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3 reasons why CEOs are optimistic about 2018

By: Bob Moritz January 22, 2018

Source: https://www.weforum.org

You don’t have to look far for signs that we live in tumultuous times. Geopolitical uncertainty, cyberattacks, and jobs threatened by artificial intelligence are just a few of the topics that dominated headlines in 2017. But despite these harbingers of gloom, a record-breaking percentage of CEOs told us they are optimistic about the economic environment worldwide, at least in the short term. That’s one of the findings of PwC’s latest Global CEO Survey, launched at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos this week. I want to focus on three highlights here:

1. Soaring short-term CEO optimism

This year’s survey showed a record jump in the all-time highest level of CEO confidence regarding global economic growth prospects for the coming year. For the first time since we asked the question in 2012, a majority (57%) of the CEOs surveyed told us they believe global economic growth will “improve”. Strikingly, this unprecedented optimism is about twice as high as last year and it is truly global — from North America to both Western and Central/Eastern Europe, as well as Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia Pacific.


This confidence waned, however, when we asked CEOs about their own company’s growth in the next three years. While last year, 51% of respondents told us they were “very confident” about their organization’s longer-term growth prospects, only 45% shared that view this year. CEOs may justifiably feel that the future is simply less predictable than it once was. With technological disruption and geopolitical unpredictability verging on commonplace, longer-term confidence may be increasingly elusive.

2. A focus on the geopolitical positives

In the short-term, CEO optimism appears unimpeded by shake-ups such as Brexit, the Trump administration’s withdrawal from trade agreements and climate accords, and increased anxiety over North Korea. Undeterred, CEOs continue to invest in and grow their businesses.

Simply put, 2017 looks set to be the best year for the global economy since 2010. As we kick off a new year, global commodities prices have recovered from their trough and the world’s major economies are growing. Even Britain’s economy seems to be persevering despite Brexit. This upward trend is set to continue in 2018, with PwC predicting that the global economy will grow by almost 4% in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms this year.


In the US, the Trump Administration’s pro-business policies — with the notable exceptions of trade and immigration — look to be fuelling a stock market boom, corporate confidence and low unemployment. With deep corporate tax cuts, deregulation and infrastructure spending on tap for 2018, it’s no surprise that North American CEOs are our most confident survey respondents: more than half (53%) of CEOs from the region are “very confident” about their company’s growth in the next 12 months..


Only time will tell how well-founded CEOs’ short-term confidence is but the economic indicators are on their side, with booming stock markets and strong predicted GDP growth in most major markets. Also, while risks seem to grow and multiply, CEOs are, on the one hand, becoming more used to high levels of multiple risks; while on the other hand finding ways of managing them. There are plenty of potential potholes in the road ahead for business but CEOs have become better at predicting where they are and navigating around them.

3. Taking technology in their stride

Technology is affecting businesses in varied and complex ways. As we continue to hurtle through the digital age, business strategies for technology are in flux, and the numbers show that. On the one hand, technological advances — like cyberthreats and the sheer speed of change — are high on the list of concerns that keep CEOs up at night. Last year, 24% of the CEOs we spoke to told us they were “extremely concerned” about cyberthreats, but that number has jumped to 40% this year. In contrast, business leaders see enabling universal connectivity as the chief benefit of globalization.


There is no question that the impact of AI will be enormous, potentially transforming business and society at large. PwC’s recent global AI report predicts AI will contribute an additional $15.7 trillion to global GDP by 2030. But those benefits are unlikely to be shared evenly: the US and China are slated to account for 70% of the boom. There will also be winners and losers in the jobs market when machines can replace cheaper labour. Certain jobs will become redundant and new ones will be created. However, while CEOs are focused on the potential benefits of AI, they are for the time being relaxed about the impact on employment with fewer that one in five CEOs expecting to reduce headcount in the next 12 months.

5 tips to get your product or service noticed

By: Doug and Polly White January 12, 2016

Source: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/254879

A wise man once observed, “In business there are only two things that matter. These are reality and perception. However, reality only matters to the extent that it influences perception.” In short, a person’s perception is his or her reality. You may have a product or service that could satisfy the needs of the members of a particular market segment. But they don’t know that yet. So, you are left with the challenge of figuring out how to influence their perception. The first step is to get them to try your offering. And this can be a monumental task. But the following tips may make the process easier.

