Qatar’s hosting of the FIFA World Cup 2022 has certainly proved to be the most controversial in history – the murky bribery scandal that led to it being awarded, the $200 billion development of the infrastructure amidst the concern for migrant workers, and the continued ethical concerns of supporting a nation with values very different from many others.

Here, I’m focused on the business of football. And what makes the World Cup the world’s biggest sporting festival, bringing more nations and people together than any other event. Challenging for football supremacy, celebrating the diversity of nations and humankind, and one of the commercial world’s biggest brand sponsorship moments.

Audience

FIFA predicts a 5 billion global TV audience for its 2022 tournament.

In 25 of the 31 countries measured by Kantar, football is ranked the #1 sport and only in US (4th ranked), Canada (5th) and Australia (6th) is football outside the top #2. Out of 160 national and local sporting events, the FIFA World Cup is ranked the most followed event worldwide with almost 70% of all adults following the tournament.

55% of all adults questioned worldwide say they plan to watch at least some part of the World Cup. according to Ipsos. Viewing intent exceeds 75% in the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Peru, Brazil, and India.

Countries with the largest proportions of football followers are, in order: Indonesia (69%), Saudi Arabia (67%), the United Arab Emirates (65%), and India (60%). The next tier consists of Argentina (51%), Brazil (50%), South Africa (50%), and Peru (49%). In contrast, fewer than one in five in Japan (14%), Canada (15%), Hungary (18%), and The United States (19%) describe themselves as football followers.

87% of the audience are under 45, with an even split 50-50 male and female … 40% of the audience are likely to be 25-34 year olds, 25% 35-44, and 22% 18 -24, according to Digital Turbine. This is vastly different from the Super Bowl in the USA, where the majority of the audience are over 45.

Only 13% of World Cup viewers globally said they only watch football during World Cup matches, but nearly half (49%) watch every week or more frequently than that. 57% prefer watching at home, while 16% are likely to go to the stadium, and 15% prefer a bar or cafe. At home, 55% watch on TV/Cable, while 38% use their smartphone.

In terms of advertising effectiveness, 54% of viewers are likely to look up an ad aired during the World Cup and watch it again, and 83% of World Cup viewers are likely to consider purchasing a product that they have seen advertised.

Nielsen have a great report here: Fans are changing the game

Sponsors

Watch any World Cup game, and your eyes are quickly drawn to the digital, dynamic advertising boards around the pitch. Many viewers will be asking themselves, who actually are Byju’s, Hisense and Wanda.

Some sponsors will be familiar, particularly those who are FIFA’s long-term “partners”, while others are specific to this tournament:

Adidas: The German sportswear brand’s partnership with the governing body of world football dates back to the 1970s. Adidas has been the Official Match Ball supplier since that year and has also provided uniforms for all FIFA officials, referees, player escorts, ball crew and volunteers. The current contract granting Adidas Official Partner, Supplier and Licensee rights for all FIFA events lasts until 2030.

Coca-Cola: The Atlanta-based drinks business has been part of the World Cup since 1950. In 1978 it became an official sponsor, and since 2006, it has “exclusively activated the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour”. In collaboration with The Panini Group, the Italian publishing company known for producing football collectibles, Coke releases digital and physical stickers. It also sponsors the FIFA World Rankings for both the men’s and the women’s national teams. Its current deal runs until 2030.

Wanda Group: The Beijing-based media business, who has a portfolio of media and production businesses, sports and entertainment venues, became the first-ever Chinese company to partner with FIFA in 2016, when it obtained FIFA’s highest level of sponsorship rights to cover all FIFA-affiliated tournaments and corporate activities until 2030. The company was founded in Dalian in 1988 as a residential real estate company by Wang Jianlin, and now has investments across many industries including construction, entertainment, media, industrial manufacturing, financial services, high technology, hospitality, real estate, retail, healthcare, and sports.

Hyundai: Car brands Hyundai and Kia are both subsidiaries of Seoul-based South Korean chaebol Hyundai Motor Group. Hyundai’s association with FIFA first began in 1999, and Kia entered the fold in 2006. Hyundai has been serving FIFA as its official ground transportation provider for the World Cups since 2006, supplying its fleet of vehicles to carry personnel ranging from high-ranking FIFA officials to media teams.

Qatar Airways: The Doha-based flag carrier airline has been the Official Airline of FIFA since 2017. The current deal between the two parties sees Qatar Airways sponsor all FIFA tournaments until the end of the 2022. It launched the official travel packages for fans interested in attending the quadrennial footballing extravaganza.

