War 1992.
Fukuyama was wrong, Stubb pointed out.
“We have been on a 30-year holiday from history,” Stubb said. “We’re seeing protectionist knee-jerk reactions to globalisation, we’re seeing the rise of nationalism and identity politics.”
And, importantly, the belief that world wars had been banished to the past looks increasingly shaky. While the physical battle in Ukraine is contained geographically, for now (at the time of writing), the conflict has and will continue to have far-reaching impact beyond Eastern Europe.
Apart from the spectre of nuclear war, Nord Stream’s down, inflation’s up. Hand-wringing’s intensified and the cost-of-living is exploding internationally.
In June 2022, three months after the Russian invasion, the OECD slashed its outlook for global growth in 2022 to 3 percent, from the 4.5 percent that the organisation had predicted at the end of last year.
In 2023, the OECD predicted, growth will have slowed down further, to just 2.8 percent.
For companies investing in data-driven decision making, there’s a new and incredibly complex uncertainty about the reliability of current-use data. Not just because new predictions must be entered at the analysis stage but due to data no longer necessarily reflecting what’s going on, on the ground.
To build business resilience, the capacity to survive and deflect challenges, companies must envision multiple futures and prepare to innovate to stay afloat. That was a key message from all keynote speakers at the Power of Data event.
Right now, consumers who have previously acted in a more-or-less predictable manner are being forced to abandon or modify their plans. What’s the point of sending out service and product offerings timed to fit traditional life-stage needs and wants - such as selling an apartment to buy a house – when the customers’ or would-be customers’ ability to meet their own needs are in flux.
Going forward, Stubb said, all actors must give up on the idea that the world was on a simple trajectory. From nations and international institutions to established corporations and fresh start-ups, the only certainty is uncertainty.