The Greatest Challenge of Our Times

Written by:

Paul D. Roberts


We have a huge challenge on our hands, to adapt a $90 trillion global economy, and all that it entails, into a thriving economic system that has no negative impact on the planet.

A world of clean air, fresh water, and thriving with a diversity of plants and animals, and economic prosperity and opportunity for all 9 billion humans. We are looking at the changing of supply chains into supply cycles, shifts to new inputs, new levels of total life cycle responsibilities, new business models and priorities, and fundamental shifts in resource uses. It will take a level of human ingenuity on a scale and speed we have never witnessed before.

“Reimagine a $90 trillion global economy system that elevates people, planet and prosperity - a task so huge it invites us into huge conversations”.

At the same time, we have incredible technologies that are getting more powerful, more usable, and cheaper at an accelerating pace, everyday:

  • Increased computing power and storage per dollar
  • Artificial Intelligence permeating into every facet of life
  • The Internet of Everything feeding A.I. its data
  • Digital Biology & DNA/Life adjusting techniques
  • Cheaper space travel, and
  • Shifts in the energy sources that power our world  

It is an amazing time for 8.5 billion humans whose ancestors only 5-6 thousand years ago had sticks, stones, and copper to build their worlds.

The Right to Exist

These two forces – the challenges of the planet and the power, and possibilities of exponential technologies – will define our future.  In reality we are in the race for our lives, and it will be up to all of us to create a future we want to live into.  

Corporations are beginning to feel these pressures through rising ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) requirements and the need to move out of their old-world models that have no place on tomorrow’s planet.   

At the heart of what they are exploring is their “right to exist.”

Right to Exist:
Example: How viable is a company with a “free-water-based business model” that assumes unlimited access to free, clean-enough water, when according to the World Resource Institute there will be a 56% shortfall in clean water by 2030?

Achieving our right to exist will require a shift in mental models that accept new normals, and courageously explore and create mind bending innovations. These can be supported by antifragile strategies that go beyond the grim “resilience” mindset, where we brace for the storm, and towards creating models of “Right to Thrive” in the future. It is a mindset shift that Tyler Chaffo of Avery Dennison articulated well:

“If we do it correctly, within 10 years we won’t even talk about sustainability,... We won’t call it sustainability. It’s just the way business is done.”

With giant challenges come enormous opportunities. We will need all of our teams to think differently. We will all need to spend more of our time and mental energy working together to create this future economy and planet. 

It is a time of great innovation and invention.
What we need to ask ourselves is: Am I, my leadership, my teams, my people, and my broader ecosystem prepared for the challenge? 

Do you and your teams have the thinking and interacting tools that you need to build a better future together? 

Have you found the courage to act? 

Be Courageous can help.

*Regenerative Retail Economy, Avery Dennison x The Future Laboratory, 2021 


Corporate Fragility


Most of us agree that we are really only at the tip of a massive amount of change. The 2020s will be the decade of challenge for the globe.

Corporate Fragility


Most of us agree that we are really only at the tip of a massive amount of change. The 2020s will be the decade of challenge for the globe.

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