(Art design: Jean-Dominique Lavoix-Carli)
How can individuals and small business leaders protect themselves against the crises and upheavals that seem to be imposed on them? Can they take advantage of tools that are generally reserved for state actors, especially security forces, and sometimes for large companies? Can such a tool, early warning, be useful for individuals and small business leaders, and how? How can early warning be made available to everyone?
How can we reduce the plight that so many people face due to the ever-increasing prices of energy and electricity, for example in Europe? How can we mitigate the negative effects resulting from other problems and challenges, such as climate change, war, water and resource scarcity, etc.?
The answer to these key questions lies in the use not only of early warning but also of actionable early warning. We explain first what is actionable warning.
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We then turn to a core component of the early warning process, action. With the example of the energy insecurity and more particularly the rise in electricity prices, we explain that actionable early warning must not only look outwards to the world but also inwards to response capabilities. We stress that empowerment of individuals and small business leaders is a key component of a successful actionable early warning process applicable to all. We compare two cases to be able to draw actionable lessons: the broken bakers versus the successful wool manufacturer.
In a concluding third part we outline a roadmap for a realistic and practical use of actionable early warning for individuals and small businesses and stress the importance to embed it at local level.
What is actionable early warning?
Early warning, what is it for?
Early warning, or better strategic foresight and warning, is the art and science to avoid surprise, notably unpleasant ones. It is defined as:
“An organised and systematic process (including analysis, intelligence) that aims to reduce the uncertainty inherent in the future” (Fingar, 2009).
“Its purpose is to enable decision-makers to take their decisions early enough to ensure that these decisions are implemented in the best possible way.” (Davis, Grabo, Knight)
Early warning, who is it for?
Most of the time, when we design an early warning system, or make early warning analysis, we do so for state agencies and other international bodies, for governments and officials, or for relatively large companies.
Yet, every human being, every organisation must face the uncertainty inherent in the future, and take decisions to govern its own life and activity, so as to live as best as possible and ultimately to survive.
Thus, if current practice and methodology has been developed and refined for state actors, most often in military affairs and international security, actually, everyone could and should use early warning.
Indeed, often without knowing it we, as individuals, already use early warning systems of a sort. When we consider weather forecast to choose our clothes, or activities, we use early warning. When we look at traffic situation and forecast, similarly, we use early warning.
Hence early warning is for everyone, even though it is knowingly used, most of the time, only by specific actors. Yet, it is also different according to who is using the warning. Why is that so and in which way?
The promise of actionable early warning
It is clear from the definition above that early warning must be practical or rather actionable.
In other words, it must lead to the possibility for actions. When one receives a warning, then one must be able to act to prevent or mitigate the negative impact of the object of the warning or, on the contrary to build upon the positive consequences.
For example, if someone gets a warning about heavy rain during the afternoon then s/he may decide to take an umbrella if s/he has to get out, or postpone getting out if possible. If a state counter-terrorist apparatus receives a warning about a terrorist attack, then it will deploy its counter-terrorist strategy from carrying out a counter-terrorist operation to implementing measures to protect citizens. Now, if a warning about a terrorist attack reaches an individual, for example through the alarm system of a state, then the individual will solely follow the instruction of the state, possibly staying at home, being extremely careful when traveling, paying attention to abandoned objects etc. It will not, however, be able – nor allowed – to carry out most of the counter-terrorism answers endeavoured by a state.
What these short examples highlight is that the types of answers resulting from a warning change according to the type of person or actor receiving the warning. Hence a warning must also consider the range of responses available. As a result the process of early warning, if it wants to be actionable, must take into account the capabilities and possibilities of answers and actions.
The responsibility to warn
The responsibility for warning, and thus for setting up and carrying out the process of early warning, and which process, also varies according to actors and to their normative duties within their polity. As a result, if early warning is fundamentally for everyone, the issues to which one pays attention in terms of warning vary. These issues depend upon the social contract that exists between political authorities and those they rule, as well as upon the capacity of the said political authorities to ensure the security of their citizens according to the social contract.
