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7 posts from January 2012

January 30, 2012

Optimistic in an uncertain world

Deloitte Davos installation - Why does your business exist?Last year, I described my Davos experience as being like going to Disneyland but not being allowed to try the rides. This year, attending as a delegate for the first time, gave me an Alpine rollercoaster experience – from the highs of meeting and hearing from inspirational innovators, entrepreneurs and experts in their fields, to the lows of some sobering economic debates.

The World Economic Forum has typically contained an element of future gazing – what is the 5-10 year outlook for business and society? This year, there was a much more short term feel, with a strong focus on solving the Eurozone crisis. Perhaps unsurprising, given the presence of Angela Merkel, David Cameron, and numerous finance leaders.

Davos is a great opportunity for me to spend time with the CEOs of our member firm clients, and to get a good sense of the latest thinking of political leaders, finance leaders, and regulators. It’s also a real opportunity to hear from experts in fields I wouldn’t normally hear from, for example, on the future of medicine. This broader agenda is not only personally interesting, but gives me new perspectives and challenges my thinking.

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January 29, 2012

From Academic to Actual: Currency volatility and the real economy

International currency In April 2011, my Deloitte colleagues and I, together with the World Economic Forum, put on our binoculars. We, like others passionate about risk to the global economy, looked at the topic of currency volatility and the international monetary system, and saw a potential period of instability. At that time, it could still be argued academic. Today, it is clearly very real. As we begin 2012, the level of uncertainty in international currency regimes is now front and center. We are a long way from the U.S. government’s former AAA debt rating, Italy’s four percent bond yields, and a time when few analysts were seriously discussing any kind of “landing” in the Chinese economy, be it hard or soft.

Markets are now driven predominately by macroeconomic developments, and systemic changes to the global economy seem to lurk behind every new policy announcement. It is clear that studying possible evolutionary paths of the international monetary system has moved out of the realm of academic discussion and into the real world in a way financial services providers cannot afford to ignore.

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January 25, 2012

Business leaders and ‘Millennials’ agree – the purpose of business is more than just profit


The 2012 Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum opened today in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland. Being here in Davos is exhilarating and inspiring – and the time always flies by so quickly.

One of the highlights of the day for me was taking part in a panel discussion chaired by London Business School professor Lynda Gratton. We discussed how the art and science of leadership are fundamentally changing in the 21st century. Another highlight today was helping lead discussion with other Forum delegates in a brainstorming session on the topic of the role of business in society.

These are subjects I feel strongly about. Earlier this week, Deloitte announced the results of a global survey, conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), of business leaders’ attitudes on the purpose, impact, and leadership of business on society.

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January 24, 2012

If it all goes wrong: Rebalancing the global economy

The future belongs to those who show up. — Mark Steyn

People_mapAs leaders of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited and its member firms, participate at the World Economic Forum in Davos at the end of this month, I am looking forward to engaging with clients of the Deloitte U.S. firms in New York this Friday on whether growth is still possible if everything goes wrong. The challenge is looking for the pony in the pile of horse-do-overs. I think I have discovered no less than five. Here is the first one.

The doomsday scenarios related to overpopulation, which were previously forecasted, have failed to materialize. In fact the scenario which has unfolded is the exact opposite, with its own set of challenges. Birth rates around the world have plummeted to levels where the implosion of population represents a much greater threat to economic prosperity. Populations are already shrinking in Russia and most of the countries of the former Soviet Union, as well as in Japan. Throughout much of Europe, the population pyramid is standing on its head. For every 100 grandparents there are less than 50 grandchildren.

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January 19, 2012

Eyes on the sky: How cloud computing is shaping society

Computer mouse cloud Next week global leaders from DTTL and Deloitte member firms are meeting in Davos at the 2012 World Economic Forum to discuss the important issues of the day. While we can’t all attend, I have the real privilege to participate in a local Davos event in New York for clients of the U.S. firms. I’ll be speaking about cloud computing, and how it is not just a technology phenomenon, but is shaping society itself.

As someone who has been working with leading innovators for many years, my sense is that cloud computing represents a once-in-a-generation convergence of technologies: high-speed broadband, large-scale data centers, and flexible virtualization software. Working together as “cloud computing,” these forces are driving one of the most important global technology transformations impacting on many types of business, political, and social structures.

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January 17, 2012

21st Century paradigm for water management: Business, social, and political implications

I believe increasing water scarcity is on a collision course with economic development, energy and food needs.

Without adequate water supplies, the world will not be able to feed an ever increasing population, manufacture products or generate electricity (hydro, nuclear and fossil fuels). Unlike energy, water is unique; there is no alternative.

Increasing global population, urbanization, energy and food demands coupled with declining water quality in certain regions has resulted in increased competition for water in the public and private sectors. The facts and trends highlight this increasing “scarcity” of water are as follows (Water Scarcity. The Water-Food-Energy-Climate Nexus. World Economic Forum 2011):

  • Currently, about 884 million people worldwide don’t have regular access to safe drinking water and about 2.5 billion people lack access to sanitation. This has significant economic, social and political implications (www.water.org).
  • Water withdrawals are expected to increase by about 50 percent by 2025 in developing countries and 18 percent in developed countries (www.water.org). As a result, projections indicate that about 47 percent of the global population will face water shortages by 2030 (www.oecd.org)
  • Increased competition for water is driven by (Water Scarcity. The Water-Food-Energy-Climate Nexus. World Economic Forum 2011):

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January 05, 2012

Out with the old, in with the old

In his first-ever blog to start the new year, Simon Holland, Global Head of Strategic Change and Organizational Transformation, argues that it’s time for a radical review of leadership development programs

Most leadership development programs do little more than maintain the status quo. Long-term organizational change depends on behavioral change—and that depends on in-depth understanding of individuals and what motivates them

Jan 2012 resized imageHappy 2012. Given up giving up smoking/chocolate/drinking yet? Don’t worry. You’re not alone. According to research by British psychologist Richard Wiseman, often quoted at this time of year, more than four-fifths—88 percent to be exact—of all New Year’s resolutions end in failure. At this rate, the only resolution worth making is not to make a resolution.

Why is change so difficult for us? Why can’t we stick at things—even when we know they’re good for us?

I’ve been thinking about these kinds of questions a lot lately as colleagues get to grips with the problem of leadership development—and how it can be solved. Didn’t think leadership development needed fixing? Think again. Research by LEAD—Leadership Excellence at Deloitte—finds that only a puny 4.3 percent of leaders rate their organization’s leadership development as “very effective.” Most corporate efforts to make us better at our jobs fail to make a difference in the long term—much like those resolutions. Back at the office, lessons learned during a development program disappear faster than needles from the Christmas tree.

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