To the Business Leaders of 2015 and Beyond:
The Fortune 500 has long been viewed as a benchmark for corporate size, success, and stability. But if you look at the Fortune 500 from the year 2000—just 14 years ago—you’ll find that more than half of the companies on that year’s list are gone.Think about that: in spite of their proud histories, their successful products, their track records of revenue and profit growth, their industry leadership, their prior stock performance, more than half of the Fortune 500 from the year 2000 have disappeared.That’s a striking indicator of how profoundly different the business world that you will lead is from today’s. On top of that, I’m certain that as you begin moving into leadership ranks and taking on more responsibility, today’s relentless pace of change will only increase. Indeed, in 2020 we’ll look back and view our current era as almost slow-paced and tranquil.
What, then, are the enduring lessons that you aspiring executives need to take to heart and begin to master? First off, in spite of the turbulent global business environment you’ll be facing, you’ll need to learn and embrace some timeless management essentials. And then you’ll need to enrich those core leadership qualities with a new set of capabilities central to business and life here in the 21st century. Let me be a bit more specific: Your unique challenge will be to incorporate those timeless qualities into business environments that are changing more rapidly and dramatically than anything we’ve ever seen before: Today we’re seeing companies attempting to drive fundamental business intelligence more deeply and extensively throughout their organizations to enable better, smarter, and more-effective decision-making. But for tomorrow’s business leaders, you’ll have to ensure those insights are pervasive from the manufacturing floor to the boardroom, and from the design shops to your global partner networks.
Today we’re seeing companies begin to get their arms around Big Data and find ways to exploit it as a high-value raw material that can be turned into sought-after products and services. But you leaders of tomorrow will need to have Big Data and its potential inextricably bound into every facet of your business—or you’ll simply not be able to compete in the data-centric world you’re creating.
Today we’re seeing companies struggle to find the right blend of historical inertia and traditional muscle with the modern world’s premium on speed, customization, nimbleness, and flexibility. But tomorrow’s leaders will need to master those challenging new combinations from the outset because the demands and expectations of your socially powered customers—extending across the globe—will care nothing about what your company has done in the past and will judge you solely on what you can do for them tomorrow.
Today we’re seeing companies attempt to spend less time focusing on what happened last week or last month or last year so they can understand and be prepared for what’s coming this month and next quarter and later this year. Your requirement going forward will be to complete that wrenching transformation to create truly real-time enterprises with elegant and precise views into what your customers around the world are buying today, and what they’re likely to buy tomorrow, and what sort of new products and services they’ll demand from you a few months from now.
Your generation of leaders will need to make unprecedented advances in data-driven analytics and decision-making, surpassing previous generations of CEOs not in innate intelligence but in your access to, and expertise with, insights into external market forces and trends that shape your internal strategies and operations. For example: