As you look at the crises the world faces, a striking pattern reveals itself. We have ten years to find answers and implement them. We cannot use 20th century logic to meet this challenge. That logic has led to steady improvements in living standards across the world, but it has also given rise to these challenges and failed to meet them. We need systematically different approaches to creating a better future, building on the creativity and power of markets but setting them in a new context.
PwC’s book Ten Years to Midnight: Four urgent global crises and their strategic solutions by Blair Sheppard and his team examines the root causes of the crises and suggests a few strategic solutions that could begin to fix them.
The world’s most acute issues PwC summarized in ADAPT (see PwC's ADAPT framework) set in motion four broad crises that, if not addressed, will cause irreparable harm in the next ten years: a crisis of prosperity, a crisis of technology, a crisis of institutional legitimacy, and a crisis of leadership. All dangerously intertwined, these four crises have forced us to rethink and reconfigure the future. They have also been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
We have ten years to make fundamental, systemic change, at scale. We cannot use 20th century logic to address these challenges. It was that logic that created the crises. The book provides an alternative path that builds on the best of our thinking and proposes how to modify our approaches to adapt to the context, challenges and opportunities the world faces today. It needs to be replaced with a new way of thinking about what success means and how to achieve it.
Driving that scale of change in today’s world will take leadership fit for the task. We need a new model. Leaders need capabilities and sensibilities that seem at odds with each other: technologically sophisticated while also deeply aware of human systems and psychology; heroically courageous, but humble enough to listen and change course if needed; deeply aware of the foundational elements of the things we are trying to change, but highly innovative to name a few (see PwC’s Six paradoxes of leadership). The foundational task for leaders of nations, institutions and businesses is to foster this kind of leadership so the world can meet the crises that threaten us all.
Finally, while the book was written prior to COVID-19, the pandemic has accelerated virtually every trend discussed. It is intended to remind everyone that there is very little time to rethink and act before the world becomes a much worse place. But, this book is ultimately hopeful. The authors have faith that humanity will rise to the challenge and offer both a frame to understand the current state of the world, and a way to think about creating the future that will serve all in under 200 pages. Its exhortation is to get to work.
Blair Sheppard joined PwC in 2012 as the global leader for strategy and leadership. Blair leads the team responsible for articulating PwC’s global strategy across 158 countries and the development of the current and next generation of PwC leaders. He is also Professor Emeritus and Dean Emeritus of Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.
Blair has advised more than 100 companies and governments in the areas of leadership, corporate strategy, organizational relationships and design, and has published more than 50 books and articles. His most recent articles, A crisis of legitimacy and Adapting to a new world published in strategy+business magazine, focus on the most acute global challenges facing the world today, including those of the post-COVID-19 landscape.