QatarEnergy: The state-owned petroleum company first partnered with FIFA for the 2021 Arab Cup in December 2021. In 2022, the company was announced as a FIFA Partner in a deal set to cover this year’s cup, but not beyond that. More like a local one-off sponsor, than partner.

Visa: The global financial services provider has been a global sponsor of FIFA and its Official Payment Technology Partner since 2007. Visa offers exclusive payment service for all FIFA-affiliated stores and events and also works with the governing body to create co-branded unique programmes for the fans. Visa is the world’s second-largest card payment organization (debit and credit cards combined), after being surpassed by China UnionPay in 2015. However it is still considered the dominant bankcard company in the rest of the world, where it commands a 50% market share of total card payments, and is currently the world’s most valuable financial services company.

Xero: New Zealand’s small-business management platform Xero was announced as a FIFA Women’s Football Partner in 2022, seeking to “champion women’s football and to further empower women working in small businesses and their communities around the world”. It will also support FIFA women’s football development programmes.

Algorand: Promoting itself as a “green blockchain technology company”, Algorand is FIFA’s official blockchain partner. Apart from branding rights, the deal entails Algorand providing FIFA official blockchain-supported wallet solutions while also working with the governing body over developing its digital assets strategy. Algorand was founded in 2017 by Silvio Micali, a professor at MIT. It is intended to solve the “blockchain trilema”: the claim that any blockchain system can have at most two of three desirable properties: decentralization, scalability, and security.

Calm: the San Francisco-based wellness company, partnered with FIFA  to make its online platform the Official Mindfulness and Meditation Product of the FIFA World Cup 2022. Apart from branding rights, the deal also means Calm free subscriptions are offered to players, workers and volunteers, and to fans at reduced rates. Calm was founded in 2012 by Michael Acton Smith and Alex Tew. Calm was Apple’s “App of the Year” in 2017, and Calm Health was released in 2022 and offered through traditional healthcare providers, payers, and self-insured employers.

These are the specific 2022 sponsors:

Budweiser: The Anheuser-Busch InBev-brewed beer has been the official beer sponsor of the men’s FIFA World Cup for over 35 years now, with the 2022 event set to be its tenth World Cup. 3 days before the 2022 tournament opened, the organisers withdrew beer sales from stadia, prompting Budweiser to tweet “This is awkward” but also potentially opening a huge contractual claim.

BYJU’S: The Bangalore-headquartered Indian edtech firm was announced as a sponsor of the 2022 World Cup in March 2022. The partnership allows Byju’S to use the World Cup branding to promote its brand across the world. The company also works towards creating educational content for young football fans worldwide. It is an Indian multinational educational technology company. It was founded in 2011 by Byju Raveendran and Divya Gokulnath. In 2022, Byju’s is valued at $22 billion with 115 million registered students.

Crypto: The Singapore-based cryptocurrency exchange platform was announced as an Official Sponsor of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ as well as its exclusive cryptocurrency trading platform in March 2022. Apart from branding rights, the partnership entails the two parties collaborating over awareness initiatives revolving around the platform. It also entails Crypto.com offering its users unique matchday experiences and opportunities to win merchandise.

Hisense: The Qingdao-headquartered Chinese electronics giant joined the roster of FIFA Commercial Affiliates and was announced as an Official Sponsor of the 2022 World Cup in April 2021. The partnership entails collaboration between the two parties over projects ranging from on-site activations to global ad campaigns.

McDonald’s: The Chicago-headquartered American fast-food giant has been a FIFA World Cup sponsor for over two decades. Throughout the quadrennial event, McDonald’s branding appears most prominently on the uniforms of the child mascots who accompany the players as they walk out on the pitch before a game. For the 2018 World Cup, McDonald’s was also the principal sponsor of the tournament’s official fantasy football game. The last renewal between FIFA and McDonald’s was announced in October 2014 and confirmed McDonald’s sponsorship of the World Cup until Qatar 2022.

China Mengniu Dairy Company: The Causeway Bay, Hong Kong-headquartered Chinese dairy products manufacturer was onboarded by FIFA as a second-tier World Cup sponsor for Russia 2018 in December 2017. In October 2021, China Mengniu Dairy Company was confirmed as a sponsor for the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

Vivo: The Dongguan-headquartered Chinese tech company became a sponsor in 2017 in a deal covering both Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022.  FIFA made vivo the exclusive smartphone sponsor for the 2021 Arab Cup, which was also held in Qatar.