Now, in an ideal legitimate and efficient polity, political authorities will be responsible for protecting the ruled from foreign enemies, for ensuring civil peace and order at home, as well as for the conditions for material security, including customary security(1). In this ideal case, political authorities are indeed those who are responsible for warning on the issues that constitute their fundamental mission, i.e. the various aspects of security.
However, for many reasons, which are beyond the scope of this article, we live in polities that are far from being ideal. In that case, those who are ruled may also have to start enlarging the domain to which they must apply their own typical early warning. They need to also look at security, from geopolitics to resources scarcity through climate change. When survival is at stake, it is even more important to be able to make this kind of transition – from waiting for political authorities to carry out all actionable early warning to also doing it oneself – as quickly as possible.
In such cases, how can individuals and managers of small companies carry out actionable early warning notably on conventional and unconventional security?
The key is action
The two indispensable faces of actionable early warning
Considering the role and promise of actionable early warning, if we think about the actions that need to be taken in regard to possible future events, then this means that actionable early warning must have two components: one that is looking outward to the world for those coming events and one that is looking inward at one’s capacity for action.
Looking outward to the world and reality
The first component of an actionable early warning process is probably the most obvious and best known. It implies to look at the outside world and to make judgements regarding the future as resulting from future dynamics of world events. This is true whatever the issue of concern.
For example, if we consider the war in Ukraine and the responses to it decided by the U.S., the European Union and its members states, one such still generic warning could have been at the end of February 2022:
“Considering the attempt to transition to renewable resources, the rising effects of climate change, the international need for energy, the tense international context and the war in Ukraine and responses to it, it is almost certain that the prices of energy in general and electricity in particular will skyrocket notably in energy-poor Europe within the next twelve months and that the very high prices will last for at least the autumn and winter months 2022-2023, and possibly longer“.
For a proper actionable warning, this still general statement would then need to be refined. It would need to give, notably, an idea of the rise of energy and electricity prices that could be expected, a more precise onset for and then duration of the increase in energy prices, according to various variables and thus scenarios.
Starting at least as soon as December 2021, we find throughout the media and the literature a relatively high abundance of warnings regarding energy prices and a war in Ukraine (e.g. Tom Wilson and Neil Hume, “UK and European gas prices rise on Russia-Ukraine concerns“, FT, 14 December 2021; James McBride, “Russia’s Energy Role in Europe: What’s at Stake With the Ukraine Crisis“, CFR, published 28 January 22, last updated 22 February 2022; Jeff Tollefson, “What the war in Ukraine means for energy, climate and food“, Nature, 5 April 2022; The World Bank, “Food and Energy Price Shocks from Ukraine War Could Last for Years“, 26 April 2022; Jakob Feveile Adolfsen, Friderike Kuik, Eliza Magdalena Lis and Tobias Schuler, “The impact of the war in Ukraine on euro area energy markets“, ECB, April 2022 Issue; ).
These warnings were done in more or less specific and thus useful ways. Indeed to be truly useful, thus actionable, early warning also has to account for a second component, the range of possible actions.
Looking inward, at the range of available responses
Let us imagine that the person receiving a warning similar to the one presented above is an individual or the owner or manager of a very small company such as a bakery or a 10-employees company in any field, or, a craftsman. When these people read about the warning, they may either consider it or refuse it. We shall not look at this second case, as we already explored various possible instances leading to the failure to consider warnings.
Let us, thus, imagine these people decide to consider the warning. The warning can truly become actionable only if those who pay heed to it can envision responses and then carry them out.
If, for example, they only think about a diplomatic solution to a crisis, then the possible response appears as being so far away from what they can actually do, that the warning will be completely useless.
- “Why the Messenger Got Shot and how to Avoid this Fate“, , RTAS, 14 April 2021
- “From Cassandra’s Curse to the Pythia’s Success“, RTAS, 18 May 2021
- From Seer to King – Success with Strategic Foresight and Warning, RTAS, 14 July 21 2021
Thus, we need to have a relation between the warning and the responses available. Hence, we need to have decision-makers, here individuals and small business leaders, who not only receive the warnings and pay heed to them, but are also aware of a range of possible responses they can imagine and implement.
Empowering individuals and business leaders
The power of individuals
If you are an individual, your capacity to act, actually your power, is very small compared to a state. Yet, it is not inexistant.
