Erik Peterson

Partner and Managing Director of A.T. Kearney’s Global Business Policy Council & Senior Advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
Erik Peterson
  • Advises the world’s top CEOs and business-minded thought leaders on strategic issues shaping the global business outlook
  • Uses extensive experience in global foresight to discuss the intersection of global business, economics, geopolitical changes, technology shifts, and other social trends
  • Generates insight on key global business trends, including surveys on foreign direct investment and attitudes of corporate leaders worldwide

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Erik R. Peterson has devoted more than three decades to assessing long-range global trends and determining what they mean to leaders in government, business, and civil society. He has provided riveting presentations in more than 45 countries about the current and future implications of sweeping change for organizations across the board.  In the past 10 years, in his capacity of leader of A.T. Kearney’s global ranked think tank, he has engaged business leaders the world over on the profound shifts underway in the operating environment.

Peterson’s differentiation is that he stands at the intersection of policy and business—and has the capacity to identify macro trends and then explore specific implications for companies with global operations.  His perch as leader of A.T. Kearney’s think tank, the Global Business Policy Council, gives him constant access to the thinking of leaders worldwide. 

A Unique Perspective. Peterson’s current point of departure is that we have reached a seminal point in history at which developments in geopolitics, economics, technology, population, resource management and the environment, and society have all reached major and interrelated inflection points.  Changes in any one of the areas would be important, but he maintains that we are likely to see profound and disruptive transformations that come when several of them occur simultaneously.  The result is a highly complex mix of opportunities and risks that will serve to magnify greatly the challenges—and the rewards—to leaders. For audiences across diverse sectors and cultures, Peterson untangles these complex trends and examines the real-world implications—present and future—of accelerating change and abbreviated time frames for decision-making.

Ubiquitous Challenge. In his presentations, Peterson challenges audiences to take a “commanding heights” view of the macro drivers of global change and then explore how they translate into immediate opportunities and risks.  “The opportunity for leaders,” he says, “is to inform strategy and tactics with a sharp understanding of the broader strategic context.”  His comments go well beyond boiling the ocean.  They include practical approaches on how countries, economies, sectors and companies need to adjust to maximize their prospects.

Anticipating and Preparing for Growing Disruption. As the director of A.T. Kearney’s Global Business Policy Council, Peterson advises the world’s top CEOs and business-minded thought leaders. His work focuses on approaches and solutions to some of the world’s most pressing issues. Prior to joining A.T. Kearney, he served as senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and as director of research at Kissinger Associates.

Looking at the Future Today. The author of numerous publications, Peterson is now completing a book on global strategic trends and their impact on global business-from the changing nature of production in the Fourth Industrial Revolution to new forces shaping supply chain management to emerging challenges to labor to policy and regulatory variables. His recent writings have focused on foreign investment trends, the attitudes of business leaders around the world, how cities are rising to the challenge of changing circumstances, the impact of Brexit, shifts in global supply chain management, the global economic outlook, and global trends.  Peterson was a part of A.T. Kearney’s recent work with the World Economic Forum on the Future of Production, which assessed the impact of take-off technologies including artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, advanced robotics, 3D printing, and augmented reality.

Extensive Bona Fides. Peterson currently serves on the Board of A.T. Kearney’s recently established Energy Transition Institute, a non-profit group with the mandate of providing decision-makers with strategic recommendations based on objective research combining deep technology expertise with business acumen and foresight.  He has also served on several advisory boards and judging panels, including the Center for Global Business Studies at Pennsylvania State University, the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, and the Gerald R. Ford Foundation prize in national security reporting. In past years, Peterson was a fellow of the World Economic Forum and a member of the Forum’s Global Risk Network.  Peterson received his MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, his MA from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), and his BA from Colby College. He holds the Certificate of Eastern European Studies from the University of Fribourg (Switzerland) and the Certificate in International Legal Studies from The Hague Academy of International Law (The Netherlands). Most recently, he received a certificate in scenario-based planning from the Said School at Oxford University.

