2014: Top 10 World Events & Associated Business Lessons

James Lindsay prepared an interesting list of 2014 world events that have shaped the world in a significant way this year. I want to share part of his list, with my thoughts on business lessons we can learn from each event.

10 Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 Disappears. And then Malaysia Airlines Flight 8501 Is Lost. The loss of the first flight highlighted an industry-wide lack of safety and recovery equipment. The second loss pointed out specific problems in the lack of regulation in the Asian flight industry and Malaysia airlines’ business model specifically.

Business Lesson: If you fail too disastrously, you’re bound to bring regulation from governments to your industry—so keep things safe and clean.

9 Scotland Votes to Remain Part of the United Kingdom. The independence referendum failed to pass, 55 to 45 percent voting against it, but the vote still had its impact. Westminster promised Scotland substantial new powers if its people voted “no.” This move has ignited an interesting wave in neighboring union countries, Ireland, England, and Wales, to seek the same new powers.

Business Lesson: This event could be used as a case study for dealing with customers or disgruntled employees. In either case, if you’re preparing to give concessions to boost morale or loyalty, do so privately.

8 European Economies Falter—Again. With Europe facing its third recession in five years and rising unemployment rates, expect to see political power continue to shift.

Business Lesson: I don’t want to get into the politics of the European Union, but if something’s broken, fix it. The European Union has been a failure thus far economically, so continuing the same program isn’t likely to fix things. The only way to incite positive change in your organization is by changing something. Start with yourself, and you’re likely to see positive results.

7 Ferguson case exposes racial tension in U.S. After committing robbery at a convenience store, 18-year old black man, Michael Brown, was shot and killed by a white police offer. It was immediately confirmed that the teenager was unarmed, igniting protests that lasted weeks after the event. Later, a grand jury decided not to indict the officer, igniting additional protests around the country. The case has spurred questions about the U.S. legal system and progress in regards to racial discrimination in American society.

Business Lesson: This case and a number of police shootings have highlighted the need for police officers to wear body cameras a means of accountability as well as protection for the officer. In a similar manner, a proper accountability system put in place for employees and senior staff can generate better results and keep morale high as everyone feels that they’re contributing and safe.

6 US-Cuba Relations Begin to Turnaround. The attempt that’s begun this month to normalize relations between the two countries highlights the failure of the 53-year U.S. embargo and isolation policy against Cuba.

Business Lesson: A quality life lesson as well, sometimes it’s time to re-evaluate our business partnerships and relationships and bury the hatchet. This is especially true when it comes to old business partners where the business relationship may have not have turned out happily on both sides.

5 Oil Prices Crash. From July’s high of $100 a barrel to today’s low near $50 a barrel, oil prices have plummeted. Although low prices are great for consumers, the over-supply could have devastating effects on the economies and companies located in oil-dependent economies. State economies such as North Dakota, and Texas, and country economies such as Venezuela, Iran, and Nigeria will all be hit by the low prices for their primary commodity.

Business Lesson: Always have a rainy day fund in your business to wade through the tougher months or years.

4 Ebola Strikes West Africa. Outbreaks began to be reported as early as March, with Ebola striking fear all over the world by September. Isolated cases in Europe and the United States exposed the completely inadequate international response to the crisis. Many humanitarian organizations have spoken out against the slow and inadequate response of more developed countries.

Business Lesson: The world, and especially your supply and distribution channel, is an interconnected system. If one is sick and dies, the whole system will feel it. Sometimes a little help can go a long way to ensuring the survival of the whole system.

3 ISIS Declares an Islamic Caliphate. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, with roots from Al-Queda, began taking cities and territories and demonstrating brutal shows of force throughout 2014. The U.S. and a coalition of allies began airstrikes to try and push back their advance, with Iran eventually starting their own airstrikes against the terrorist group.

Business Lesson: Surprisingly, ISIS has been incredibly effective at recruiting jihadists via social media. Never underestimate what you or your competitor can accomplish with the aid of the populace via social media.

2 Pro-Democracy Protests Erupt in Hong Kong. China’s operating rule has been “one country two systems,” hardly a recipe for success in a state where it operated under democracy for so long. China’s recent “approval mandate,” to be able to dictate who could run in elections, was the last straw for many pro-democratic individuals. While the protesters have left the streets, the spirit of democracy is far from gone in Hong Kong.

Business Lesson: Don’t confuse employees or customers with two different approaches. Always have a clearly stated policy or decided to approach to deal with tough situations. Even if there are multiple decision makers in a company, don’t let two decision makers deal with situations differently as that creates uncertainty and hurts morale.

1 Russia Annexes Crimea and Threatens the Rest of Ukraine. Threats of a new cold war emerged in March when Russia annexed Crimea from the rest of Ukraine. Sanctions were the delayed but eventual response by the rest of the world. With increasing tensions throughout most of 2014, the move is bound to leave the Western world pitted against Russia for a number of years to come.

Business Lesson: When you’re a power player in your industry or locale, play nice. If you bother too many of the wrong groups, the whole world could turn against you. I’ve seen local restaurants be boycotted because of their not playing nice with other local shops.

This is our list of impactful events this year and some lessons that can be learned! Happy New Year!