1.Develop fact-based arguments that explain the value of your product or service.

Use reality to alter perception. For example, our “new cookies” taste the same as what you are currently eating, but they have 50 percent fewer calories and contain no fat. Clearly, the subjective factor here is taste; and taste is a matter of personal opinion. But a lower caloric content and no fat are facts that will convince at least some people that your product is a healthy alternative and worth trying. So, lay out your argument in terms that are as clear and concise as possible. You are unlikely to be able to hold people’s attention long enough to make a complex argument.

  1. Use demonstrations to highlight the value of your offering.

If you need to displace an established incumbent, think about side-by-side comparisons; they can be effective. If the benefits of your product or service can be shown quickly, live or taped demonstrations may be appropriate. Alternatively, if a demonstration would take too long, but the benefits are visible (e.g., weight loss), before and after photos may be useful. In other situations, conducting tests and presenting the results can change opinions. This can be particularly powerful if an independent third party conducts the tests.

  1. Focus on converting a group of early adopters.

When anything new comes along, some people will be more willing to give it a try. You may need to provide significant incentives to induce an actual trial, however. And here, free samples may be appropriate, especially if your product or service is relatively inexpensive, and satisfied customers are likely to purchase it in the future.

  1. Target influencers.

If the right people are seen using your product or service, others may be induced to give it a try. For example, manufacturers of athletic equipment frequently furnish free products to high-visibility athletes or teams. Nike will often donate game jerseys to selected football teams as long as the company’s trademark swoosh is visible. The athletes who wear the jerseys are “influencers” and will prompt others to purchase this or another Nike product.

  1. Seek testimonials from people whose opinion is respected.

Authors often print endorsements from acknowledged experts in the field on the back cover of their books. The thought is that those testimonials will drive purchases by people who respect the experts’ opinion.

In the end, getting your product or service noticed can be a huge challenge. It involves influencing the perceptions of others. However, if you are going to build a successful business selling to people who don’t currently understand the value of your offering, this is exactly what you’ll have to do.

The best senior teams thrive on disagreement

By: Orla Leonard, Nathan Wiita & Christopher Milane September 18, 2017

Source: https://hbr.org

Most team leaders try to build cohesion on their teams. Through team-building exercises and the careful establishment of norms and processes, leaders aim to create a culture of trust, psychological safety, and good feeling.

But should enterprise leadership teams also pursue cohesion? To explore this question, over the course of six years, we surveyed senior-most leadership teams 99 times at companies representing a variety of industries, including financial services, food and beverage, energy, technology, healthcare, and retail. Each team member responded to over 110 items that focused on their team’s capability and performance. The specific domains of capability and performance were based on previous research, including:

  • Team structure
  • Team processes
  • Team results
  • Team dynamics

Most teams (55 teams comprised of 700+ senior executives) also responded to items focused on organization performance — comparing themselves to industry peers — and included dimensions such as Sales and Revenue Growth, New Product Development, and Market Share.

We expected to replicate the importance of cohesion in this unique context. We were wrong. Results from our research indicate that while concepts like internal cohesion and psychological safety are important to team performance, they are not the most critical at the enterprise level. Rather, it is the ability to manage conflicting tensions — as opposed to seeking cohesion — that is the most predictive of top-team performance.

What are the key tensions?

Top teams need to navigate greater complexity and uncertainty than teams lower on the org chart. Perhaps that ‘s why we found the highest-performing senior teams are those that recognize and skillfully navigate three key tensions. These tensions are embraced as polarities to be managed rather than problems to be solved.

Risk vs. Results. Delivering results in the short term and taking risks that offer payoff in the long term are daily realities for top teams. The highest-performing teams excel at both. More specifically, we examined what differentiated the top 25% of performing teams from the rest of the teams we studied when it came to taking calculated risks to lead the industry. High-performing teams realize 10% greater market share and report 22% better performance when it comes to developing new products. They take a long-term view, place strategic bets, and invest money and infrastructure to systematically pursue them.

