Reflections from Lausanne

Reflections from the Tällberg Workshop in Lausanne March 14-15 on the theme “The questions we aren’t asking” and “The risks we aren’t seeing”, an an open conversation between 40 participants stimulated by thoughtful inputs from the board of the IRCG, the Shell Scenario team and the Bertelsmann Foundation.

The Tällberg Foundation held a two day workshop in Lausanne, hosted by the International Risk Governance Council (IRCG), looking for the questions that are not being asked and the risks that are not being addressed. The format was an open conversation between 40 participants, stimulated by thoughtful inputs from the board of the IRCG, the Shell Scenario team and the Bertelsmann Foundation.

The Tällberg Foundation has over 30 years of experience that shows how this kind of open conversation generates new insights – different ones for every participant. It creates a mosaic of new knowledge, perspectives, opinions and intuitions that take time to digest and connect. It is difficult to report back results that in reality emerged for each participant, but some topics emerged as requiring more attention – possibly new perspectives on existing challenge. One of these topics was the difficulty for leaders to understand the processes of change, the new voices and new knowledge that are emerging at an increasing pace in our technologically dynamic, globalising society.

Both the scenarios described by Shell and the challenges to leadership presented by the Bertelsmann Foundation touched on understanding change in a world with many more voices, many more change agents and full of hard to see interactions, interconnections and new knowledge.

Change often emerges through small groups testing new ideas, experimenting with a new solution. It is difficult to sense the speed and size of change generated in this way. Today, some profound innovation is happening within large companies, but often activists, entrepreneurs and youth groups press are gathering support for ideas through new media and pressing for social tipping points to address known challenges like climate change. How can the significance of this movement be better understood, especially in relation to established powers that try to either protect interests by preserving the status quo or create change at a “damage-limitation pace”? Related to this question, changing attitudes to science and the growing conflicting messages and messengers lead to a perception of risk in terms of “who owns the truth”. How can science maintain its position as ultimate expert and should it? Do politicians listen? How can risks, such as the increasingly rapid spread of both dangerous technologies and alien species in a globalising world, compete with more easily communicated priorities? New questions and emerging risks are rarely welcome by governments that already spend more time fighting political fires than addressing fundamental long term challenges.

Warm thanks to our partners:


Logotyp_Bertelsmann Stiftung


Logotyp_International risk governance council