Roblox: The online game creation platform was announced as a FIFA World Cup sponsor in 2022.The partnership entails creation and development of FIFA World, described as “a virtual environment that celebrates the power of football and the rich history of its pinnacle events”. This free-to-access virtual theme park is set to be developed over the course of the 2022 World Cup and offer football fans unique experiences, events and access to bespoke content from the FIFA+ library.

Hublot: The Nyon-headquartered Swiss watchmaker returned as the Official Timekeeper of the FIFA Men’s World Cup with a limited-edition watch designed to offer the football fans a unique experience. 15 minutes before each game in the tournament, the watch will display its user team line-ups and player profiles. The kick-off will send the watch into “match mode” and activate “timeline” that will allow the user to capture in-game moments. These moments will be replayable throughout the course of the match. Hublot is also “timing” all games at the World Cup, with all 129 official referees set to wear Hublot watches to assist them in their officiating throughout the tournament.

The Look Company: Based in Barrie, Ontario, the global visual engagement solutions provider was announced as a Regional Supporter of the 2022 World Cup in April 2022. As per the deal, the company will look forward to leveraging the partnership to “showcase its stadium dressing and signage capabilities to 3.5 billion viewers around the world”. In the past, The Look Company has also provided branding and signage solutions to FIFA for the 2019 Club World Cup.

Algorand: Promoting itself as a “green blockchain technology company”, Algorand was announced as FIFA’s official blockchain platform in May 2022. Apart from branding rights, the deal entails Algorand providing FIFA official blockchain-supported wallet solutions while also working with the governing body over developing its digital assets strategy. The deal also makes Algorand a Regional Supporter of the Qatar World Cup in North America and Europe as well as an Official Sponsor of the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

Frito-Lay: PepsiCo-owned, Plano, Texas-headquartered Frito-Lay became the first-ever salty-snack brand to collaborate with FIFA for the World Cup when it was announced as the 2022 WC’s North American Regional Supporter in June 2022. The partnership entails digital activations and advertising opportunities on the world football’s biggest stage and include the following Frito-Lay brands: Lay’s, Doritos, Cheetos, Tostitos, Ruffles, Sabritas, Quaker and Gamesa.

Teams

Team sponsors are less diverse. Adidas and Nike still dominate the uniforms and footwear of most teams and players.

Of the 32 nations, 13 will be sporting Nike kits (Qatar, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, France, Croatia, England, Netherlands, South Korea, Canada, Portugal, USA, Australia), and 7 Adidas (Germany, Belgium, Spain, Argentina, Japan, Mexico, Wales).

Adidas shares lost 6% market cap during the 2018 World Cup, when heavily favoured Germany, an Adidas team, was knocked out early and the FIFA tournament was won by France, a Nike team. Nike gained 4% during the same period, beating the S&P 500’s 1% gain.

For these sporting superbrands, this is probably their biggest “brand engagement” moment of each 4 years, and their advertising is some of the most anticipated:

Nike calls it the “Footballverse” with a series of advertising spots starting with “an international team of scientists at a secret lab in Switzerland finally cracked the code. They’ve written the formula that will put an end to any discussion—the ultimate battle of all football generations … With the push of a button, they bring us legendary players from the past and present. A crazy experiment unfolds. Watch now to find out if the world of science can find a way to settle the score.”

Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, Cristiano Ronaldo, CR Jr., Edgar Davids, Kevin De Bruyne, Kylian Mbappé, Leah Williamson, Phil Foden, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo Nazário, Sam Kerr, Shane Kluivert and Virgil van Dijk star in the video.

Adidas continue their “Impossible is Nothing” tagline, but with a family theme: “This is our family. Every World Cup, we all get together to prove that impossible is nothing.”

This spot features some of their biggest individual stars, plus a few from beyond football: Lionel Messi, Karim Benzema, Achraf Hakimi, Son Heung-Min, Jude Bellingham, Pedro ‘Pedri’ González López, Serge Gnabry and Stormzy.

Players

Argentina’s Lionel Messi is probably the world’s popular footballer.

He earns around $55 million annually from brand endorsements (Adidas, Huawei, Gatorade, MasterCard, Lay’s, Pepsi, Hawkers, Ooredoo, Gillette, Turkish Airlines), which is more than his Paris St Germain salary of $65 million per year.

The 34 year old, probably in his last World Cup, has a net wealth of around $600 million.

Messi has invested in property. Around his birthplace of Rosario in Argentina, for example, he has put money into the Azahares del Parana project (a set of gated communities out of the city) as well as an apartment building in the city centre.

There’s also his lifestyle brand, The Messi Store.

Like many footballers, Messi has also dipped his toe into the investment worlds of cryptocurrency and NFTs, working in partnership with Ethernity, a company which also works with Pele and Luka Modric among others.

Portugal’s Christiano Ronaldo is a more controversial figure.

He is said to earn $60 million through endorsements (with Nike, Tag Heuer, Clean Haircare, Herbalife) and $40 million through his salary, previously with Manchester United until his recent bust-up with the manager. It seems his arrogance was too much for a team player, and he no longer respected or listened to manager or club.

His seven floor mansion is in his home town of Funchal, Madeira.  The construction of the estate was finished four years after the ex-Madrid star bought the warehouse located there for an undisclosed sum and it’s believed to have cost around €8m. He has an apartment in Trump Tower, New York worth $18.5 million

He launched his CR7 clothing brand a decade ago. Starting with underwear, he then moved into fragrance, footwear, shirts, gyms, jeans company and restaurants, all under the CR7 brand. He also invested $60 million in launching a global hotel chain with Pestana Hotel Group under the brand Pestana CR7.

Ronaldo is 3 years older than Messi, and has scored more career goals (804 in 1106 games, ie 0.72/game) however the Argentinian has the better average (0.79 goals/game, 759 in 957).

Messi has won more Ballon d’Or awards for the world’s best player, 7 times compared to Ronaldo’s 5.

France’s Kylian Mbappe is probably the world’s best player right now.

He’s also the world’s best paid player in 2022 according to Forbes. $128 million is made up of $110 million from endorsements and $18 million salary from PSG, where he is a team mate of Messi and Neymar ($87 million).

At only 23 years old, Mbappe clearly has the world at his feet, commercially and in his football. Messi and Ronaldo were well into their 30s before hitting their commercial peak.

Mbappe’s sponsors are led by Nike, Dior, Hublot and Oakley. He’s also on the cover of EA Sports FIFA video game, and an investor in fantasy NFT platform Sorare.

(Sources: Forbes, Sportskhabri, Deloitte)

In terms of social media influence, Ronaldo leads that way with 493 million followers on Instagram, with each Instagram post worth $2.8 million in media value.

Innovations

Al Rihla, the revolutionary match ball: Adidas has developed this new technology in close collaboration with FIFA and Kinexon. This will enable the referees to review live data automatically 500 times per second, allowing accurate detection of the kick point. Al Rihla will be the first World Cup ball to feature this innovation, providing precise ball data, which will be made available to refereeing teams in real-time.

Stadium cooling technology: Seven of the eight Qatar stadiums feature an advanced cooling technology that will keep the atmosphere inside the stadium temperate. There will be an energy centre near the stadium, from where chilled water is brought in a pipeline to the venue. Once it arrives, cold air is pushed onto the field and towards spectator seats. Sensors around the stadium keep the temperature constant, in each different area.

Semi-automated Offside Technology: Everyone has a love and hate attitude to offside rules, and VAR in general. FIFA has confirmed that semi-automated offside technology will be used, offering a support tool for the video match officials and the on-field officials to help them make faster, more accurate and more reproducible offside decisions. The new technology will have 12 tracking cameras around the stadium apart from a sensor inside the new Al Rihla ball, and linked directly to the Video Assistant Referee.

FIFA Player App: Players will be able to get insights into their on-field performance through the FIFA Player App immediately after each match. This innovation is the first visible outcome of the collaboration between FIFA and FIFPRO on developing standards and best practices for collecting, protecting and using personal player-performance data.

Intelligent Charging Stations: ElPalm will also be unveiled at the event. A wind turbine with solar panels will harness the power of the wind and sun. It will cover the fans and be furnished with USB charging stations, speakers for disseminating important information, and adverts. To keep all the fans connected while they are in their seats, ElPalm will also provide Wi-Fi.

Controversy 

Back in 2010, the disgraced then FIFA president Sepp Blatter announced Qatar’s victory. There was widespread scepticism about how exactly this tiny desert state, with no World Cup experience and scorching summer temperatures, had won.

So why did this World Cup matter so much to Qatar?

Allegations of corruption, vote-swapping, and links to trade deals at the highest levels of government have always been denied by organisers and remain unproven. But there is no denying the build-up to this tournament has been especially troubled.

There have been persistent fears over the human toll of building the infrastructure required in such a short period of time and in such a climate, along with discriminatory laws that prohibit homosexuality and curtail women’s freedoms through male guardianship rules.