At first glance, in the case of the example we use for this article, it seems that an individual does not have much power to make the war in Ukraine stop, nor to influence any government or supra-national body so that they change their policies and actions. The context appears as quite set and very extraneous. Thus, it seems that, as an individual, you need to take as a fated constraint this very rise of energy and electricity prices that is coming, then, writing in January 2023, that is upon us and is very likely to last, despite possibly temporary decrease (such as the one that started at the end of December 2022).
This means that, apparently, the only actions available to you are to do your best to reduce your energy bills in general, and more particularly your electricity bills. Furthermore, in some countries and geographical areas, you may need to get ready to face shortages.
According to how close your polity is from an ideal polity, you will also tend to expect your political authorities to act in such a way that you are protected from the rise. Yet, the very fact that you need to face such energy prices increase in itself, questions the ideal quality of the system within which you live.
Actually, your power is more complex and stronger than what you think. The power of an individual, most of the time, depends upon its revenues, its material assets, its status, its support social network, as well as on its knowledge, acumen, imagination, strength and faith, which can be seen as immaterial assets. These various elements are often linked, but not always, and not always in an ideal and logical way.
It is thus all these dimensions of its power that an individual can use and combine to answer a threat or, more broadly, future uncertainties.
Meanwhile, the goal that must be achieved through the responses to avoid the threat – initially the surprise – is also more complex than just reduce energy consumption and thus energy bills in general. And in considering complexity may reside the solutions. What an individual needs to do is to reduce the cost of its energy mix, directly and indirectly, through developing a related range of action on the short, medium and long term.
Because now we also have a better perception of the available power of an individual, we can add that the reduction of the cost of the energy mix must be accomplished through actions taken across the various elements of the available individual’s power on different time horizons.
This may mean, for example, moving home and region, taking advantage of home-working and negotiating to see your employer paying for your energy bill. This may also mean joining consumers associations, lobbies, communities of interest and political organisations, taking on new roles within your community, etc. For instance, looking at ways to produce energy through joining collective networks and communities acting in this direction may also become an interesting way forward to handle energy insecurity. We can think to the production of biogaz by collectivities, which could also consider involving individuals as producers (GRDF, “Du gaz vert produit directement par les habitants de Lamotte-Beuvron“, 22 February 2022). Overcoming energy insecurity will imply mixing various solutions according to your power.
In any case, this implies that you must first be aware of whatever power you have, while understanding better the threat(s) and objectives. Power comes first because without awareness of what you can do, then no answer can be imagined and no solution can appear.
The power of small companies and their leaders
If you are a small business leader, the picture is quite similar, but you have more power than an individual.
You have a larger network of relations constituted by your employees if any, your customers and suppliers, the various people with whom you interact at the local political level and within the administration, to which can be added various key social networks such as, for example, chambers of commerce, trade and industry, i.e. the leaders of other small companies similar to yours.
However, because you are a professional, you may also have to face a larger and wider impact of the energy and electricity price’s rise. At worst, this impact may mean getting out of business rapidly, which then, in turn, will translate into impacts at individual level.
As in the case of an individual, you need first to be aware of your power and thus capability and range of answers to be able to imagine and implement responses. Without this empowerment, warnings will be of no use to you as they cannot be translated into action.
Let us now turn to two different cases to draw lessons for an actionable early warning.
Two cases: the broken bakers and the thriving textile manufacturer
The two cases we examine below exemplify two ways to face the new energy insecurity for industries using energy rather intensively.
Unfortunately, energy being at the core of our model of development, indeed being indispensable for any evolution and for survival, most human activities are energy intensive in one way or another, directly or indirectly (Thomas Homer Dixon, The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization, Random House Canada, 2006).
- “Towards a model allowing us to understand what makes technologies key” in Helene Lavoix, “The key technologies of the future (1)”, RTAS, 7 June 2021, and
- “The Key Technologies of the Future (2) – Evolution“, RTAS, 14 June 2021
Thus, the new energy insecurity impacts and will impact everyone, individuals and companies, large and small.
