Thinking the Unthinkable – Nik Gowing, Chris Langdon and Sir Peter Gershon

A large and thoughtful audience joined our fascinating discussion with Nik Gowing, Chris Langdon and Sir Peter Gershon on Friday 5 August. The Thinking the Unthinkable report, and Nik and Chris’s excellent recent World Today article about their project, are both available for download at


“Unthinkable” events since 2014 have revealed a new leadership fragility at the highest levels. And the pace of change in 2016 shows that the uncertainties are greater than ever. Is this the “new normal?”

Thinking The Unthinkable is a rolling, ongoing, dynamic investigation into why leaders have appeared more unable or unwilling than ever to anticipate the biggest issues of our time. Since 2014 these have included the new assertiveness of President Putin’s Russia, the rise of so-called ‘Islamic state’ the sudden oil price crash, growing cyber-vulnerability, and the exponential growth in mass migration and people movements.

In an era of “wicked problems” why are current leadership behaviours and culture apparently not fit for purpose? What are the causes of so many failures in policy and strategic forecasting? Are they human frailties? Or are they  systemic failures to embrace smartly new realities?

These critical questions were put in extended confidential interviews with over 60 C-suite executives and senior public servants. Hundreds more have been engaged in conversations and conference sessions since early 2015.

This interim report written by Nik Gowing and Chris Langdon draws on the candid responses. The findings so far are scary and disconcerting. They are available to download here.

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