The US Election: Another Example of Our VUCA World

The US election reinforces the truth of our VUCA world. There is little doubt that we are living in highly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous times. Like Brexit, the status quo was upturned in a staggering fashion in last week’s US election, teaching us all that we are living in uncharted waters replete with unknowable consequences.
We are living in a world of great contradiction: on the one hand the world is witnessing exciting developments in technology and innovation, global governance (e.g., COP21, SDGs), and progress in important aspects of human development; on the other hand we are witnessing a host of challenges from mass migration to growing inequality, to ongoing conflict, and a growing set of urgent environmental issues. The pace of cultural and technological change coupled with growing inequality, along with a sense of dislocation and increasing vulnerability, has created serious political events that have propelled Donald Trump to the White House, has resulted in the UK leaving the EU, and has caused a host of populist revolts in pockets of Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Europe.
The first two of GlobeScan’s five megatrends – a Polarized World and Low Trust in Institutions (the others include Interest in Transparency, the Rise of the Aspirationals, and a Thirst for Purpose) – seem particularly prophetic. With half of people worldwide split on important issues such as globalization and climate change, our data tells us how divided and polarized people are on fundamental issues of the day. Further, trust in governments, the media, and global companies remain at historic low levels, leading to a backlash in anything resembling business as usual. Just look at the significant decline in net trust in government in the USA between 2015 and 2016, which conforms to a long-term decline in the post-911 period.

Going forward, one thing is clear: we need to better understand the dynamics, trends, and perspectives of all citizens and stakeholders, especially rising negative populism, and work to create more social capital across society. The need for not only better intelligence but also effective dialogue and engagement has never been more critical. At GlobeScan, we are committed to working even harder to be effective partners and catalysts for leadership organizations working toward a sustainable and equitable future for all.
The election of Donald Trump has created a great deal of uncertainty for Americans and the world. It is important to remind ourselves that we live in a multi-stakeholder world where a range of actors – from business to civil society – can have a profound impact on creating the future we all want.
And what the vast majority of us across the world want is very similar. I recall doing focus groups across seven countries some years ago and we began with a simple exercise. We asked participants to close their eyes and imagine the future they wanted. Despite cultural, geographic, and historic diversity of the countries involved in the study, the results were remarkably consistent: we all want safe and vibrant communities, health and education for our children, a clean environment, and an economy where no one is left behind.
Let’s continue our collective work toward this inclusive aspiration, grounded in the hopes of many billions of us on this planet. We are living in an age of disruptive technology and disruptive expectations. People are looking for new approaches and models for our society. We must all embrace this great urgency to more deeply listen, engage, and co-create a purposeful economy.