Kantar research found that just under half (49%) of adults are ‘concerned about the human rights issues in the host nation’, with 18% unconcerned. Among the most avid World Cup fans concern rises slightly to 53%.

On human rights, The Netherlands tops the list among World Cup fans with 82% expressing concern, followed by Ireland (76%) and Mexico (75%). In the UK, 61% of fans are concerned.

Conversely, World Cup fans in China are the least concerned by human rights issues – the only market where more people disagree with the statement (37%) than agree (29%).

Fewer than half of World Cup fans (48%) agree that ‘holding the tournament in November – December compromises the tradition of the World Cup’; this rises to 66% in France and 64% in Germany (markets that are seeing the disruption of their domestic season).

BBC Analysis editor Ros Atkins adds his perspective on how Qatar won the bid to host the World Cup, as well as the human rights and environmental issues surrounding the tournament.

Enjoy the football!

I spend significant time working with the leaders of companies across the Middle East. It is a vibrant region, driven by its young and ambitious consumers, entrepreneurs and governments.

When arriving to deliver a keynote at the UAE Prime Ministers Office, I was greeted by a Pepper robot, who guided me around the ultra high-tech facility. Later I visited the Ministry of Possibilities, listening to the government’s Minister for AI talking about how a new generation of advanced tech will be prioritised to drive innovation, and make Dubai the world’s “best city to live in” by 2040.

Leading the executive team of Al Ghurair Investments – a Dubai-based group of real estate to mobility, energy and resources – through a two-day vision workshop, they looked back to their heritage – the first flour mill, the first bank, the first mall. Now they want to be pioneers of the future, enhancing everyday life, in novel and practical ways.

It’s the same story in KSA. Working with the board and exec team of Savola Group, the leading food and retail business, we explored the latest advances in more sustainable food production, for example pasta made from quinoa rather wheat, and new technologies to engage consumers, like quick-commerce. We explored new horizons, categories and geographies, with purpose beyond profit.

Oil no longer shines quite so brightly across the region. Aramco is huge, and the world’s most valuable company (or second to Apple, depending on oil prices), but there is a real commitment to diversify, and to use that oil-fuelled wealth to drive radical innovation, not to catch-up but to leap frog into a global hub of knowledge and innovation. In KSA, the nation’s Vision 2030 is driving transformational change, everywhere.

Technology is at the front of everyone’s minds. Enter Dubai’s new Museum of the Future, and you are immediately in a new sci-fi reality. It’s almost 20 years ago since I first worked with STC, previously known as Saudi Telecom. Today it is one of the most innovative tech businesses in the world. The same when I go to Etisalat or Zain. Same when I go to banks like Boubyan or NBK.

And then, of course, there are some truly mega-projects. Not just a local rivalry to construct the world’s tallest building, or most impressive shopping mall, but ventures like Neom. “It’s an attempt to do something that’s never been done before and it’s coming at a time when the world needs fresh thinking and new solutions. Simply put, it will be a destination, a home for people who dream big and want to be part of building a new model for sustainable living, working and prospering.”

Of course there are still big ethical questions, but mindsets and practices are changing quickly. Better to engage with local people and business leaders, to educate and support their positive developments, rather than passively judge from afar. Is this greenwashing? Yes, sustainability is a hot topic, and there is still plenty of oil being drilled. But in sectors like agriculture, necessity is driving the region to pioneer new sustainable methods. Q-commerce is growing faster here than anywhere in the world, driven by investment and a youthful demographic. And governments have committed to net-zero carbon by 2060.

Culturally, the region is transforming rapidly. Along the Jeddah waterfront women are out walking and even running. Justin Timberlake and the world’s richest Formula 1 Grand Prix are regular visitors too. In Cairo, I can’t wait to use the new Great Egyptian Museum open its doors, right in front of the pyramids. In Abu Dhabi you can visit the new Louvre (until 2037 when its brand license expires). KSA’s Ministry of Culture is doing great work too, to educate the world on Arabic heritage, but also to interpret culture in a modern way too.

Here are 12 of the most innovative companies I see right now in the Middle East:

Anghami … streaming Arabic music

Abu Dhabi-based Anghami is the biggest music streaming platform in the Middle East and North Africa. The service licenses music from big Arabic labels such as Platinum Records, Mazzika, and Melody, which it features alongside international hits. Its catalogue comprises more than 30 million songs available for over 70 million users. The company also serves as a social network in a region where few concerts are held, experimenting with ways for fans to share music with each other and discover artists as a community.