Indeed, after the first generic warnings produced first before the start of the war in Ukraine and then during the early spring 2022, industrial bodies rang the alarm bell (which is different from sending a warning). For example in France, they stressed that “150,000 businesses are in mortal danger”, they called to “save the French Industry”, and, at European level, they highlighted a risk of deindustrialisation in Europe to the profit of the U.S. (Franceinfo, “Prix de l’énergie : “150 000 entreprises sont en danger de mort”, alerte la Confédération des petites et moyennes entreprises“, 15 October 2022; Barthélémy Philippe, “Prix de l’énergie : l’appel de huit associations pour sauver l’industrie française“, Europe 1, 14 décembre 2022; Paul Marion, “Risque de désindustrialisation en Europe : une « urgence absolue », alertent le Medef et les industriels“, La Tribune, 6 December 2022).
Our two cases will first show that a catastrophic situation and possibly ending is not a fatality. Meanwhile by contrasting two ways to face the new energy insecurity, they will help us finding out what must be done in terms of response and thus actionable early warning.
The Broken Bakers
Over the Summer 22, across Europe, multiple cases of bakers going bankrupt because of their soaring energy bills emerged.
In July 22, for example in the UK, energy efficiency was highlighted as a way to fight rising energy costs (e.g. Jerome Smail, “Burning up: how oven efficiency can help bakers beat soaring energy costs“, British Baker, 4 July 2022).
In August, the whole bakery industry in Scotland was seen as threatened because of multiple soaring costs, not only for gas and electricity but also flour and other ingredients, beside insurance.
In September, the plight of bakers had spread in Europe and would last. Each country documented bakeries going bankrupt, very small enterprises but also larger companies, old companies and new ones: for example in the Netherlands (Charlotte van Campenhout, “Dutch bakeries face threat of closure as energy costs surge, industry bodies say“, 6 September 2022 and “Bread sales can’t cover energy bill at family-run Dutch bakery“, 22 September, Reuters), in Germany (The North German Innungsbäcker turn off the light!: “On September 8th, bakeries in Northern Germany start the campaign “We’re going out of light – today the light and tomorrow the oven?””, Nuran Gunduz, “‘Closed’: German bakeries go bust due to climbing costs amid Ukraine war“, TRTWorld, 5 December 2022), in Belgium (“Bakery forced to close after 500% increase in energy bills“, The Brussels Times, 28 September 2022), in Greece (Apostolos Staikos, Mario Bowden, “Greek bakers struggle with soaring energy bills with many bakeries facing closures“, Euronews, 8/11/22), in Italy, in Romania (Hans von der Brelie, “Rising production costs puts the squeeze on Europe’s bakers“, Euronews, 18/11/2022), in France (e.g. Thibaut Gagnepain, “Crise énergétique : « J’ai eu droit à zéro aide »… Ce boulanger a fermé boutique assommé par ses factures d’électricité“, 20 Minutes, 4 January 2023), etc.
Each time the story is the same. Bakeries have a very high energy consumption for cooking and refrigeration. In 2022, they saw energy bills skyrocket, being multiplied up to 10 or 12 times compared with 2021.
In the example given below of a French baker, assuming the electricity consumption remained the same for October 22 and December 22, the price of electricity, excl. taxes, rose from 0,112€ per kWh (837,35/ 7456) on 24 October to 1,372 € per kWh (10735,48/ 7456) on 24 December 2022 (CNews, 2 January 2023).
Meanwhile, bakers must also face the rising cost of the ingredients they use.
Meanwhile, they cannot increase the prices of bread proportionally. Indeed individuals and families purchasing bread and related products also have to face inflation and increase in energy prices. Thus, they would not buy bread at a high price, for example 3 euros a baguette in France (video below, InfoFrance2, “Un boulanger de l’Oise ne peut plus payer ses factures”, 3 January 23) or 5 euros for a normal loaf of bread in The Netherlands (Reuters, “Bread sales can’t cover energy bill at family-run Dutch bakery”, ibid). Bread would become a luxury product and the lowering of the quantity sold would offset the rise in price.
As a result, bakers tried various strategies to mitigate the rise of energy prices, from renegotiating individually their contracts with energy providers to protests and actions through media interviews to obtain help from governments.
