Updated: May 30
Might Stagflation in 2023 change everything?
I act as a career strategist and coach and, increasingly an agent to individuals who our business leaders, government policy makers, investors and civil society believe have the best road maps to decouple extraction and exclusion from economic growth at the fastest possible pace.
For the last 10 years, as the mainstream has moved from What to Why to How and finally How Fast, we can replace extraction and exclusion with regeneration and inclusion, demand for their services has increased almost exponentially. As all stakeholders seek them out, their access, scope, credibility, income opportunity and confidence has increased accordingly.
Despite that, they have been increasingly conflicted because, whilst their clients, employers, investors and colleagues praise them and base their impact on the speed of improvements from the past, they believe that decoupling growth has a much smaller window to design our way to equilibrium between Planet, Human and The Economy.
The individuals I work with have already used every skill in their play book to maximise impact.
Doing two jobs at once. The one they are paid for and the other role they’ve created by which they are seeking to provide solutions to questions that only they are asking.
Building demand for their next role a year ahead of time in such a way that key decision makers think it was their idea and don’t dilute it.
Following a non-linear career path so they can think and act like every stakeholder in our growth addicted system
Re writing briefs and KPI’s whilst interviewing, building a more non-linear personal brand and network.
For the last 2 – 3years I’ve helped more and more people to try and reset their balance of impact and income to one with which they feel more comfortable. Most initially come to me to validate their thinking or to explore the prospect that they may be missing something.
What if they changed say 1 or 2 things; would that become a catalyst to exponentially increase their impact without decreasing their income?
Maybe they are in the best place already, but it’s the system that is simply incapable of moving quicker and they need to lower expectations?
Perhaps there is somewhere else in the system where they could have a bigger impact, but their view on where that might be is too narrow?
Or is it their brand and network? A brand and network aligned to what they’ve done before not what they want to do next. Perhaps they don’t have a brand at all, but simply an extension of their employers decoupling position. They’ve often tried working with coaches or career advisors, but none see the world through their lens. So, their advice is compromised.
Together we’ve created a framework which helps to answer all those questions but more importantly help them make that impact/income step change.
Not just what role they might play and where in the system, or even more importantly how do they build demand for roles which solves problems only they can see. A big part of the framework we’ve developed is how to build a movement around the roles the world needs ahead of time.
The great news for everyone I work with, is they’ve probably already been doing that for most of their career, without realizing it. I’ve just tried to codify that so that they become better at it than they’ve ever been before.
However, before we do any of that I ask them to consider a scenario where they have no growth to decouple. Most have been decoupling from growth for so long, they almost can’t quite believe a real time sustained degrowth scenario.
My 2030 scenarios are here in 2022
In one of the early sessions looking at ‘what role’ they would play and ‘where’ in the system, I always ask my clients to formulate a career strategy based on one of two 2030 scenarios, both assume that despite all efforts, we can’t decouple extraction and exclusion from growth quick enough, the macro figures continue to get worse.
All of the individuals I help want to optimize impact and income, they recognize that the system requires them to make compromises they aren’t prepared to make anymore. I ask them to consider two potential challenging “degrowth” options as a lens to see if their career strategy can be enhanced. For Example :
Deliberate Degrowth - Where humanity recognizes that decoupling growth isn’t going to work quickly enough and we reach some sort of uncomfortable consensus. We give every human an extraction cap. However, because our growth system is so extractive, and we’ve left things so late, in order to make a difference to break the status quo, the cap is taken up almost completely on human need. Energy, Food, Water, Shelter. There is no room in the cap for aspirational extraction.
Destructive Degrowth – Geopolitical, Climate and Human indicators continue to worsen. With each acting as degrowth multipliers. However we keep pursuing market led return to growth strategies. We find ourselves in a more sustained Stagflation scenario (flat growth and high inflation). The cost of energy, food, water and shelter take up a higher and higher proportion of disposable income. Now only the richest can afford aspirational extraction. The difference with this degrowth scenario is a divided and fractious society. As the aspiration of happiness, unwittingly based on extractive economic growth becomes less and less achievable for more and more people.