They don ‘t just take risks, however. They are also clear and knowledgeable about how to best leverage the core strengths of the business, creating circumstances where both risk and day-to-day delivery can peacefully coexist. Our highest-performing teams reported 6.5% greater profitability against their competitors and 7.5% better sales and revenue growth. As much as they strive to lead the industry and are responsible for delivering results, they also possess an ability to learn and grow from mistakes rather than judge and punish — in essence, they know where best to innovate and what to leave alone.

External vs. Internal Pull. An organization ‘s ability to look outward and upward as well as downward and inward is a well-documented success factor and one that takes on even greater importance given the pace with which our world is changing. Based on our research, one of the best predictors of high-performing teams is their ability to consistently scan the external environment for consumer, competitor, and industry knowledge and to use that knowledge to adapt. More specifically, we found that high-performing teams achieved greater sales and revenue growth (10.6%) and better development of new products (8.2%). The best teams do not lose the focus of the external world when getting pulled into internal transformations, change, and turmoil. In fact, they may use external pressures and realities as a springboard for internal execution.

David Craig, president of financial and risk business, Thomson Reuters, and a key architect of the merger between Thomson and Reuters, notes that their customer focus was critical to driving internal execution: “At a time where we needed significant internal transformation, we were lucky in that our largest customers and the financial industry were in crisis and demanding change. Our team leveraged this to align our internal transformation.”

In other words, these high-performing top teams create mechanisms to stay attuned to the internal pulse of the organization. They enable employees to expose barriers to execution that senior leaders can then address, and they are agile in shifting internal resources to respond to changing business situations. Our research found that companies who leveraged core strengths to grow the business achieved better profitability and market share. This is not to say this shift is easy, and further, it is one that requires support and engagement from the top. As Mr. Craig notes, “It was tough, demanding, and required painful choices. We ensured senior leaders took exec-sponsor roles for customers, forcing them to engage externally.”

Top-Down vs. Bottom-Up Innovation. Finally, the success of a top team rests heavily on its ability to innovate. No surprise there. However, the nuance that emerged from our research suggests that top-performing senior teams manage the tension between leading and directing innovation while also engaging and empowering the broader organization. They provide frameworks and make essential decisions but recognize that those closer to the customer often possess the best insights. Enterprise leadership teams that are highly effective at creating conditions for bottom-up innovation benefitted from greater employee engagement (9.5%) and better quality of new products (12%). Teams who effectively drive top-down innovation demonstrated better sales and revenue growth (5%) and market share (4.5%).

Schulte notes that “for innovation to happen, senior teams need to create a culture where those who are closest to the customer can share, challenge, and feel heard.” He also notes that the responsibility of enterprise leadership teams is to “create empowering cultures of micro-innovation in conjunction with clear, top-down plans to best set up organizations for success.”

How can a team embrace these tensions?

We are not tolling the final bell on the long-held notion that cohesion is critical to team performance. Indeed, for enterprise-wide teams to successfully traverse the tensions outlined above, trust and positive team dynamics are foundational. In fact, our results were consistent with this notion, in that teams with high levels of trust, transparency, a team-first mentality, and collective pride perform better along several dimensions (e.g., overall organizational performance, employee engagement).

However, in a business environment that requires a different approach to enterprise leadership, our results challenge the assumption that cohesion is the most critical. On the contrary, embracing, navigating, and living with tension is most strongly related to organizational performance.

So, how does a leader ensure their team fully embraces these tensions? Our experience suggests three key team behaviors that support a full and successful embracing of these tensions.