For example in France, bakers and very small companies ended up obtaining an average ceiling price for electricity on 2023 limited to 280 € per MWh, i.e. 0,28 € per kWh (e.g. Reuters, “Les TPE obtiennent un tarif garanti de l’électricité à €280/MWh en 2023“, 6 January 2023; French government, “Électricité : plafond garanti à 280 euros/Mwh en 2023 pour les TPE“, 9 January 2023). Compared with the prices in October 2022, this still corresponds to a 2.5 increase. Our baker may expect a bill excluding taxes that will be around 2085 €.
How each industry and each company will be able to handle this substantial rise will depend on their energy mix, the share of energy in their production cost, their size, their treasury, other mitigating governmental measures, etc.
Furthermore, this string of events takes place within the framework of the ideology of infinite growth – initially a financial and speculative approach, pervasive within a large part of the Western world. According to this ideology, one must not only make a profit sufficient to see the owner of a company live comfortably of its craft and work, and thus have a sustainable activity, but one must also increase these profits permanently and then make sure there is a lasting growth of the growth of profits. Hence, ideologically, companies such as small bakers who would need to adapt to “only” having a sustainable activity may balk and perceive themselves as being in worst conditions than they really are. They may also face problems with other actors as their activity does not follow the normative ideology of infinite growth.
As a result, domestically, companies are likely to try passing on the largest possible part of the energy and resources price rise on to the buyer, which, at the end, will be the final consumer, i.e. individuals. At country level, we thus find ourselves faced with the spiral of inflation added to an ever rising national debt – to pay for the price of the MWh offered by governments.
Internationally, those small companies that export will also attempt to pass their costs onto their buyers, but there, they will most probably lose markets, as other countries, notably in Asia, but also the U.S., did not have to face the same costs. And if they do not pass on the costs, then they will have less means to invest and thus become also less competitive (if no other measures are taken). Hence at country level, exports will diminish. Thus, the trade balance will also diminish. All together will lead to shrinking current accounts, thus, ultimately to a dwindling income for each country and possibly to involution.
Find out more on consequences at national level in our strategic foresight experiment about the future of the modern state: The Chronicles of Everstate.
The thriving textile manufacturer
By contrast a company manufacturing wool jumpers, socks and other similar items of clothing in the French South West – L’Atelier Missègle – appears to meet a very different fate (BFM TV special crise énergétique, 7 Décembre 2022).(2) With 42 employees in 2021, against 10 in 2007, and a turnover of 8 million €, this company does not qualify as a very small company, but it is still a small enterprise “Missègle Hitoire; La Dépèche, “Castres. Missègle double sa surface avec un bâtiment conçu comme “un lieu de vie“, 21/09/2021).
The fear of electricity shortage in France in 2022-2023, added to winter times, first boosted the company’s sales and thus its production, by 30% to 40% (BFM TV special crise énergétique, Ibid.). This led the enterprise to hire a further 30 employees, i.e. seasonally a 66% increase of its workforce (Ibid.).
In times of energy insecurity, such an evolution could have had a catastrophic impact on the treasury and finance of the company.
However, the founder of the company truly believes in sustainable economy and has really put respect for the environment at the heart of the enterprise’s philosophy since the creation of the business in 1983 (Missègle, engagements). Hence, since 2007, she has invested in solar energy aiming at environmental friendly energetic independence (Ibid.).
In 2021, the company deployed its new 100kWp rooftop solar power plant deployed with a further 53kWc extension planned (Sirea Group press release, 5 October 2021). Hence with its 1000 square meters photovoltaic panel park, the company aims to reach 70% auto-sufficiency for its production and to sell electricity to the national grid during the week-ends (La Dépèche, “Castres. Missègle…) . Meanwhile, its buildings are not only environmental friendly but also designed to allow for a truly convivial space to live and work (Ibid.).
We are far from the green-washing so cynically spreading in the business world.
Hence, the new energy insecurity is very likely not to hit Missègle negatively (as long as its solar power plant resists extreme weather events for example). The increase in turnover will most probably not only offset any rise in the cost of electricity – for the part it does not produce – but also allow it to further develop and thrive.
