Tag Archives: risk management

Why Thinking the Unthinkable is a Wake Up Call for Leaders

The Great Wake Up – Nik Gowing, co-author of Thinking the Unthinkable, explains why these findings should keep us all awake at night. 

Thinking the Unthinkable

What if the very people we appoint – in business and government – to foresee, identify and handle the most unexpected, cataclysmic, and disruptive events, are shown to be perilously inadequate at the most critical of moments?

This is precisely the nightmare finding of research study: Thinking the Unthinkable – A New Imperative for Leadership in the Digital Age, co-authored by Visiting Professor at Kings College London, Nik Gowing.

The Great Wake Up

Setting the context for the Big Ideas Summit, and the C-Suite agenda more broadly, “Thinking the Unthinkable, is the ‘Great Wake Up’ for leaders – current and future.

Speaking ahead of his appearance at Big Ideas Summit, Gowing explains a proliferation of ‘unthinkable’ events has revealed dangerous fragility at the highest levels of corporate and public service leadership.

“From just the first weeks of 2014, a dramatic series of ‘strategic ruptures’ revealed the old assumptions for decision making and promotion to the top in public or corporate life were seriously wanting or worse, irrelevant,” explains Gowing.

The ‘unthinkable’ events Gowing refers to include critical moments such as: President Putin’s seizure of Crimea; the rise of the so-called Islamic state; the devastating outbreak of Ebola; the surge of refugees to Europe and the seemingly uncontrolled tumbling of the Chinese stock market.

None of these events had been seriously considered or tabled, let alone planned for by those at the highest levels of corporate or public leadership.

Failure in Leadership

And yet occur they did, one unthinkable event after another, sending shock waves reverberating around the globe and prompting concerns about the capabilities of those ‘in charge’ to foresee unthinkable events and handle their impact.

“The rate and scale of change is much faster than most are even prepared to concede or respond to. At the highest board and C-suite levels, leaders confess to often being overwhelmed,” says Gowing.

Recognising the strangeness of this new world, Gowing, alongside co-author, Chris Langdon, set out to understand why our leaders appeared to be in free fall at these most critical of moments. And finally, why it remains so difficult for leaders to think the ‘unthinkable’.

“The global pace of change is overcoming the capacity of national and international institutions”

– Chris Donnelly, Director, Institute for Statecraft

Gowing reflects: “What started as a modest research project 14 months ago has grown fast and exponentially into something far more substantive and deeply disturbing.”

Compiled through a series of over 60 one-to-one interviews with C-suite business leaders and top-level public servants, the findings of Thinking the Unthinkable reveal fragility at the uppermost levels of global leadership.

Thinking the Unthinkable confirms the current cohort of top leaders feel overwhelmed and under equipped to understand and work with the enormity of ‘unthinkable events’ that are unfolding.”

A terrifying level of wilful blindness, or ‘executive myopia’, to see and contemplate even the possibility that unthinkables might happen, let alone prepare to respond to them, is perhaps the most alarming finding of the research.

During their candid interviews, Gowing reveals the majority of leaders agreed that the decision-making norms and behaviours which got them to the top in the first place, no longer suffice.

Gowing emphasises: “Leaders need to be liberated from that conformity which guaranteed their career progression. The challenge is how to achieve that.”

Why TTU is Must-Read for Procurement Leaders

There are three key reasons why TTU is a must-read for all leaders – current and future:

First, relevance: Unthinkable events are happening with greater frequency and our leaders are less and less well equipped to handle them.

Second, rigor: Thinking the Unthinkable could not be more disturbing but do not mistake its alarmism for a mere piece of ‘click bait’. Serving as unprecedented database for the private, the research provides in-depth views of some of the world’s most influential corporate and public sector leaders.

Third, impact: Just as it sets the agenda for conversations at Board-level, Thinking the Unthinkable will help guide the conversations for Big Ideas Summit and will underpin our challenge to all delegates: What are the ‘unthinkable’ challenges we face next, and what do they mean for our models of leadership?

 To download the report and access additional content and context, visit the Thinking the Unthinkable website. 

At the Big Ideas Summit on the 21st of April, Nik Gowing will challenge current procurement leaders to consider what their ‘unthinkable’ events are, and how they are planning to tackle them.

If you’re interested in finding out more, visit www.bigideassummit.com, join our Procurious group, and Tweet your thoughts and Big Ideas to us using #BigIdeas2016.

