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 Gowing, BBC World Debates, Dateline 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.
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.
In 2016 Nik produced a new interim report for the Churchill 2015 21st Century Statesmanship Global Leaders Programme called “Thinking the Unthinkable”. A New Imperative for Leadership in the Digital Age, the report is a rolling, ongoing, dynamic investigation into why leaders have appeared more unable or unwilling than ever to anticipate the biggest issues of recent time.
Nik was appointed a Visiting Professor at Kings College, London in the School of Social Science and Public Policy in 2014. He is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Geo-Economics.
He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Exeter University in 2012 for both his ongoing cutting edge analysis and distinguished career in international journalism and in 2015 was awarded a Doctor of Laws honorary degree by Bristol University.
CONFERENCE CHAIR & MODERATOR
Having has been deeply involved with major world news events over the past three decades, Nik is a highly sought-after chair, moderator and keynote speaker at international conferences.
He has an international portfolio of commitments that draws on his extensive experience over almost three decades in diplomacy, defence and international security. He was head-hunted by the BBC from ITN, where he was award-winning Diplomatic Editor for Channel 4 News in London and for 18 years covered most of the world's major news events.
In his role as moderator, Nik plays an active role is helping to create a more dynamic and powerful event - working with the client to help advise and structure the event to get the maximum benefit to those attending.
Nik is also often asked to consult on the design and format of the events he is asked to moderate and has helped to introduce cutting-edge ideas to events including the use of Twitter, facebook and other social media streams during the event itself - creating greater accessibility from the floor and encouraging greater delegate contribution.
Using social media, Nik secures new levels of E-engagement between speakers, panellists and delegates. Ideas and thoughts from panellists during sessions are picked up swiftly and E-challenged by delegates.
THINKING THE UNTHINKABLE
Thinking The Unthinkable is a rolling, ongoing, dynamic investigation into why leaders have appeared more unable or unwilling than ever to anticipate the biggest issues of our time
Executive leadership at the highest levels of corporate, public service and political life faces new vulnerabilities that few in these positions are willing to share publicly. In 2016, they are greater than at any time in recent history, and the implications are deeply troubling. A proliferation of ‘unthinkable’ events over the previous two years has revealed a new fragility at the highest levels of corporate and public service leaderships. Their ability to spot, identify and handle unexpected, non-normative events is shown not just to be wanting but also perilously inadequate at critical moments. They threaten careers and reputations. They are potentially existential for both corporates and governments.
The examples of the ‘new normal’ keep stacking up. They include Brexit, the inadequate, belated handling of Europe’s migration crisis; the implications for many energy producing nations and energy corporates after the unexpected 60% fall in oil prices; and the new frailty of political stability as traditional parties are challenged by the new disruptive age of digital empowerment, big data, meta data and public disillusionment. And who a few weeks ago would have raised the prospect of US President Donald Trump? Like Brexit, his impact confirms the impact of the new normal of unthinkables.
These challenges pose big questions about the appropriateness and configuration of the executive human capacity of those at the highest levels to both cope with - and respond to -this new proliferation of ‘unthinkables’. New evidence confirms how pressures often overwhelm executive capacities at high speed, and in an ever more compressed time scale.
The core leadership challenge is how to lead a company and government departments through the speed and nature of fundamental change that threatens the very conformity which has allowed the current leadership cohort to qualify for the top.
FEEDBACK FROM CONFERENCE HOSTING
““Thanks for having done those two sessions which really worked well in our view. That format works and you are just too darn good at this!" A major global investment firm - March 2016
"I would like to thank you for doing such a superb job of moderating the EIF Phase Two Pledging Conference on 14 December in Nairobi....Your role and valuable contributions ensured that the event ran smoothly and resulted in a successful outcome." Ratnakar Adhikari, World Trade Organisation
“It was a very good session. As always thank you so much Nik for your professionalism. It is thanks to you that we could make it a success despite the difficult circumstances." World Economic Forum Strategy Day in Delhi - November 2015
“Thanks [again] for your superb monitoring of the panel and the discussion; everyone I spoke with afterwards appreciated your witty and fast-paced approach to handling the questions and responses. Your background on TV talk shows was obvious, and a nice change from the traditional panel moderator approach” NATO Defence College - October 2015
"Thank you for for facilitating the Australian Leadership Retreat on Hayman Island again this year. As always, the feedback has been superlative. The retreat was a great success. Your contribution is highly appreciated. There are few persons with your skills and professionalism in this area and no-one to my knowledge who approaches the task with such diligence and enthusiasm. If there was such a title as 'inspirational facilitator' you would wear it well! The relationship between you and the ADC Forum is highly valued by the Board, stakeholders, members and participants." Michael Roux, Founder, ADC Forum
'Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You saved the whole thing- raised the professionality of the execution, kept the schedule on time despite the things thrown at you including Presidents, kept your calm and created discipline.' 'Your contribution was outstanding and was a large part of what made it so successful. I cannot thank you enough for taking on the challenge and for turning it into such a success.' Business for Climate Summit in Paris, May 2015 attended by 1000+ CEO’s, corporate executives, political figures and climate change experts
PRAISE FOR THINKING THE UNTHINKABLE
“I very much recommend the ‘Thinking the Unthinkable’ report to you.”Lord George Robertson,NATO Secretary General,1999-2004
“Thanks for letting me preview the excellent work before it is published. I am sure it will gowell. Makes indeed for uncomfortable reading and hopefully stimulates some action or change in behaviour as it ultimately boils down to individual leadership grounded on a strong sense of purpose and morality. Not easy for anybody and something we all have to work on every day.” Paul Polman, Chief Executive of Unilever
“The ‘Thinking the Unthinkable’ report is particularly interesting. It talks about an ‘executive myopia’ at the top of organisations, both business and government and a failure not just to predict what are known as the black swan events, but also to understand ‘black elephants’ issues that are always there but are not confronted, so it’s not just thinking the ‘unthinkable’, the report concludes, but not thinking the ‘unpalatable’.” Rachel Sylvester
“Many of you in this room know Nik Gowing, the former BBC journalist. And he’s been doing some work on what he calls ‘Thinking the Unthinkable’, a report for the Churchill 15 Global Leaders Programme. He (and Chris Langdon) did interviews with 60 leaders, who all basically confirmed a sense that, whether you’re in public or corporate leadership today, a sense of being overwhelmed by multiple intense pressures, by institutional conformity, by kind of group think and risk aversion. The fear for many people of career-limiting moves if they are the whistle-blowers when a crisis happens.” Lord Mark Malloch Brown, Co-Chair, International Crisis Groups