How should brands and businesses respond to The Paralysis Paradox?

category - strategy
type - features
sector - travel & hospitality
sector - luxury
More than 30 years have passed since the UN recognised climate change as a serious issue. It’s now predicted that we have just 3–4 years to reverse its impact. Joanna Lowry, strategic futures director at The Future Laboratory, unpacks the key strategic take-outs from our macrotrend, The Paralysis Paradox

The Paralysis Paradox proposes a total rejection of business as usual, instead positioning businesses as stewards of the future, urgently re-orientating to navigate the pressing global issues we all face. Shared solutions and radically disruptive innovation will emerge from organisations that are willing to challenge and transform.

The extreme push-and-pull polarisation felt by all will require decisiveness, humility and direct action to break through the ongoing paralysis. Business complexity can make it difficult to align on outcomes. How can businesses unite as forces of revolution and change?

First, businesses must adapt to a broader context of success. With 77% of global consumers believing that improving society is a business concern, a relentless drive for profit will cease to be viable or desirable (source: Edelman). CEOs and C-suite members will need to develop civic business initiatives to deliver stakeholder value, stepping in where governments are failing socially, politically and economically.

Promoting shared values to bridge the gap between organisations and individuals will be key, by:

: Humanising business with EQ, growth mindsets and mental flexibility 
: Recognising that context-rich data will drive future creative disruption
: Taking a citizen-first rather than a consumer-led approach to innovation and solutions

Beyond this, businesses must draw on their expertise, assets and reach to equip, collaborate and horizon-map together across the three pillars of resolution:

1. Change Leadership and Liability

Rigid, centralised business structures and hierarchies restrict innovation, so reconfiguring these systems around fluidity, intuition and collectivist consensus will lay the groundwork to activate new positive future possibilities. Increasingly, leadership will be synonymous with collaboration rather than control. 

Leaders should embrace the soft metrics of empathy, flexibility and clarity, while opening up to thinking from the global south, combining intuitive expertise from Indigenous groups with data to unlock sustainable solutions and environmental guardianship. In addition, leaders should look to DAO (decentralised autonomous organisation) models to decentralise decision-making and empower joint accountability and responsibility for the future trajectory of their businesses.

Published by:

12 October 2022

Author: Joanna Lowry

Image: Zünc Studio for The Future Laboratory


Zünc Studio for The Future Laboratory

2.    Champion Legitimacy 

In a world where uncertainty is the only certainty, a decision made today may no longer be the right one in two months, so having the confidence and humility to rapidly adapt to unfolding situations and monitor change will be vital for this new era. 

Rejecting absolute thinking will also be key, and brands should invest in tools like AI to synthesise, analyse and visualise data to bring multi-dimensional context to today’s decision-making. Marketing should be repositioned as a creative mechanism for people to unite around critical issues, instead of a way to push endless consumption. To be future-focused, brands should be youth-focused, exploring ways to connect with youth culture and the zeitgeist in real time, and creating youth councils and panels to consult on decision-making.

3. Create a Legacy 

There are a huge number of positive long-term opportunities that re-orientated, next-generation businesses can create. To be part of the resolution, legacy requires an organisation to take ownership of the long-term impact it will have and embrace uncertainty to truly progress.

Embracing future scenario-planning is a critical first step, coordinating and motivating key stakeholders to buy into a shared vision of the future. Brands should also consider employing a Chief Vision Officer whose job it is to dare to dream. Exploring Deep Tech collaboration is another key opportunity to cross-pollinate emerging, existing and hitherto unimagined tech for cross-sector opportunities and product hybrids. Finally, brands should avoid putting sustainability in a CSR box, while ensuring that innovation is not a siloed department but embedded across the entire business. 


For many businesses, the urgency and scale of the climate crisis, and the significant systemic risks it poses to both people and the planet, are only starting to be grasped. These are the foundations for new strategies that businesses can use to respond to pressing global issues, becoming a force for positive change. 

Our team of strategists have developed a wide-ranging set of strategic decision-making tools to help provide future-first solutions for our clients. If you would like to discuss how our Redemptive Diets macrotrend could support future planning for your brand, or if you have any questions about embedding our macrotrends into your business, send us a message at We look forward to accelerating into the future with you.

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