Inside the 2016 World Business Forum

World Business ForumLearning from the world’s best leaders.

Over the last 2 days, I was privileged to be able to attend the World Business Forum as a guest of the Chartered Accountants of Australia and New Zealand.  The agenda was simple and uncluttered, enabling the 1,000+ attendees a chance to truly absorb and reflect on the thoughts shared by the respective leaders in their field.

The forum not only challenged me to think in different ways as a leader and manager in business, but also as an individual within the broader environment in which we live.

I’ve included a just a few of my key highlights below.

Internet access should be a right, not a privilege

I welcomed Nicholas Negroponte’s assertion that access to the Internet is a civil right and should be provided by Government in the same manner as roads, public transport and water.  After all, Governments have a vested interest in enabling people to find and access work – regardless if that movement is physical or virtual.

Embedding strategy to optimise performance

The legendary Robert S. Kaplan from Harvard (the inventor of the Balanced Scorecard) presented on how to develop and execute strategy well.  It was music to my areas to hear his components of a good strategy (which very much aligned with the digital strategy work we do at Lenox!) together with how to align, plan, execute, monitor and adapt the strategy over time.

He spent some time discussing driving performance – listing the key components as strategy awareness and communication, business and support area scorecards, personal scorecards and incentive programs. Importantly, the implementation of these components must also become everybody’s responsibility.

The changing landscape of people management

Tamara Erickson from London Business School was a breath of fresh air in the afternoon session.  She spoke about how we can best manage and lead people in the next decade.  With a higher proportion of older people wanting to participate, she proposed that flexibility and part time roles would become increasingly important, enabling the older generation to meaningfully continue to contribute to the workforce.

She spoke about the emerging shared economy where – in the same way as we now don’t necessarily want to own cars, computers, software, etc – we won’t necessarily want to ‘own’ people – or be owned.  She suggested that human resources will become a portfolio comprised of those that are owned, shared or rented.

Positions will be less ‘functional’, and more about a collection of tasks with agreed outcomes. Job titles will reflect tasks, not positions, leading to the continued break down of hierarchies (no surprise there). She acknowledged the importance of on-the-job learning, and that the best ‘people managers’ will be those who are great teachers.  Managing people is no longer about command and control, but instead creating an environment where people strive to achieve excellence. They want to understand the organisational context in which they are working and what it really means to work within that company.

I was relieved to hear that her belief is that humans will not be completely replaced by machines!  We will continue to have an important role in thoughtful innovation – that is – connecting the dots between previously unconnected ideas.  Our value is in taking the ‘first mover’ advantage by defining what machines will do – bringing the all-important elements of intuition and empathy to the table.

Evaluating opportunities

Rita McGrath spoke about the process of evaluating strategic opportunities through the lens of market uncertainty, coupled with technical and execution uncertainty.  Her framework is valuable for companies with uncertain futures.  Using case studies such as Blackberry and Kodak,  she argues that complacency and self-belief can blind CEO’s from seeing the current trajectory.

Breaking the mold

And finally Mr Branson.  A chap who just is so original.  He lives by the mantra of using every single interaction as an opportunity to hear what others are saying.  He believes that “Changing the world begins with a small group of people who refuse to accept the unacceptable.”

A valuable thought to walk away with after an inspiring two days of thinking indulgence!

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