Don’t miss out on this truly excellent event and the chance to participate in discussions that will shape the future of the procurement profession. Get Involved, register today.

Tackling Technology and Risk: The Blockchain

The rise of digital payment systems has brought the blockchain into the public consciousness. But can blockchain be used to aid supply chain transparency?

Blockchain Technology

Just shy of ten years ago, technological innovation and the supply chain might have been considered strange bedfellows. Now they go hand in hand. But as technology advances at an ever-increasing rate, it makes sense that supply chains the world-over are also becoming increasingly complex as a consequence.

However despite the numerous advantages brought about by this envelope-pushing, we must remain vigilant and alert to the increased risks such new avenues afford us.

Recent years have seen a rise in both the adoption and implementation of digital payment systems and so-called “crypto currencies”. Such innovations in payments have removed the need for traditional, physical currency, as well as the bricks and mortar institutions that process them.

Bitcoin – A New Way to Pay

Bitcoin is but one example that’s fast revolutionising the payment industry. Bitcoin is a digital currency that’s been heralded as both an innovator and disruptor in yearly tech trend reports.

Bitcoin is effectively a peer-to-peer system. Its users can carry out transactions without the need for a middleman, but all activity is recorded and verified by the blockchain. Think of blockchain as a ledger and you’re halfway there.

Bitcoin has given the blockchain an early success with its 15+ million bitcoins already in circulation. But with a limit of 300,000 transactions per day (a ceiling that’s fast-approaching), we have to wonder – is there a future for a digital distributed database format?

It’s worth noting that the blockchain isn’t owned or operated by a singular body – hereby distinguishing it from a conventional ledger system. Instead, each network node stores its own copy of the blockchain, so whenever a transaction is made it is first recorded in one place, before being transmitted to other nodes that make up the database.

The “block” comes from the name given to accepted transactions. The system checks approximately six times per hour for new ledger activity, and to determine if a bitcoin amount has been spent.

Bitcoin & Blockchain

Blockchain – Bigger than Bitcoin?

Putting bitcoin’s reliance on the blockchain aside for a moment, various figures have spoken out about its potential to transform not just payment systems, but improve the delivery of services and assure the supply chain of goods.

Nothing if not an encouraging sign, a report from Mark Walport, the UK Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor, made proposals that the Government itself should explore applications for the burgeoning technology.

Walport said: “Distributed ledger technologies have the potential to help governments to collect taxes, deliver benefits, issue passports, record land registries, assure the supply chain of goods and generally ensure the integrity of government records and services.”

Records ultimately lie at the crux of the blockchain. So a technology that serves as an incorruptible ledger, and one that can trace each and every interaction, could prove extremely valuable in areas where accountability is key.

Gordon Donovan, Procurement & Supply Chain Manager for Metro Trains, has previously been quoted on Procurious suggesting the development of a ‘supplier wiki’ in order to build knowledge of the entire supply chain.

Blockchain technology could indeed be used to increase transparency, but there would be considerable work required in advance of opening this up, thanks in no small part to the highly complex nature of organisational supply chains and the numerous suppliers involved.

Blockchain network

A Chain is Only as Strong as the Weakest Link

If this reliance on blockchain is going to come to pass, more work needs to be done around trust and security – a fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed by bitcoin’s most vocal critics.

With high visibility services like Twitter, the BBC, and both the global networks for Xbox and PlayStation, all being taken offline by distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, what crippling effect would such activities have on the blockchain?

Moreover it wouldn’t be too much of leap to suggest vulnerabilities could lead to ‘botnets’ taking control of nodes to reveal the identities of the parties involved in transactions.

But is all of this worry warranted? It would certainly seem so if the letter penned by bitcoin’s high priests is anything to by. The open letter informed the community at large of an action plan to reach a consensus on improving bitcoin security.

“We have worked on bitcoin scaling for years while safeguarding the network’s core features of decentralisation, security, and permissionless innovation” – it began.

“We’re committed to ensuring the largest possible number of users benefit from bitcoin, without eroding these fundamental values.”

In order to achieve these aims, 30-plus bitcoin developers organised two workshops (in Montreal and Hong Kong respectively) to try and carve out a scalable path for the cryptocurrency’s future.

If we’re not looking for a repeat of the Silk Road scandal, let’s just hope they came up with a solution…

Is it possible for blockchain and bitcoin technology to transform the future of digital payments and aid supply chain transparency? Let me know your thoughts.