WEF Defines Leadership Principles to Tackle The Fourth Industrial Revolution

Leadership in these complex times requires nothing less than a wholesale shift of our mental models and the World Economic Forum explains how to go about it

World Economic Forum summarizes four primary leadership principles for organizations in the current technological wave, what it dubs as The Fourth Industrial Revolution in a recent blog.  According to WeF,  technologies namely Advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotics, Internet of Things (IoT), Autonomous Vehicles, 3D Printing, Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Materials Science, Energy Storage, and Quantum Computing make up the fourth industrial revolution.  The blog says that organizations are trying to understand these technologies, leverage from them, and bridge the gap while accepting the newer technologies coming along, all simultaneously. 


According to WeF, The first industrial revolution which came in on the back of a wave of innovation – the invention of the steam engine and the cotton mill, for instance – and represented a history-altering wave of systemic change such as urbanization, mass education and industrialization of agriculture. The second industrial revolution, with electrification and mass production, saw the advent of entirely new social models and ways of working, and the third industrial revolution – the digital revolution – provided the electronic and computing foundations for the radical shrinking of the world we have seen over the past five decades.

The blog says that the same will be true this time – individual technologies will be influential, but the real change will be in the social and economic systems that shape our lives and how we live them. According to WeF, the four principles which should guide the policy and practice for organizations as they progress further into this revolution include:


Focus on systems and not technology: The WeF suggests business to focus on systems rather than technologies, because the important considerations will be on the wide-reaching changes to business, society and politics rather than technologies for their own sake.


Empower society to master technology: We need to empower our societies to master technologies and act to counter a fatalistic and deterministic view of progress, suggests WeF. Otherwise, there is no room for optimism and positive transformation, and society’s agency is nullified.


Prioritize futures by design: As per WeF the prioritization of futures should be by design rather than default. Collaboration between all stakeholders must play a central role in how we integrate these transformative technologies. Otherwise, our future will be delivered by default.


Values are feature of technology: There is a need to focus on key values as a feature of new technologies, rather than as a bug. Technologies used in a way that increase disparity, poverty, discrimination and environmental damage work against the future we seek. For the investment in these technologies to be justifiable, they must bring us a better world, not one of increased insecurity and dislocation.


“Leadership in these complex times requires nothing less than a wholesale shift of our mental models, a step change in collaborative engagement, and the ability to collectively envisage the futures that we want to create, and manage ourselves away from the dystopias which technological progress can conjure,” says the WeF blog.

These principals are more of processes than hard core technologies because industrial revolution, according to WeF, is “a mental model” to help businesses, government and the society navigate the radical shifts that are impacting, not just a single aspect, but the lives, across the globe.  

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