The collision of megatrends

The collision of megatrends with Leo Johnson

Leo Johnson

Head of Disruption


Lloyd Wigglesworth


The Alexander Partnership

“Sometimes good things fall apart so that better things can take their place”. Marilyn Monroe

In this podcast, Lloyd Wigglesworth from The Alexander Partnership talks to Leo Johnson who is author of Turnaround Challenge, Business & the City of the Future, he presents BBC 4’s Futureproofing and he is Head of Disruption and Innovation at PWC.

Leo describes how we are at the “most Marilyn of moments” and leaders need to reinvent the future as well as protect the present. He has been examining the collision of megatrends for some years now. Leo argues that the system of economic growth which has lifted people out of poverty for 100 years is no longer fit for purpose.

There is a collision of megatrends going on which has left the world in a weakened position to deal with the biological crisis. Covid-19 has exposed the world’s fragility resulting from an inequality crisis, a debt crisis, a climate crisis and a manufacturing crisis. These have created an inherent vulnerability which is being exposed by the biological crisis.

The Corona virus pandemic needs to be seen as more than an unfortunate mutation of a deadly virus. Leo suggests the outcome is a result of other crises coming together. The effect of an economic system of fossil fuel driven mass consumer capitalism which has been pushing to the limit other levers in the system. We have an inequality crisis with a demand for products without the means to pay. The concentration of wealth into the hands of the few and a sizeable group on benefits watching Netflix and not contributing to the economy. We have a debt crisis with highly leveraged cheap debt and corporate obesity with high fixed costs which are very vulnerable to shifts in aggregate demand. We have a climate crisis and a manufacturing crisis with jobs being displaced at speed by automation and now we have a biological crisis which is highlighting these other crises.

The biological vulnerability stems from pools of cheap labour in urban centres. The combination of high population density and poor sanitary conditions gives the opportunity for diseases to flourish and we are yet to see the devastating impact Covid-19 will have on these parts of the population.

Leaders need to not only consider how to protect their business through this crisis but to allocate enough time and energy to understand the megatrends and consider how to create something new that’s going to work? Leo explains how this next decade for business and society is going to be a lab of experimentation but also a lab of intent. We should not just be banging pots and pans for the health service but for all the things we care about, things we need to protect and things we need to reinvent. Technology needs to be seen as the amplifier of intent.

The leader’s job now is to:

1. Stabilise – with reduced costs, digitalisation and staying in the game
2. Rethink – parts of the business model including people, finance and the supply chain and how they come together
3. Reimagine – new sustainable scenarios with digitisation at its centre – understand how to build something more resilient

Or download a transcript here