Navigating Polycrisis: Mastering the Art of Multi-Faceted Crisis Management

Navigating Polycrisis: Mastering the Art of Multi-Faceted Crisis Management

The term “polycrisis” refers to a situation where multiple crises or challenges co-occur, creating a complex and interconnected web of problems. The World Economic Forum (WEF) uses this term to describe a state where various global issues converge and interact, amplifying their impact and making them more challenging to address individually.

A polycrisis typically involves a combination of economic, social, political, environmental, and technological challenges. These crises may include economic recessions, political instability, social unrest, climate change, natural disasters, cybersecurity threats, and other systemic risks. The interplay between these crises can exacerbate their effects, leading to more profound and interconnected challenges for societies and economies worldwide.

The concept of a polycrisis highlights the need for a comprehensive and coordinated approach to address multiple crises simultaneously. It recognizes that individual crises cannot be isolated from one another, and their solutions must consider their interdependencies. The WEF often discusses the concept of a polycrisis to emphasize the complexity and urgency of the global challenges we face today and the need for collaborative and integrated strategies to address them.

Can systems thinking come to the rescue?

Systems thinking is a problem-solving approach that considers the interconnections and interdependencies among various complex system components. When applied to a polycrisis, systems thinking can provide a framework for understanding the underlying causes and dynamics of the crises and help identify holistic and interconnected solutions. Here are some ways systems thinking can address a polycrisis:

  1. Understanding feedback loops: Systems thinking allows for identifying feedback loops within the system. Feedback loops can be reinforcing, where the effects of one crisis exacerbate another, or balancing, where one crisis mitigates the impact of another. By mapping out these feedback loops, decision-makers can anticipate the consequences of interventions and design strategies that address multiple crises simultaneously.

  2. Identifying leverage points: Systems thinking helps identify key leverage points within the system. These are the places where small interventions can significantly impact the entire system. By focusing on these leverage points, decision-makers can address the root causes of multiple crises and trigger positive systemic change.

  3. Promoting collaboration and coordination: A polycrisis requires collaboration and coordination among diverse stakeholders, as the challenges cut across multiple sectors and domains. Systems thinking emphasizes the need for inclusive and participatory approaches, bringing together experts, policymakers, communities, and organizations from different fields to develop solutions that collectively address the complexity of the crises.

  4. Considering unintended consequences: Systems thinking emphasizes the importance of considering the consequences of actions. Interventions to solve one crisis may inadvertently create new problems or exacerbate other crises. By adopting a systems perspective, decision-makers can anticipate and mitigate potential unintended consequences, making more informed and holistic decisions.

  5. Developing resilience: Systems thinking encourages the development of resilient systems that can adapt and respond to changing circumstances. Addressing a polycrisis requires building resilience across multiple dimensions, including economic, social, environmental, and technological systems. This involves identifying and strengthening the system’s connections, redundancies, and capacities to absorb shocks and recover quickly.

  6. Long-term thinking and anticipation: Systems thinking encourages long-term thinking and anticipatory approaches. Instead of focusing solely on short-term fixes, decision-makers can consider the long-term implications of their actions and policies. By anticipating future trends and challenges, they can develop strategies that address the underlying systemic causes of the crises and build a more sustainable and resilient future.

Overall, systems thinking provides a comprehensive and integrated approach to addressing a polycrisis by considering the interconnections and interdependencies among various crises and stakeholders. It enables decision-makers to develop more effective and holistic strategies that simultaneously tackle multiple challenges and lead to long-term systemic change.

Whole System Thinking

In the intricate tapestry of modern business, RoundMap® champions a holistic vantage point reminiscent of the systems thinking and design approach. We view business operations as synergistic amalgamations of intertwined elements working harmoniously towards a unified objective. 

Our Whole System Thinking approach is central to this perspective, emphasizing the importance of human systems and customer dynamics. All other systems, methods, procedures, practices, and so on, in essence, stem from these primary elements.

Navigating the tumultuous waters of a polycrisis demands preliminary healing of our human systems. By fortifying our human foundation, we unlock the vast expanse of our collective creativity and resilience, pivotal for weathering adversities. And while culture, forged by the human system, shapes our adaptability to challenges, our ultimate compass should always point towards the well-being and satisfaction of our customers. 

Thus, to surmount a polycrisis, we must rejuvenate our human systems and then harness the power of systems thinking, directing our collective efforts towards collaborative solutions that steer us away from impending threats.


  • Edwin Korver

    Edwin Korver is a polymath celebrated for his mastery of systems thinking and integral philosophy, particularly in intricate business transformations. His company, CROSS-SILO, embodies his unwavering belief in the interdependence of stakeholders and the pivotal role of value creation in fostering growth, complemented by the power of storytelling to convey that value. Edwin pioneered the RoundMap®, an all-encompassing business framework. He envisions a future where business harmonizes profit with compassion, common sense, and EQuitability, a vision he explores further in his forthcoming book, "Leading from the Whole."

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