The way various companies and notably agricultural ones manage to successfully and without unintended consequences include the production of biogas in their traditional activities, while reducing as much as possible carbone footprint, could also be looked at as an innovative and interesting way to overcome energy insecurity and turn it into an opportunity (e.g. GRDF, “Les retours d’expérience de producteurs de biométhane“, 2020; Daria Sito-sucic, “Bosnian dairy farm makes electricity from organic waste“, Reuters, 21 Janvier 2023, Pauline Verge, “Energie : 5 questions sur la méthanisation, le traitement des déchets qui fait polémique“, Les Echos, 9 November 2021). Here again, the social fabric of the region where the biogas is produced is positively impacted.
Meanwhile, for the country, companies such as Missègle do not weight on the real national wealth – which includes the nation’s natural endowment. Furthermore, through taxes, employment, electricity production and constructive involvement in the local social fabric, such businesses contribute to increase national wealth.
Lessons from the two cases
Which lessons can we learn from our two cases?
On the one hand we have companies that did not use foresight. They obviously did not either use any actionable early warning. Early warning should have, at worst, been received and considered by these companies’s decision-makers in March 2022, or, better, in November/December 2021.
Instead those business leaders waited for the crisis to hit and then started acting rather classically, struggling to force their political authorities to help them in facing the consequences of governance decisions. This is indeed, as we saw, a proper reaction in an ideal polity. Yet, the very decisions the multiple European political authorities took regarding notably the war in Ukraine, obviously without planning ahead for the multiple consequences their own citizens would have to suffer, highlights the fact that we are not in an ideal polity. Hence, businesses and individuals must take this fact into account if they want to minimise the negative impact of governance decisions on their lives and survival.
These business leaders were not empowered, and, as a result, could only consider classical means of actions of the type adequate for an ideal polity.
If a majority of individuals and businesses behave as in our first case, the collective results at country level may be dire, leading straight, as warned by the Medef, to European deindustrialization and, as seen, to involution. Note that in terms of world order, the U.S. might thus find itself with greatly weakened allies, which may have as consequence to favour the strengthening of the very order America wants to subjugate (see Helene Lavoix, “The American National Interest“, The Red Team Analysis Society, 22 June 2022).
In turn, the prospects for bakers, small and large companies, and individuals located in those countries hit by energy insecurity, such as European ones, become more somber with time. Indeed, our fate also depends upon the relative power of our country in the international order. A vicious cycle could becoming entrenched.
On the other hand, we have a company that paid heed to global conditions and to the long emergency that is and will be climate change and the overstepping of the planet boundaries (see James Howard Kunstler, The Long emergency, 2005; Jean Michel Valantin, “The Anthropocene Era and Economic (in)Security – (1)“, The Red Team Analysis Society, 2016; Helene Lavoix, “Climate Change, Planetary Boundaries and Geopolitical Stakes“, The Red Team Analysis Society, 2022).
It thus fully included strategic foresight – consciously or not, formally or not – on a major issue in its management. Through its strategy to reach energetic independence, it showed an awareness that we do not live in an ideal-type world. It courageously took responsibility for its destiny, increasing its self-reliance regarding worldwide political authorities that are obviously unable to handle efficiently the climate and environmental crisis (Ibid.). It felt sufficiently empowered to act. Furthermore, it did so in a constructive and positive way, embedding itself within the fabric of society at local and national (through the electricity grid as well as through taxes) level.
Once the energy and electricity prices’ crisis hit, this company – and others similar – can take advantage of the new conditions, using – even unknowingly – actionable early warning to adapt, so as to produce and sell more. Meanwhile, it also have the means to further adapt its energy mix to offset adverse impacts of the energy crisis and, on the contrary, to transform them in opportunities.
From outside, in the second case, we do not know how formal, conscious or unconscious was the use of actionable strategic foresight and early warning. Methodology of strategic foresight and warning may very well never have been implemented, and intuition and conviction may have presided to successful management. And this is where one of the strengths of actionable strategic foresight and early warning lies: it gives us the possibility to systematically benefit from what, without actionable early warning, can only haphazardly be achieved through intuition. It helps us supplementing, checking and enhancing natural intuition and acumen.
