24 Stories to Watch for 2024: Part 3

C-suite leaders need to understand many developing news stories and trends in order to keep up with a changeable industry. Over three parts, discover the 24 stories to watch in 2024 to elevate your insights.


The ability to continually anticipate change is a hallmark of a great leader. 


Through the combined efforts of intuition, data, networks and curiosity, these leaders have curated for themselves a fine-tuned, constantly evolving ecosystem of information feedback loops that they use to refine decision-making, investments, partnerships and more. It isn’t something taught per se as developed organically; a natural cohesion of intelligence gathering, communities and self-improvement.


Today, the world is becoming yet more connected and complicated.  The task of anticipating change has become more necessary therefore—but more difficult. 


Trends that impact the C-suite seem to come from many more corners of the globe: fiscal policy, international geo-politics and innovation have dominated Boardroom discussions since the Post-War period. Fast forward nearly a millennium(!) and executives today must concern themselves with demographic and generational shifts, the outsize role of the customer, regional and sometimes even local politics, ethical and moral dilemmas, to say nothing of advancing climate change and complexifying issues within our globalised economy, such as supply-chain resilience. 


It should be noted that no single leader is expected to be able to follow the above in great detail and perform in their role to a high standard. As the best leaders discovered long ago, one’s network should be utilised to keep up to date with what one may have missed within this global overload of information. 


With that in mind—and given I have the opportunity to speak with many C-suite executives across a range of sectors and regions—discover 24 stories that cover well the full spectrum of themes with which all leaders should at least familiarise themselves if they are to keep abreast of important developments facing the industry split equally over three articles, focusing on:


  1. Today
  2. Tomorrow
  3. Future.


Stories to watch (in the) Future


24 stories PART 3


Population de-growth

Nearly every respected population tracker shows we will see the world population peak this century, in some studies as early as 2040. That we could see a shrinking world population in some of our lifetimes, let alone at all, runs counter to the accepted dogma of 20th century politics and economic literacy. Our global financial system—the quarterly reliance on sustained growth—assumes a sustained growth in the numbers of humans consuming, spending, developing and innovating, amongst others. What happens when that is not the case?


In truth, we do not yet know. Governments are still grappling with a reversal in the decline of births using socio-cultural and economic strategies to very limited success (see China; South Korea; Italy; and, to some degree of success, Sweden and the Nordics). The only continent that will see any form of population growth from the mid-2030s onwards will be Africa; Nigeria will overtake the US in terms of population in a matter of years. 


It is difficult to overestimate the magnitude of this development. Because of the mathematics of falling birth rates over time, population degrowth isn’t linear, it can be logarithmic; fewer babies have fewer babies, who in turn have even fewer than the generation before. Collectively, we are not ready for the speed at which this will impact the global economy, nor for the changes we will need to incur to re-organise a society that is older, smaller and more reliant on international migration and digital infrastructure to sustain productivity. 


Paris' urban future

Future urban design is rarely high on the reading materials list for C-suite executives, but it should be: it is an incredibly complex topic. It requires design thinking principles, engineering and infrastructure architecture to be thought through in terms of human psychology and geographic terrains, modelling, and much, more more. It is the ultimate expression of collaboration, creativity and compromise. Sound familiar? 


One emerging success story is Paris. This is an example of retroactive urban design, and Paris, its mayor and leadership team are striking forward with bold initiatives to make the ancient capital a more liveable, fairer, greener city for Parisians. They are using a combination of top-down, bottom-up decision-making that many businesses could utilise for its own ambitions. Plus, it is a good news story we all could need right now.


NATO sans US

NATO without the United States is another one of those 20th Century truisms that suddenly, shockingly, looks to be more fragile than first thought. A possibility of a second term for Trump raises many questions for the industry, but his latest outburst around NATO and NATO member countries, particularly in Europe, is forcing the world to model a future where the US cannot be relied upon even if former allies are under threat. Businesses are more likely to be affected indirectly than directly: defence spending is likely to increase in the West; regional conflict may increase, emboldened by a new world order; international supply chains may once again have to shift to accommodate these changes. 


Even if a second term for Biden occurs, many countries have been spooked by the events of recent days. Expect developments regardless of how American citizens vote in November.


