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23 March 2015

Challenges and Opportunities for the Leader of the 21st Century

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Companies that want to survive in the world of today and tomorrow must adapt to a radically different environment: customers, production functions, distribution channels, markets, human resources … Business leaders will be forced to rethink all stages of the value chain.

According to John Kotter (Harvard University) the company that is not constantly reviewing its future direction and making the necessary adjustments has very little chance of survival. The key is to combine the daily demands of business with the early identification of risks and opportunities, formulating innovative strategic initiatives and executing them fast enough. He advocates a “dual” organizational scheme in which hierarchically-organized areas coexist with other areas organized as networks.

In any process of change, the role of CEOs and boards of directors is key. William Klepper (Columbia Business School) argues that the style of the CEO must fit the business at all times of the business cycle, and that the board needs to intervene actively to help close gaps between skills and styles and the requirements of the company.

All business sectors will change, no company is “safe”. Francisco González (BBVA) discusses how these changes are affecting the financial industry and argues that to survive and thrive, banks must leverage their key competitive advantage: the information they have about their customers, converting it into knowledge to offer a better experience. In his article for OpenMind he looks at the main elements of the process that has taken place in BBVA, transforming it from a conventional “analog” bank to a new “digital” knowledge-based company.

Companies’ ability to anticipate and adapt will largely depend on their ability to innovate. For Henry Chesbrough (Haas School of Business), considered the father of open innovation, this concept has changed how innovation is managed within companies. At first, open innovation was understood and implemented as a form of collaboration between two companies to open the internal innovation process. However, open innovation will expand far beyond that. In the future, the design and management of innovation communities will become increasingly relevant.

But survival requires more than just innovating. According to Carol A. Adams (Monash University) the companies of the future will do business differently because they will understand the value of the relationships and the resources and services provided by its natural surroundings. It will be a very different company from today’s, and will have to be more integrated into civil society and not remain isolated and focused on the pursuit of profit. This integration must take place both physically (i.e., with the natural world and the balance of nature) and ethically (social values).

The companies of tomorrow will be radically different from the companies of today. Read more about the companies of the future in the book Reinventing the Company in the Digital Age.

Dory Gascueña for OpenMind


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