In the first case, most companies and individuals have very few means of action, and thus little power. Furthermore they limit their power by not using tools such as actionable foresight and early warning and through the use of an inadequate frame of reference (thinking they are in an ideal polity).
In the second case, actionable foresight and then early warning are made possible because means of action are available. Those were created well before the crisis by a proper anticipation, daring to look at reality and not marred in utopian rosy wishful thinking. The whole endeavour was also grounded in strong beliefs, coherent with the company’s foresight, and related commitment. We thus see a virtuous cycle being set up between anticipation and action, a model upon which we can construct a similar virtuous cycle with organised actionable strategic foresight and early warning and actions.
The power available to companies and individuals that would belong to the second type of actors is far greater than what is available to the first type of actors. And this power will grow both in absolute and relative terms, as successfully anticipating actors can better withstand threats and disasters and sometimes turn them into opportunities.
Road map for a realistic use of actionable early warning for individuals and small companies
As seen above, actionable early warning for individuals and small companies will critically need to look both outwards to the real world, for issues related to security, including geopolitics, and inwards to the response capabilities of each.
The warnings delivered will absolutely need to consider the answers available to be truly actionable.
Empowerment will also need to be a key aspect of the early warning process. It can be achieved through, for example, the identification of new possibilities of responses, as well as through re-embedding people within their community, which in turn strengthens the social fabric.
Obviously, in many if not most cases, individuals and small businesses may not be able to afford the cost of an expert in strategic warning specialised in conventional and unconventional security (as average around 1500 € to 2000 € a day excl. taxes and travel expenses, varying widely according to length of mission, to experts and their experience and education level, to the companies providing the consulting… and to available budgets).
However, mutualised solutions at local level of governance and through chambers of commerce and industries and networks of peers can be designed that could allow all to benefit from actionable strategic foresight and early warning. Furthermore, empowerment should also result from collective thinking and then, possibly, action. Embedding the actionable strategic foresight and early warning process at the local level, involving local actors from inhabitants and businesses to those responsible for local governance should also, in itself be beneficial as it will strengthen the social fabric and thus make communities stronger and more resilient.
It will be useful and practical to start first with a specific issue of concern that matters to stakeholders. Then, once first concrete results start being achieved, the process can be broaden to other issues relevant to the community of interest.
The foresight and early warning process will need to start as early as possible, to make sure to avoid surprises. Even if crisis has already struck, it is still beneficial, and even necessary, to carry out early warning. Indeed, this is the only way to make sure current decisions are correct and that further unpleasant surprises will be avoided. In general, the sooner the early warning process starts, the better: the more actions are available, and finally the less power must be spent. Nonetheless, can it be too late sometimes for actionable early warning? Yes, and this is one more reason to start as soon as possible.
Through the use of actionable foresight and early warning adapted to the reality of actors, then a virtuous cycle can be triggered. That cycle will not only be protective but also strengthening, while ripple effects will also benefit the whole polity.
(1) For this last point: “The third obligation of the ruler is to behave in such a way as to contribute to the material security… of the subjects. … security against supernatural, natural and human threats to the food supply and other material supports of customary daily life.” Barrington Moore, Injustice: Social bases of Obedience and Revolt, (London: Macmillan, 1978: 21-22); for more on the theme of the ruler, its obligations, the social contract etc. see also and notably, Max Weber, Le savant et le politique, (Paris : 10/18, 1963) originally «Wissenschaft als Beruf » & « Politik als Beruf » 1919; John S. Migdal, Strong societies and weak states : state-society relations and state capabilities in the Third World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988); John Nettl, “The state as a conceptual variable,” World Politics, vol. XX, N° 4, July 1968, pp. 559-592; Thomas Ertman, Birth of the Leviathan: Building States and Regimes in Medieval and Early Modern Europe. Cambridge, UK ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997; Helene Lavoix,“Identifier L’État Fragile Avant L’Heure: Le Rôle Des Indicateurs De Prévision“, Edited volume, Etats et Sociétés fragiles (Agence Française de Développement and French Ministère des Affaires Etrangères) – January 2007.
(2)We have no affiliation nor link of any kind with any of the companies mentioned in this article. Businesses and companies are only referred to for the sake of examples.