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Erik Peterson: The Success of Leaders and Organizations

Erik Peterson on Escaping Velocity

Key Inflection Points for Business in the Modern World. Recently, we’ve witnessed staggering second-order consequences like stressed public health systems, dramatically curtailed economic activity, oil production wars, and plummeting financial markets are just a few of the staggering second-order consequences. Governments worldwide are moving into a new phase in which they are engaging in a range of economic policies designed to breathe life back into their economies. How well they will be able to jumpstart economic activity remains to be seen, and the various projections of recession are looming large.  What is clear is that fiscal and monetary policies are significantly more limited in their effect than in earlier times of sharp economic downturns.

For the past 10 years, from his perch as director of one of the world’s foremost for-profit think tanks working closely with CEOs worldwide, Erik Peterson has been an eyewitness to successive waves of tumultuous change affecting the private sector. From currency instabilities to trade wars, he’s had a bird’s eye view of why—and how—many leaders have mitigated risk and exploited opportunities. In this talk, he shares how, once the dust finally clears, the fundamental nature of business will change irrevocably. Business leaders will think in far different ways about production. Their strategies on sourcing and supply chain management will be transformed. Their assumptions regarding the role of technology—and the breathtaking effect of fourth-industrial-revolution technologies—will be revisited altogether.  Their attitudes of workforce development and retention will be extraordinarily different.  Their ideas on the role of government policies, capacities and regulations will have changed.  And their expectations regarding the trajectory of globalization will be modified. It will be a “same planet, different world” when it comes to business in the new, complex landscape. And the leaders endowed with a strategic mindset, and the wherewithal to bring their vision to fruition, will have a remarkable competitive advantage when the current crisis is finally behind us.

Anticipating the Coming Transformation in Production. Here’s the bottom line: Five key exponential technologies underpinning production (AI, IoT, robotics, 3D printing and augmented reality) and two closely-related tech takeoff areas (nano and bio) are changing the very nature of production.  Together, they are revolutionizing the fundamental nature of business in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.  Erik Peterson takes expert audiences through the specifics of how tech is transforming every stage of the global value chain—and what strategies industries and companies must do—and are doing—to pre-position themselves for the sweeping changes ahead.  He weaves together insight from his extensive experience with business leaders worldwide, as well as his work with the World Economic Forum on the future of production, to offer practical and timely recommendations.

Competing in an Age of Digital Disruption: The point of departure for this presentation is that the new “great game” has begun.  We are all now moving into a new digital order affecting all dimensions of politics and the economy that is at once critically important and profoundly uncertain.  In no uncertain terms, Erik Peterson lays out how massive the stakes are for all concerned.  The capacity of societies to adapt to this sweeping change in digitalization has monumental implications for geopolitics, social stability and economic growth the world over.  How, then, should companies react?  According to Erik, who has extensive experience with leading business figures, companies must engage in nothing less than end-to-end transformations in order to persevere and prosper.  Those are mere table stakes, however.  They must also do significantly more to shape the markets in which they operate by working with—or around—embattled and populist governments.

Entering the “Post-Global” Age. Have we reached a new phase in global business?  According to Erik Peterson, the answer is an emphatic “yes.”  Thirty years after the end of the Cold War and the onset of rapid globalization, there are new and fundamental questions on whether the global economy will “snap back” or whether we will see an intensification of protectionism and mercantilism.  Erik argues we are entering a wholesale new period.  What does it all mean for business?  Many of the world’s largest corporations are pursing localization strategies to address the uncertainties—starting with fragmentation of markets and shortening of supply chains—and Erik has been in the middle of the action.  What are the key signals that business leaders are anticipating?  How are they hedging their existing “global” value chains? 

Navigating Mounting Global Uncertainty.  The big-picture look at the forces driving global change—in demographics, resources and environment, economics, technology, geopolitics, and society—has been the centerpiece of Erik Peterson’s presentations before heads of state, CEOs and CXOs, chief strategy officers, and other senior leaders.  With state-of-the-art projections and forecasts, Erik explores the future outlines of the world and the mounting challenges that organizations will face.

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