What the Conference Board's C-Suite Challenge Means for Innovation Leaders

John Metselaar, Professor of Management Practice in "Leading Innovation" 29/03/2019 Innovation

This year’s C-Suite Challenge painted a clear picture of how corporations’ most senior executives see the future, and what priorities and interventions are required to succeed in it. We have been looking at the insights through an Innovation & Productivity lens to help Innovation leaders best influence the priorities and efforts ahead.  And there are plenty of opportunities for these leaders to take charge in today’s world – innovation clearly is center stage!

The criticality of living the future, today

CEOs, and the C-Suite more broadly, believe the key priority for their organization in the future will be to achieve balance between short-term performance pressure and long-term vision.  The many current, urgent challenges make it hard to keep the appropriate and sufficient emphasis on the future.

Ensuring attention to the future, and not getting bogged down into “too busy being busy” is paramount for long term survival, or, when done better than others, success.  The digital revolution is in full swing, and the future playing field is being determined by amazing new technology, evolving consumer and workplace preferences, demographic shifts, and policy responses. Business assumptions about products, pricing, and scalability no longer hold true.  The strategic focus for the C-Suite therefore needs to be on creating new business models leveraging new, disruptive technologies.

Being customer obsessed, with everything you do in service of it

To get this right requires redefinition of the archetype of a company toward one of a holistic view that puts the customer obsessively at the center and then totally reshapes the way it works to delight this customer through a superior experience.

Agile methodologies and design thinking along with new go-to-market strategies that emphasize customer experience over product are fundamental to delight the new customer, and hence deliver success.  Boundaries and hierarchies give way to flexible internal and external networks and fluid cross-functional teams. Decisions are made faster, more inclusively, and with insights from better data, often derived from artificial intelligence.

Reimagining the workforce toward an adaptive, agile one

This, in turn, requires an adaptive workforce that can understand the need for change, embrace the new path forward, and develop virtually everything they know and every skill they have mastered to succeed in the new model. The workforce must have faith that their leaders can steer them safely through the shoals to the distant shore.  The CEOs foresee agile, fluid project teams and the less formal and more flexible networks that support them as essential elements of work redefined.

Blurring corporations’ boundaries to live in new, open ecosystems

The new, emerging opportunities and risks force firms of all sizes to break through the boundaries that once delineated and sometimes protected a company from its external environment, restricting the flow of resources and information and limiting innovation and productivity. Going forward, the distinction between what’s internal or external to the organization will be of little consequence. Gaining future advantage requires a big-picture view that stretches across the value chain and extends outside the corporate walls.

All this demands that historical, basic assumptions are being questioned, and reinvented as appropriate: Who are our customers and our competitors? What are our organizational boundaries? Who are our partners? What skills do we need? How should we be structured?  CEOs and C-suite respondents recognize that the changes now underway accelerate the urgency of transformation.

In summary, leading and championing toward a new reality (just) around the corner

Net, the danger in a today’s (slowing) economy is succumbing to the temptation to skimp on both time and resource investment in the digital future to, myopically, boost short-term results, as such jeopardizing longer-term competitiveness. If an organization pulls back, it will be behind the curve when the downturn ends. Today’s reality is that innovation and digital transformation are happening at breakneck speed, overturning established beliefs, products, services, and business models.  CEOs and senior executives need to passionately believe this, lead and champion innovation efforts toward the new dawning new reality, and communicate effectively to rally internal and external stakeholders around investing into the selected strategies and priorities that will benefit the company in the long run.

For awareness, internalization, influence, and action for those of you who love, live, or lead Innovation!  We’d love to get your comments for us to learn together toward a better future….

source: www.conference-board.org

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