  • Reframe tension and dialogue openly. The best-performing teams view tension simply as a typical part of the job in today ‘s business environment. Well-managed tension is therefore an indicator of strong performance rather than a signal that something is wrong. As such, creating a clear dialogue around conflicts, trade-offs, and compromise is critical. While you want the team to operate from the standpoint of what ‘s best for the enterprise rather than what ‘s best for one ‘s individual function, often the way you get there is by people in each department laying out their concerns. Instead of seeing this as a fight, or assuming bad intentions, be clear that this is a normal part of the process.
  • Keep the customer front and center. Best-performing teams and organizations use consumer needs as their North Star. Unified customer focus provides a sense of alignment, clarity, and cohesion needed to navigate inevitable complexities and tensions. Embedding the work of the team in the world of the customer can make all the difference. You can do this through structure (e.g., customer advisory boards, executive sponsorship) as well as culture.
  • Hold the team accountable for fostering innovation. For enterprise leadership teams, we see the responsibility of fostering innovation too often taking a back seat to day-to-day minutia and firefighting. This is especially troublesome given that the need for innovation and agile adaptation has never been greater. Paddy Miller and Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg, authors of Innovation as Usual, note that “focus beats freedom” for enterprise-wide innovation. In other words, senior leaders must first create frameworks and focus for bottom-up innovation to occur in an intentional and productive way.


Five things emerging economies can do to attract the best talent

By: Mauro F. Guillén December  08, 2017

Source: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/12/emerging-market-companies-multinational-talent-china-india-attract

Emerging market companies need talent to be competitive in the global marketplace. They have made much progress in attracting it. Barely a decade ago, most young, bright graduates in China and India preferred to work for Western companies. These companies paid better and offered more opportunities for professional growth and advancement.

That was then. Now emerging market companies can attract some of the best talent, locally and globally. In 2016, Alibaba launched a Global Leadership Academy to offer young, aspiring managers from the US and Europe a 16-month stint at its corporate headquarters. It has already poached executives from well-established technology and financial services companies. Dr. Reddy, an Indian pharmaceutical multinational, consistently wins awards in the US for being a great employer.

Fortune magazine’s latest list of the 25 Best Companies to Work For includes Natura of Brazil, Belcorp of Peru, and Falabella of Chile. These companies have dedicated themselves to attracting and nurturing talent for years. However, challenges remain. The allure of working for a Western company is still deeply ingrained in the hearts and minds of university graduates and mid-career managers in emerging markets. Many still believe that compensation levels, bonuses and promotions are more attractive than at local firms. For aspiring managers with an essentially technical skillset, this assumption is correct.

But circumstances are different for those with so-called softer managerial skills. These include the ability to negotiate or work effectively in multicultural teams, complementing a core financial or marketing knowledge. As the service sector grows throughout Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, demand for talent in healthcare, the creative industries, and professional services will soar.

Consider South Korea, which has already made the transition from being predominantly a manufacturing hub to a more diversified service-driven economy. It has created more than four million highly-qualified service jobs in the past decade. As China undergoes a similar transition, it will require at least 40 million educated professionals in the 25 largest cities alone. In the Indian economy, which is far less dependent on manufacturing for growth, demand for this type of talent is even greater.

China has the advantage of a vibrant university system that churns out the largest number of graduates of any country in the world. But it lacks the dynamism of India’s younger population, which seems to have an almost unlimited supply of technical graduates across a number of critical fields. Brazil and Mexico are also starting to reel from smaller young age cohorts.

Competition for talent in China will be acute. This is likely to lead the country’s emerging, rapidly-growing firms to redouble their efforts at attracting talent, including from abroad. Emerging Chinese multinationals report having less trouble attracting talent for their international operations than for positions in China. To a large extent, this is due to the unpleasant living conditions in the country’s major cities. The air quality and traffic congestion deter many foreigners from considering a move. While Indian companies have more qualified locals available to them as potential hires, they will also face challenges in the future when attracting foreigners to work in India.

Future strategies for talent development in emerging markets must address at least five key areas:

– Allocating resources to education, not just in technical fields but also in soft skills

– Ensuring that employment conditions and career prospects at the largest emerging market multinationals continue to improve, so that working for them is at least as attractive as working for a Western firm

– Attracting talent from other countries to positions both in the home country and around the world

– Making life in the largest cities of the emerging world more pleasant, convenient and affordable

– Ensuring that local firms do not have to pay a premium for talent. In the long-term, this would undermine the competitiveness of both companies and the economy

Companies in emerging markets cannot win the competition for talent by themselves. A country’s physical infrastructure, education and quality of life are key factors. Only collaboration with governments, from the local to national level, will achieve the outcome these companies need.