News & Events


Events Details

​​Acute New Vulnerabilities for Business, Governments and  Systems in the New Public Information Space by Nanyang Visiting Professor Nik Gowing​​

Published on: 11-Aug-2016


​​Acute New Vulnerabilities for Business, Governments and  Systems in the New Public Information Space

The public information space has been turned on its head. But few at the highest levels of power are willing to realise that its new capacity to disrupt threatens their reputation or brand. There is a reluctance to learn from the destabilising experiences of others in multiple fields and locations. 

This presentation and discussion focus on the new executive fragilities and policy implications for government ministers, civil servants, defence and security agencies plus corporate institutions and NGO's from the new matrix of real-time information flows and transparency created especially by the explosion of social media. The new digital connectivity and IT realities are disruptive game changers. They challenge mercilessly the inadequacy of the structures of power to respond both with effective impact and in a timely way. As vulnerabilities increase, mindsets and systemic behaviour at the highest levels of executive power lag behind these new realities. 

The sudden emergence of Islamic State and the mass e-connectivity of migrants entering Europe both confirm the new challenges to normative leadership assumptions of who controls the Public Information Space. The street deaths from police actions in the US – recorded on smart phones – mobilised significant national anger about police behaviour. After the China chemical storage catastrophe in Tianjin, the Nepal earthquake, BP's Gulf of Mexico tragedy, the Japan tsunami and nuclear disaster, terror attacks and natural incidents, plus Syria, upheaval in Ukraine, the downing of MH-17 and Russia's subversive actions, plus multiple concerns about the stability of other regimes, Nik Gowing, presents an overview and update on the implications for power of his peer-reviewed Skyful of Lies analysis. It confirms how in moments of major, unexpected crisis the institutions of power - whether political, governmental or corporate - face a new, acute vulnerability of both their influence and effectiveness, with their legitimacy and credibility challenged.

The professional price paid by senior corporate executives, government ministers and senior commanders over operational failings in a major crisis highlights the new professional vulnerability. In no more than a few hours brands and reputation can be damaged and executive careers threatened or destroyed. This has been reconfirmed by the dramatic impact of corporate disasters for TEPCO in Japan or BP after the Gulf of Mexico explosion, plus the ongoing public pro-reform pressures in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Iran, China and Myanmar along with protests exemplified by the anti-corruption street mobilisation by Anna Hazare in India, the internet campaign in the US that swiftly halted the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), or the G20 and Student Fees violence in London.

The question posed by this presentation is : how prepared are you? How well do you understand the relentless impact on your power of both social media and the new, fast changing public information space?

The professional implications of disruption by this new Public Information Space are vital leadership issues. Governments, public servants or security officials plus commanders and corporate executives must understand how to embrace effectively the new realities of today's media and public information space. They are far broader and more multi-dimensional, than the vast majority are prepared to realise, let alone concede. Yet it challenges all the conventional assumptions about the nature of power.

Date: 31 August 2016

Time: 12:30pm to 2:00pm

Venue: Lecture Theatre @ The ​Hive (LHS-01-04)

*There will be a lunch reception before the lecture*




Nik Gowing profile.jpg

Nik Gowing was a main news presenter for the BBC's international 24-hour news channel BBC World News 1996-2014. He presented The Hub with Nik GowingBBC World DebatesDateline London, plus location coverage of major global stories.

For 18 years he worked at ITN where he was bureau chief in Rome and Warsaw, and Diplomatic Editor for Channel Four News (1988-1996). He has been a member of the councils of Chatham House (1998–2004), the Royal United Services Institute (2005–present), and the Overseas Development Institute (2007-2014), the board of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy including vice chair (1996-2005), and the advisory council at Wilton Park (1998-2012). In 1994 he was a fellow at the Joan Shorenstein Barone Center in the J. F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.  He is a board member for the Hay Festival.

Nik has extensive reporting experience over three decades in diplomacy, defence and international security. He also has a much sought-after analytical expertise on the failures to manage information in the new transparent environments of conflicts, crises, emergencies and times of tension. His peer-reviewed study at Oxford University is "Skyful of Lies and Black Swans". It predicts and identifies the new vulnerability, fragility and brittleness of institutional power in the new all-pervasive public information space.  It can be downloaded free online after registration. The work follows an earlier study undertaken at the Kennedy School, Harvard.

In 2016 he co-authored interim findings of the "Thinking the Unthinkable" study. It is based on sixty top level confidential interviews of corporate and public service leaders, plus the new generation of millennials. The study is in partnership with CIMA. It reveals candidly the factors that explain why so many leaders face new difficulties identifying what looms in the disruptions of the "new normal" that have emerged since 2013. The findings are scary.

In 2014 Nik was appointed a Visiting Professor at Kings College, London in the School of Social Science and Public Policy. He is a member of the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on Geo-Economics.

He was awarded Honorary Doctorates by Exeter University in 2012 and Bristol University in 2015 for both his ongoing cutting edge analyses and distinguished career in international journalism.


Back to listing