The final two scenarios look at the potential outcomes of a
world in which the established centers of institutional power have crumbled
before the onslaught of bottom-up insurgency.
In A Thousand Flowers
Bloom, this insurgency is led by the global Millennial generation, united
and empowered by knowledge networks and fueled by an entrepreneurial approach
to problem-solving. Countries with large populations of younger people reap a
demographic dividend that helps them surge past the tired, aging nations beset
by debt and legacy infrastructure. This new world is dynamic, media-saturated
Shards of Glass
represents the triumph of populism, for good and ill. Here, power has devolved
because existing institutions collapsed under their own weight and dragged the
system down with them. Communities, localities, small businesses and
cooperative organizations flourish, but so too do religious extremists and
fanatics of all stripes. Technology, knowledge and economic growth are stalled.
These are the "exciting times" of which the Chinese proverb warns.
A Thousand Flowers Bloom
Mao provided the image, but Adam Smith's ideas of free
markets and free minds dominate in a world refreshed by youth and new sources
of cultural energy.
Bottom-up innovation, rapid and robust growth.
Young, rising economies armed with new technology and a sense of purpose
unleash a wave of entrepreneurial innovation, upending the economic order
Freewheeling, vibrant and innovative companies emerge seemingly from nowhere
with revolutionary new products and business models, spurring an upsurge in new
investment. Many of these new companies move to acquire established
industrial-age businesses at bargain prices as ways to enter new markets and
leverage the trust of familiar brands. Government regulations exist, but the
demands of the market, consumers and partners tend to be higher in any case.
A collaborative global creative class, made up largely of ambitious young
people from fast-growing global regions, powers economic growth with their
ideas and conversations. Employers vie for the best talent on a global scale.
People and communities make use of new technology to achieve work-life balance,
manage their financial and healthcare choices, and pursue their independent
Consumers are bewildered by nearly limitless choices, constant changes to
products and features, and companies that come and go quickly, often leaving
behind inadequately supported products. Consumers use networks and technology
as a filter to identify their best choices and support each other when
companies leave them behind.
Climate: Regions and cultures, moreso than countries, are engaged in
intense competition for primacy and attention. Occasionally this bursts into
incidents of violence and chauvinism or sectional discord. Politics is
fractious and an extension of the fast-moving consumer culture: loud and boisterous,
but not always coherent or pragmatic.
How We Got Here:
As the economic superpowers of the 20th century squandered their advantages
during the downturn of 2009, rising economies capitalized on infrastructure
investments, political reforms, falling prices of technology, and the energy of
their young, tech-aware and ambitious workforces to surge to prominence.
Newly-wealthy entrepreneurs in these fast-growing regions bought up
household-name institutions and assets in the developed world at bargain-basement
prices. Prosperity helped tamp down the embers of extremism and historical
conflict, creating room for political liberalization and the establishment of
durable civic institutions.
Shards of Glass
An angry mob, fed up with injustice and choked with resentment,
has taken a sledge hammer to the plate-glass shop window of the world economy,
leaving this scenario in its wake.
Sluggish, stagnant economy, bottom-up insurgency.
Institutional failures lead to populist uprisings, religious fundamentalism and
isolationism, hindering economic recovery and increasing political turmoil
Many of the pillars of the global economy have failed, and their local and
regional replacements lack the resources to operate at the same level. Capital
is scarce and government does not have the power or the prestige to safeguard
transactions, so it is difficult for anyone to scale up and take advantage of
the market gaps. Managers have to think tactically because of resource
constraints and operational uncertainties that cloud strategic vision.
Much creative class and professional work has a poor reputation, owing to
popular resentment of elites who tried to cling to their privileges at the
expense of workers in other sectors. Energy, agriculture, industrial arts,
construction and transportation jobs are most relevant to the economy as it
exists, and consequently there is not much of a wage premium for information
With little money and few choices, the consumer does not have much to say.
Climate: Domestic politics in most countries is full of blame,
finger-pointing, and scapegoating, with little productive discourse. The surge
in the youth populations of South Asia, Africa and Latin America - concentrated
among the urban and rural poor - has led to an upsurge of fanaticism and
violent nationalism, including some bloody confrontations and atrocities. With
no authoritative sources of news following the collapse of global media and
local papers, most people get their information from narrow channels that suit
their ideological biases.
How We Got Here:
Chastened by populist backlash following bungled attempts to bail out dying
industrial-age institutions during the 2009 downturn, governments stepped back
and let them fail, with calamitous results. The wave of unemployment and wealth
destruction dragged the global economy into a full-fledged Depression, which
created fertile conditions for the spread of extremist politics and apocalyptic
religious sects. Communities banded together and began developing local
resources, but distrust between groups, social classes, countries and
ethnicities remains high.