2030 scenario sessions – Observations
We have found that these challenging 2030 scenario sessions enable my clients to very practically think beyond the now. Not just in terms of a career strategy, but how a ‘decoupling’ brand might quite quickly become a weakness not a strength.
The best decouplers use the risk of destructive degrowth scenarios like stagflation as part of their tool kit to build maximum ambition in their roles. However, they have learnt from experience going back decades in some cases that whilst the most curious governments, businesses and investors welcome these discussions as part of a horizon scanning exercise, that quickly changes if you try to operationalise degrowth scenarios.
Let me share some insight from these sessions
Most found it difficult to ignore the market, or indeed the present and work back not just from the future, but from such an ‘extreme position’.
They found both scenarios unlikely by 2030, but more viable by 2040 if not before, with the destructive degrowth option more likely.
As a career strategist, I wanted to know how they would alter their career strategy if we consider both the financials of Stagflation and how an increasingly fractious society might respond to traditional market led responses to Stagflation?
What role would you play, where in the system, what industry, what ownership model?
What road maps or skill sets would you be developing now, so that your personal brand and demand for your services align with both decouple and degrowth scenarios. Rather than your pure decouple brand of today? i.e build a more reliant and agile brand.
How would you reimagine your network to be able to amplify your reimagined personal brand collateral to the right people ahead of time?
RESULTS FROM STAGFLATION 2030 SESSIONS – What would they Change?
My clients are even more inclined to pursue careers in the 4 critical areas of Energy, Food and Agriculture, Water and Shelter, not just morally which is the biggest driver currently, but because they would be the only sectors growing with profits to invest in decoupling, so invest in their core skill, whilst their career was in transition
If they had to choose between the 4 areas of human need, the majority are drawn to Food and Agriculture, rather than Energy. Possibly because Food and Ag combines human need and emotional want, whereas energy is a pure need.
Some say they would align their career around improving mental and physical health of people, in a scenario where resource constrained aspiration becomes the norm.
Those that want to focus on human aspiration based on resources are drawn towards sectors that focus on the consumption of time rather than resource, or of course more circular models.
Which ownership models?
With regard to ownership models, if you assume sustained stagflation then you assume more inequality in our current system. So the majority of people doing this exercise are drawn to ownership models that align with what I call late stage 5 career strategies (6 Career Strategies). More non-linear, long term ownership models, which share risk and reward across all stakeholders. Rather than the linear socially divisive ownership model that has recently delivered that £18bn in quarterly profits to a BP or Shell.
How quickly would they look to realign their career strategy?
The biggest change in my clients thinking after the 2030 degrowth session is the pace at which they want to align.
It both emboldens and empowers them to move quicker because I’ve simply reinforced their gut instinct.
The Future is Here – Stagflation in 2022 and 2023
In the UK we are likely to enter a period of stagflation. At the time of writing, the only debate is how deep and how long.
I wanted to share these observations, because it appears that the future degrowth scenario has arrived. Not in 2030 and not necessarily directly because of Climate and Biodiversity collapse, but still a degrowth scenario that will have to be operationalized.
What we don’t know yet, is what we are prepared to jettison or adopt as a society to return to growth, because we are not yet ready to consider the alternative. We are however about to find out.
I assume the market for ESG+ roles will remain buoyant, but we need to recognize that governments may roll back or mothball legislation until we return to growth.
One thing is for sure, if 2022 is the start of a period of sustained stagflation is it will reshape board and leadership priorities forever and the skillset it looks for. Many will not be able to reinvent themselves quickly enough without growth to decouple from extraction and exclusion. Their decoupling road maps so compelling for the last decade, suddenly inappropriate. It’s not that the best decouplers don’t have road maps for how to accelerate our journey to equilibrium between Planet, Human and Economy in sustained degrowth scenarios, after all they’ve using them in horizon scanning sessions for years. It's they’ve never operationalized them; Never built the movements to build demand ahead of time so government, boards, investors and civil society are able to even consider a “Degrowth” Plan B. Hence why as a society we are likely to go with our instincts of returning to growth at all costs.