Published: October 5, 2021 | Updated: October 6, 2021

Biz Gallery: “Acting early may give competitive advantage” Rear Admiral tells business leaders

Rear Admiral John Kingwell CBE (left) and Warren Munson, Founder, Evolve. Picture: Oliver Roberts/Evolve.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

A former top advisor to the Ministry of Defence has urged businesses to adopt a clear strategy for dealing with the challenges likely to occur in the workplace – and the world – over the next 25 years.

Rear Admiral John Kingwell CBE was speaking at the first Leaders Lunch to be organised by Evolve, the community for entrepreneurs and business leaders, since the start of the pandemic last year.

Highlighting long-term global trends, and how they could affect business, he reeled off a series of thought-provoking statistics gathered while he was Director of the Developments, Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC) for the MOD.

They include by 2045:

  • The global population will grow by around two billion to between 8.3bn and 10.4bn.
  • 74 per cent of the growth is expected to be in 24 of the world’s poorest countries.
  • The number of people aged over 60 is expected to double to around 2bn or one in five compared to one in nine today.
  • 70 per cent of the world’s population will live in urban areas compared to 50 per cent today.
  • Global fresh water demand is likely to increase by 55 per cent while electricity demand is expected to be 80 per cent higher than today by 2040.
  • Sea levels are projected to rise by between 32 and 38cms while flooding will increase with around 500m people at risk.
  • Currently 46bn devices are connected to the internet. This is expected to rise to 125bn by 2030 and, if it continues on that trend, to in excess of 7 trillion by 2045.
  • The processing power will increase from the levels of computation similar to a spider in 2000 to closer to a mouse today, by 2023 the processing power of a human brain and 100,000 more powerful by 2045.

Rear Admiral Kingwell, who retired from the Royal Navy in January this year and is now a strategic advisor and educator, said: “The drivers of change are very evident and will affect every aspect of our commercial lives.

“Doing nothing is always an option but it is simply not sustainable in the longer term.

“Acting early may give competitive advantage.”

Calling on businesses to have a strategy – defined as ‘a plan that identifies what actions we will take and what resources we will use to achieve our long term goal’ – the Rear Admiral said critical thinking should be at its heart.

His checklist for a good strategy is:

  • Timely
  • Long term
  • Designed to achieve a clearly stated, and understood and achievable, goal/vision
  • Clear ownership and subject to continuous constructive challenge during formulation and implementation
  • Easily communicated
  • Acknowledges uncertainty and expects unforeseen outcomes
  • Appropriately resourced
  • Based on reality and can adapt as circumstances change
  • Accounts for all stakeholders including competitors

Rear Admiral Kingwell, who was Commanding Officer of the UK Task Group off Libya in 2011 and was also Commandant of the Royal College of Defence Studies, added: “Business and society needs innovative leaders capable of strategizing – thinking and acting strategically – more than ever.

“This thinking can give a competitive advantage.”

The Leaders Lunch at the Marsham Court Hotel in Bournemouth, pictured right, was attended by more than 80 people and sold out six weeks in advance.

It was also sponsored by Inspire, the independent and award-winning business and tax advisory firm, while Dorset Biz News was media partner.

Warren Munson, Founder of Evolve, and Inspire, said: “It was great to get the business community together and host an event that provided the guests with connection and inspiration.

“John’s talk provided a great insight into the trends and challenges ahead but hearing these from a successful military leader meant that the business orientated audience was able to gain a different perspective on these critical subjects as well.

“If nothing else the reminder that we should take more time thinking was a valuable lesson for all.

“A very successful lunch and a fantastic platform to have launched our Leaders Community membership.”

  • For more details on Evolve, including the new Leaders Community, please visit


Biz Gallery – Pictures by Oliver Roberts/Evolve.