There has been a strong strategic focus on the historic challenges of our time, including climate protection, ESG matters and connectivity as a driver of societal and economic transformation. Long-term thinking decades into the future has entered into the strategic discourse, otherwise dominated by medium-term planning. What’s more, a new strategic narrative is being sought to rationalise everything. Prior to the turning point, these were the issues that dominated the strategic agenda of corporations and companies, as well as our day-to-day consulting.
But things radically changed on 24 February. We suddenly had to switch to crisis mode without any kind of preparation for managing the situation at hand. There was no crisis prevention system, Q&As, handbooks or rehearsed communication practices. War was not and should not have been thinkable.
Companies have been in a state of strategic uncertainty since 24 February. Although it used to be a standard element of corporate strategy, boundless globalisation with international division of labour is now being called into question.
Economic globalisation appeared to be par for the course – completely detached from its geopolitical dimensions. There have been gigabytes of market research analyses and studies of global growth markets, but few findings on global power shifts and their impact on trade and commerce. The same is true of megatrend research, as it mostly excludes politics. It sees globalisation as an irreversible process of social and economic progress – albeit with a few tweaks and adjustments. Scenarios involving major geopolitical turmoil have never been an integral component of forecasts. It is now become apparent that this was a blind spot.
Besides complex crisis management which will be necessary for a long time to come, companies will have to face up to a new global reality in their strategic discourse. We are witnessing the emergence of a new bipolar world order, one that differentiates between good and evil. This raises fundamental questions about companies’ stances on politics and morality. Ethics is becoming entangled with equity. Supporting peace and freedom is now suddenly relevant to purpose and the licence to operate. Yet, the historic challenges we were already facing have not gone away. Climate protection is still an urgent matter, but it now has to be reconciled with a new (geo)political landscape. Companies must not forget the long-term agendas that they have just formulated.
These are all daunting challenges. They cannot be grasped, let alone solved, using our old approach to strategic thinking. From now on, what used to be unthinkable must be made tangible and malleable for strategic discourse.
This article was published in the May 2022 issue of prmagazine.