Proper understanding of human needs can lead us through big problems
Understanding what other people care about lies at the heart of human relations. Whether you call it empathy or understanding, it is our appreciation of people’s concerns that help us live together and prosper.
Companies must understand what their customers want to succeed in the commercial world. Marketing departments spend vast sums of money understanding who buys their products, and successful brands such as Samsung or Apple take pride in their insights into their consumers’ needs.
Understanding what makes people tick, their hopes, fears, dreams and aspirations is a skill and a science. I run the insights and research division at the Future Investment Initiative Institute, and we devote much energy to understanding people.
This is because we are in the business of tackling some of the world’s biggest and most intractable problems. The FII Institute was set up four years ago with a mandate to use our extraordinary convening power to bring together thinkers, leaders, innovators and public policymakers to look at issues such as the global economy, wealth distribution and prosperity, climate investment and technology.
This week in Hong Kong, we gathered 1,000 of the most influential investors and leaders from Asia and the world. We discussed issues such as investment in artificial intelligence to help feed the 10 percent of the globe who regularly go hungry.
We deliberated over how power dynamics are rapidly moving under our feet and how investments are flowing in wholly new directions. We also discussed the megatrends facing humanity, including the rise of Asia and the role of empathy and humanity in finance.
But we did not talk about these things in the abstract. We used data and evidence to guide our deliberations. Central to this is our “Priority Compass Report.” This research exercise involved polling a sample representative of 60 percent of the people on earth — that is 4.5 billion people.
With our knowledge partners, we feed in huge amounts of data and insights for our work, which comprises summits in cities around the world and investments into innovative companies that support our mission.
In last year’s study, we saw how people’s priorities in the Global South diverged from the rest of the world. This has profound implications if we are to come up with a global consensus on problems such as climate change.
This year, we have seen more findings that have made us sit up and think because of their profound public policy implications. There has been a sharp drop of about 20 percent in people’s overall satisfaction with their lives, reporting discontent across a range of issues, including cost of living, loneliness, technology, and climate concerns. Sixty-five percent people in countries polled are worried about day to day living costs.
The consequences of the Wall Street Crash of 1929 were division and polarization, which led to war a decade later. As Ray Dalio put it at FII7 in Riyadh in October, we are seeing levels of debt and disorder not seen since the 1930s.
Loneliness has leaped up the list of concerns, due to a more atomized society, because of new technologies and the pandemic. A stunning 41 percent of Asia’s population tell us they frequently experience feelings of loneliness. Fifty-five percent people worldwide are worried about access to affordable and accessible healthcare. And yes, of course, climate concerns continue to deepen with the Global South topping the list of people concerned about pollution (78 percet).
The 50,000 people we spoke to in 23 countries have given us unparalleled insight into what matters. It is now over to us to investigate everything that we are hearing. As our focus now shifts to our Priority Summit in Miami in February 2024, our data-driven agenda will help formulate initiatives and develop resolutions for action.
With many of the world’s most prominent investors and innovators involved, we can play our part in shaping the future we all want. If you have ideas, insights or data that can help our mission, please do join us on this crucial journey.
• Paloma Haschke-Joseph is head of THINK, the research and insights division of the FII Institute.