China-US relations

US-China relations has dominated global geo-politics and economic policies for a reason: two of the world’s largest powers hold huge influence over other nation states, critical resources, talent and trade. 


Taiwan, Russia, Iran and the Middle East, investment across pan-Africa, digital misinformation and a frothing trade war are all symptoms of a global world order in flux, as the democratic maturity of the US creaks under the weight of its own history, and the rapid development of China belies a fragility in its political party and social cohesion. It is a story worth understanding well.


Neuralink: history in the making

Neuralink is a developing story, but as of February 2024 its first human patient was implanted with a brain-chip and appears to have fully recovered, even to the extent of controlling a computer mouse using their thoughts. It is a possible future of humanity brought suddenly to the present. If the vision of its Founder Elon Musk is realised, chips inserted in human brains will be used to treat everything from obesity to schizophrenia; it has also faced repeated calls for scrutiny regarding its safety protocols. I will be following closely to understand how society reacts to such a controversial venture.


Spotlight on Rare Earth Elements

Could you name all the Rare Earth Elements? I’m going to safely assume not (kudos if I am incorrect!). Beyond copper, lithium, cadmium, manganese, nickel, and others, all necessary ingredients in our modern, digital world, and for our global green energy transition, REEs are the vital resources few can name. It is high time more of us became familiar with our periodic tables.


REEs consists of yttrium and the 15 lanthanide elements: lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, neodymium, promethium, samarium, europium, gadolinium, terbium, dysprosium, holmium, erbium, thulium, ytterbium, and lutetium. These are all requirements for a wide range of clean energy technologies under the IEA’s Stated Policies Scenario (STEPS) and the Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS), including: Low-carbon power generation: solar PV, wind, other renewables and nuclear; Electricity networks; Electric vehicles and battery storage; and Hydrogen (electrolysers and fuel cells). 


They are also almost exclusively found in rich seams in some of the poorest regions of the world, such as the DRC in Africa. Control over these resources will manifest in myriad ways in the coming years, and leaders would do well to educate themselves on likely future scenarios.


The fresh taste of MINT? 

Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey (MINT) were acronymised in 2011 by Fidelity Investments and popularised by Jim O'Neill, a British economist with Goldman Sachs who had created the term BRIC, and later, BRICS, with the addition of South Africa. Each MINT nation has had specific reasons for its own ascendence over the last decade, but given the relative successes of BRICS nations, we know predictions of future super-powers to be more an art than a science. Still, the C-suite members who keep an eye on these countries relative to other stories (see US-China relations, above) may be able to better forecast customer sources, new talent acquisition, resource allocation and more. 


Mexico has taken over China to be the biggest exporter to the US. Nigeria has a new government, a new focus on tackling its currency issues and economic fragility, and capitalising on its growing, youthful population. Indonesia has been sidelined by world media and economists for a long time; that seems to be changing as it (and Vietnam) vie for growing credibility as they emerge from China’s shadow. Turkey has always been geo-politically consequential, but has been facing headwinds in the face of an increasingly authoritarian regime and natural disasters. These, and more, should be followed to capture insights on how the second quarter of the 21st Century is likely to evolve. 


You decide

This is not a cop out: nearly all of the C-suite leaders I have interviewed, moderated over on panel discussions and met in more informal contexts are all well-read, well-briefed and curious. The best, however, also have honed their specialisms. Most commonly, a specialism is directly related to their careers: a certain technology, or law, or developing story that helps navigate their sector and competitive landscape. Sometimes, it is an unrelated story, but the time and energy required to understand it has wholly positive effects on the quality of one’s leadership. An example would be the patience, creativity and skill required in, say, gardening, that can be transferred elsewhere, or elite sports, or volunteering. It is most commonly cited in the theory of obliquity, that a more indirect route to your destination often wields the best results over a more direct path.


These 24 news stories and trends have either featured in my conversations with C-suite executives, from CIOs, to CISOs, to CEOs, in my research involved in curating HotTopics' events around innovation, business strategy and leadership, and more. Have I missed a key story? Drop your thoughts in the comments below and let's start a conversation.

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