Our world is insufficiently prepared for an increasingly complex risk environment. This stirring call to arms was recently issued by the World Economic Forum in its Global Risks Report.

The Forum’s study of the planet’s most pressing problems reveals that the underlying nature of the risk is changing. The pace of political, economic, social, environmental and technological change is unprecedented. As never before, we are faced with risks that are increasingly complex, unpredictable and volatile.

The report draws particular attention to a number of concerns that affect us all:

  • Fragile societies under increasing pressure from rising unemployment and inequality;
  • Growing concerns over conflict, in a new era of strategic competition among global powers;
  • A potentially false sense of optimism over the global economic recovery; and
  • The rising dangers of climate change, environmental degradation and resource scarcity.

Yet it is when the interconnections between these risks are mapped, that we begin to understand just how complex an environment we face.

WEF Risks Connections

(Source: World Economic Forum, Global Risks Report)

In Africa, this landscape is posing extraordinary challenges for decision makers at all levels. The risks of climate and economic shocks, the fear of instability and extremism are rising. How do we prepare for and build resilience against such risks? How do we mitigate the consequences? How do we avoid collateral damage and the unintended fallout?

Complex risks transcend borders, politics and spheres of influence. And they require complex solutions. Conventional thinking won’t work. New approaches are required, new collaborations across countries and industries, which forge new partnerships to think and act differently.

Click here to view the full report Global Risks Report


Complex, interconnected challenges demand new forms of collaboration and innovation between diverse partners. And yet, the many meetings and conferences that are supposed to create this collaboration continue to be managed in didactic formats, with a few dominant voices holding court whilst everyone else though present in body, is absent in mind,  awaiting the short coffee break to have the conversations that they really need to have. New ways of working need to turn this on its head. We need to create spaces that accelerate the number of connections and conversations, and get people energised, aligned and committed to action.

In October I participated in the World Economic Forum’s “Transformation Leaders Workshop” for leaders working on the challenge of boosting agricultural production around the world. This event was bold and innovative about creating the context for transformational leadership. The video below captures the spirit of these highly productive few days. Key ingredients included:

  • Inviting diverse people, united by a common overall challenge and a spirit of entrepreneurial hunger to make change happen.
  • Never, ever, having a keynote speech, formal presentation, or even a stage.
  • Creating as many conversations as possible, but each with a level of clarity and focus about the topic, and with participants free to chose which conversations to participate in.
  • Fostering community by making the event fun, playful even, with dancing and creative construction activities.
  • Focussing minds on what actions they will undertake upon leaving.

Refreshments were always available, and we never took any scheduled breaks, because essentially the event was the ultimate coffee break – two days packed full of people and conversations that were inspiring and pioneering.