A “lack of optimism could create a vicious cycle of disillusionment and social unrest.” A quote from Victor Perton, radical optimist? No, it’s from one of the most influential global business organisations, The World Economic Forum’s (Davos) Global Risks Report 2022, prepared by world leaders in risk.
A risk or a reality?
Asking the question, “How do you feel about the outlook for the world?” only 16 per cent of respondents to the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2022 Global Risks Perception Survey “feel positive and optimistic about the outlook for the world.”
It’s the lowest result for such a poll I have ever seen nationally or globally.
Those surveyed were the World Economic Forum’s multi-stakeholder communities, including the Global Shapers Community, the professional networks of its Advisory Board, and members of the Institute of Risk Management.
Two possible conclusions? The WEF survey is pitched to the world’s pessimists, OR we are in deep trouble if the world’s elites are so pessimistic.
What do you reckon? Has Davos given in to a zeitgeist of pessimism?
Is optimism on your risk register?
By adding climate changed to its risk register, WEF has been influential in corporations adding climate to their own risk registers.
So too, putting a ‘lack of optimism’ on the risk register should be influential in corporations placing a lack of optimism on their risk registers.
Our surveys indicate that less than 20 per cent of corporations measure optimism in their workforce, customers and stakeholders.
WEF is undoubtedly correct in stating that the declining levels of optimism in the developed world are creating disillusionment.
Optimism in Australia
Being the founder of The Centre for Optimism, naturally I understand the Australian situation best.
In the 20 years leading to the pandemic, there was a dramatic decline in personal optimism of Australians and an even more dramatic decline in optimism about the nation. In the same period, the number of Australians medicated for anxiety or depression has doubled.
It’s hard to say what the pandemic will have done to community and workforce optimism. But, in theory, overcoming struggle and a major crisis makes communities more optimistic and resilient. That was the case after the two world wars and the Great Depression.
Our recent Centre for Optimism poll asked Australians about leaders who inspire them, and it had a surprising result: The top-nominated leader was former Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel.
Angela Merkel adopted an optimistic mindset seeing opportunity in drawing the old West and East Germany together. On the international platforms of the G8, G20 and the EU, she was brilliant at pulling people together in conversation. She had 16 years in office; in the same period, Australia had six prime ministers.
Making a better ‘new normal’
Optimism owes more to mindset, life experience, faith and family than to politics or economics. It is the fuel that drives people and the foundation upon which leaders build greatness.
Building a more optimistic nation, corporation or community requires leadership that fosters and generates a mindset for collaboration, and harvests the essence of the community’s optimism.
COVID has many people living in fear and avoiding crowds and traditional workplaces. The test of the 2020s leader is to take us beyond that – imagining the opportunities to come.
It’s time for a shared vision for a future built from an optimistic mindset, that reframes challenges as opportunities rather than constraints, which brings people together on the journey, and is aligned to new possibilities that are limited only by individual and collective imaginations.
In short, a future where optimism is the fuel for a better normal.
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