What matters for CEOs ? Innovation, customer, collaboration and values

Summary : IBM recently published the new edition of its famous CEO Study, after having interviewed 1700 CEOs from all over the world and all industries on their stakes and concerns. If the results won’t surprise anyone, two things are worth being noticed. First is that some questions are now on the desk of the ultimate decision maker and not only a matter for those who report to him. Second is a roadmap seems to be emerging to, finally, switch from concerns to action.

So here comes the 2012 edition of the famous IBM CEO Study. It tells us, without any surprise, that, according to CEOs themselves, their main challenges are :

– collaboration : that’s the main skill they’re looking for to sustain and improve competitiveness in a context of talent scarcity in a fast-changing world where adaptability will be key.

– customers : better understanding of customers helps serving them better and, in fine, co-create value with them.

– Innovation : to be successful in such a context, innovation will be essential.

As for collaboration, we can see that the emphasis is not put on technology but on values, behaviors and the ability to deal with complexity. If it comes with a need for transparency, openness and less control, control is not meant to disappear but to change in nature. And, since numbers shows that the difference between 84% of overperformers and underperformers is the ability to turn insights into action, we can also imagine what it implies on the decision making side.

Ability to turn insights into actions…that’s another key point. Even if we’ve been discussing enterprise 2.0 or social business for a couple of years, I often think that the real challenge, which is nothing new at all, is to improve the way businesses turn knowledge into action in both the way they operate and the way they drive change. What makes me suggest you the reading of The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge into Action, by Bob Sutton, that even of dating from 1999 is still more than relevant and must be on the bookshelf of anyone interested in the matter.

That said, this idea of turning knowledge and insights into action, what is the key differentiator between knowledgeable, smart companies and efficient companies, leads to the customer. As a matter of fact, any business not getting customer’s concerns and needs has nothing to expect from the future. So it all starts with the information available on the market. This information is all the more abundant and qualified that its generated by customers everyday, even unconsciously. But accessing information is not useful if business are not able to make sense of it and find correlation and patterns among the mass of scattered unstructured data. Then these patterns should be used to identify trends, and in the end make information actionable to make the right decision. Listening to customers is not only a behavior. Or not only. It’s above all an ability to analyze to make decisions.

Then let’s end with innovation. The concept of partnership in innovation is key here. To the largest extent it means cooperation with other businesses as well as co-creation with individual. Moreover the study clearly shows that we’re not only talking about product innovation but also ability to move to other industries, what means new offers and models : in short it’s about service and business models innovation. What brings innovation to an higher level.

So nothing really new about the cornerstones but we’re so used to hearing “listen and engage into conversations” that coming back to decision making, execution and making data actionable shows that we’re not in window dressing concepts anymore and that we’re coming to core matters that can’t be dealt with with exhortation only.

Here’s for the global overview, you’ll learn much more by reading this exhaustive report that also proposes action plans and a couple of case studies. Now here are a couple of facts and numbers from the study I’d like to share with you and would like to hear from you on.

• Among the external factors that may impact their organizations in the 3-5 next years, CEOs rank technology first (71%), ahead from people and talents (69%). Socio-economic factors, environment, globalization lag behind.

• What will be the main levers for sustainable value creation ? Human capital, customer relationship, product and service innovation.

• To make the most out of employees, ethic and values are seen as the most important lever.

• The three main skills employees should have are about collaboration, communication and creativity. Technology savviness does not matter that much, disruptivity not at all.

• The most important investments on insights will be about customers (73%). Only 45% for human resources or market insights. That said, we can see the huge difference between understand the market and understanding people as individuals.

• The difference between overperformers and others is a little bout their ability to move to existing industries, a lot about their ability to build new markets and industries.

• What CEOs think being key to success in this era of permanent change ? Customer obsession and leadership.

Enjoy your reading !





Bertrand DUPERRINhttps://www.duperrin.com/english
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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