Our objective is to uncover the traits that will differentiate winning companies in the next quarter century.
Our hypothesis (based on Roger Mader’s observations as an innovation advisor, and Dave Hersh’s as a VC and serial tech startup CEO):
The market is changing:
We already observe lower barriers to entry, and can expect the trends will continue to make our markets more global, more digital, with consumers and business buyers alike more fickle, more cynical, more demanding.
Companies are changing:
In the emerging turbulent, higher-velocity, globally-connected market of personalized experiences and instant gratification, winners demonstrate a differentiating combination of characteristics. They are likely to be:
- More user-centered.
- More versatile.
- Rely on the methods of tech startups to iterate rapidly, pilot and test, persevere and pivot as required to survive.
- Goal oriented, data-informed.
- Yet at the same that they adopt the quant sciences, they also must be more creative – more attuned to real needs, dedicated to their customer and the narrative that compels—the authentic story behind their brand, their reputation and their craft.
- And most reassuringly – today’s emerging generation of business leaders, and those who will rise in the near future, have a sincere desire to improve their world rather than just their wallets. They inherited their parents’ generation’s mess, a global ashtray of thoughtless residue. They have grown up knowing that, one way or the other, this next quarter century will see an essential turning point in human history. Will we make our planet and our societies a little bit better, or a whole lot worse. Science and demographics make it clear that the balance of this century will tell the tale of our fragile role on this beautiful blue ball. The next generation of leaders see that, believe it, speak of it, and by their actions and example, are now helping us all to act on it.
There are many others traits, and almost certainly we haven’t yet identified the ones that will prove most important.
And that’s where you come in.
We surmise that your experience today and your prior career would allow you to opine on these two meta questions – how is the world changing, and how must successful companies change to win in the next quarter century.
We do not expect you to address every aspect of these two big questions. We’d like you to describe your expertise and the angle you take on observing the changes today and forecasting the implications for the future. Our conversation should take advantage of your unique experience and point of view.
The questions will be friendly and open-ended. Expect something like the bullet point questions below:
YOUR PERSPECTIVE: (5 mins)
- Tell us about yourself – what are you focused on today; your career; personal background.
- How does this inform your point of view on today’s companies and the market changes ahead?
THE MARKET: (10 mins)
- How have you seen the market dynamics change in the course of your career? What have been the big differences?
- What changes do you expect to see in the near future and projecting out over the next 25 years that will impact how companies compete and win?
THE COMPANIES: (15-20 mins)
Late in his too-short life, Steve Jobs (acc to Walter Isaacson’s biography) observed that companies falter when they shift from obsessing about the product to obsessing about sales. In other words, once a product wins market adoption, profits demand a shift from a product focus to a sales focus. In his view IBM and Xerox and other iconic 20th century companies lost their position when the salesmen took over the C-suite.
We’re interested in your observations about what differentiates winning companies from the pack today, and how you expect that to change in the future.
- Can you tell us about a company you admire?
- What traits do they demonstrate to set them apart?
- What companies might you have admired in the past that lost their way, that fell from prominence?
- Why do you suppose they faltered?
- Given your expectations about how the market will change, what traits will winning companies need to demonstrate?
- If you were advising a young executive or entrepreneur today about the kind of company to join or to build, what would you recommend?
The preceding ten bullet points are probably more questions than we will have time to cover, so expect only a subset of these. And of course, they will differ in kind as we weave our way via the more interesting topics and probe deeper along the way. So please feel no need to over-prepare, and expect us to take a different path. We will go where you take us, but will also reserve the right to redirect the conversations as required.
As for the tenor of our conversation
Probably less like this.
Likely a bit more like this. Okay, maybe not quite like this.
Questions or concerns?
Are you comfortable with those areas of focus? Anything you’d recommend we add or change?
We appreciate your efforts on our behalf. See you in the studio!