A guiding light through the current geopolitical landscape, Douglas Alexander shared with us his insights and summary of what the uncertainty of 2016 means for the future. We spoke to Douglas at our November Knowledge Guild showcase and heard his astute opinion on some of the major trends affecting the world today.
Douglas Alexander at The Knowledge Guild: Review of the Year
What are the key messages that you want clients to take away from a session with you?
I think it is important for companies to understand that in terms of distrust and uncertainty, 2016 is the new normal and that has some real implications for business, large and small.
Firstly, it is important to recognise that politics and geopolitics are going to matter. In the past politics and economics converged and now we are seeing them diverge and that has implications for many companies and their operations.
Secondly, I think it is really important for businesses to make a quick judgment as to whether they want to be part of the solution to distrust or whether they are going to be perceived as part of the problem.
Thirdly, I think it important that every company figures how to achieve high growth in what I fear is going to be a low growth environment.
Businesses small and large need to make quick judgments about their operations
This has been quite a year for both UK and international politics. To what extent did the geopolitical landscape affect the major political decisions that occurred in 2016?
Well, we have seen two waves of populism upending perhaps the most stable democracies in the world in the UK, first with the Brexit vote and in the US secondly with the election of Donald Trump. I think there are three forces that were at work both in Britain and the United States that businesses need to understand. First, economic anger, second cultural anxiety and thirdly political alienation, each of those forces were working both to secure the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump to the White House.
What are the major geopolitical trends that we should be aware of going forward?
First of all wealth and power continues to move East, not least due to the uncertainty in the West. Secondly, geopolitics is back. Companies need to understand politics in a way that in the last couple of decades hasn’t matter nearly as much as it will do in the years going forward. Thirdly, I’m afraid we are looking at secular stagnation in the West, so companies are going to have to chart their own path, choosing the high growth path, even as we see economies continuing to suffer a low-growth future.
Power is moving away from the established hubs
On a global scale, how do you think different countries or regions compare in terms of embracing the new trends in work?
Well if you look at many of the biggest trends affecting the world today, the United States should be well placed to meet those challenges, it is extraordinarily able in terms of new technology and innovation, its got a young and diverse population and its immigration policies continue to address the demographic challenge that is facing many other Western countries.
But, on the other hand, it has gridlock in its politics and with the election of Donald Trump, a new element of uncertainty enters the equation. So, there are challenges not just facing the United States but also challenges facing Europe. Here in Britain, we are struggling to come to terms with the Brexit vote on 23rd June, and on the other side of the channel, there is the continuing challenge of the Eurozone crisis, the need to respond to the Brexit vote and of course security challenges with a revulsious Russia. So on both sides of the Atlantic, it is a pretty challenging environment as we look ahead to 2017.
Donald Trump has added a new level of uncertainty to politics and economics across the globe
What is next for you?
I am going to look forward to the opportunities afforded by making sense of the trendlines beneath the headlines, there is a real premium on being able to understand the forces shaping this world, and I hope to be a part of this.
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