Aramex … frictionless delivery

To improve customer experience and last-mile transformation, Aramex has implemented frictionless and contactless delivery, and updated the Al model to factor in new transit times to increase transparency. It has boosted digital touchpoints to optimize delivery routes and shorten delivery times. It launched Aramex mobile app, rolled out an integrated logistics execution platform, and scaled impact through its Delivering Good platform, which is focused on education, youth empowerment, entrepreneurship, and the environment.

Cafu … on-demand car fueling

Cafu, part of Al Ghurair Investments, offers an on-demand fuel delivery service, saving time queuing up at fuel stations, and coming to the rescue during emergencies with the click of a button. As the MENA region’s first on-demand car service designed to meet the consumer’s needs, it has evolved to become the app of choice to streamline car ownership, setting a higher bar for innovation–from refueling vehicles to renewing car insurance.

Chalhoub … talent for fashion

Being a key player in the luxury market across the Middle East, Chalhoub rolled out programs to empower local designers, accelerate startups, and encourage women leaders. The conglomerate has launched an accelerator program for retail and tech startups to implement and test their solutions. They also brought new technology to brick-and-mortar stores, self-checkout powered by computer vision, experimented with immersive virtual experiences, transitioned towards unified commerce, and created a personalised shopping experience.

Emirates Crop One … vertical farming

Bustanica, based in Dubai, is the world’s largest vertical farm with 330,000-square-foot of shelves growing lettuce, spinach, arugula and more, with 95% less water and no pesticides, developed by Emirates Crop One (ECO) and JV between USA’s CropOne and Emirates Airlines, in a nation where 90% of food is imported.  Passengers of Emirates and almost 100 other airlines served by Emirates Flight Catering will be first to taste the produce.

Econcrete … living concrete

“ECOncrete” partners with cement makers to produce modified concrete whose composition, texture and design fosters the growth of native plants and animals. The company recently worked with the Rotterdam Authority to build 16 tide pools on the Calandkanaal, turning them into miniature ecosystems. The Israeli company has also worked on projects in New York, Georgia, Florida, and London.

Five Hotels … super-luxury living

Five Hotels and Resorts, which includes Five Palm Jumeirah and Five Jumeirah Village, has been rewriting the rules of hospitality and is a culinary destination with a range of restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. Five has prioritised customer relationships, adopted sustainability measures, and expanded digital touch points.It has adopted sustainability measures, including preserving biodiversity with over half a million square feet of flora at Five Jumeirah Village. It has a record label and an upcoming recording studio to bring together a global audience of music enthusiasts.

Huspy … digital home buying

With the increasing demand for home ownership in the UAE, Huspy is digitalising the home-buying experience for the entire ecosystem: buyers, real estate agents, and mortgage brokers. Huspy uses technology to create a transactional platform that lets users participate in every stage of the home-buying process—from finding a property to financing it. Using technology and expert knowledge, it has built a transparent and easy-to-understand experience.

Masdar City … sustainable living

Abu Dhabi’s clean-tech cluster, business-free zone, residential neighbourhood and public green spaces – has emerged as a hub for research and development, offering quality life with the lowest possible environmental footprint, with established measurable goals in energy consumption, water usage, waste generation, social impact, and economic viability. The city’s tenants include the International Renewable Energy Agency, the UAE Space Agency, G42 Healthcare, Siemens, Honeywell, Advanced Technology Research Center, and the Mohamed Bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence.

Neom … the futuristic megacity

The $500 billion project seeks to create a huge economic zone, a 26,500-square-km (10,230-square-mile) high-tech development on the Red Sea, including industrial and logistics areas, and able to house 9 million people. “The Line” is envisioned as a 200-metre-wide series of “modules” for different urban uses sandwiched between two 500-metre-high, 170-km-long mirrored exterior facades that cut through a vast array of desert and mountains. There will be hanging pathways, gardens and even a stadium. Glow-in-the dark beaches. Billions of trees planted in a country dominated by the desert. Levitating trains. A fake moon. A car-free, carbon-free city built in a straight line over 100 miles long in the desert. That’s the vision.

Noon … connecting entrepreneurs

The online retailer launched a quick-commerce service in Dubai, Riyadh, and Cairo, delivering home and beauty products, toys and groceries to customers in as little as 15 minutes. The Mahali initiative by Noon has embraced local Emirati and Saudi micro-entrepreneurs, providing them with assistance and support to build their enterprises online. Its food delivery service, Noon Food, offers local food and beverage providers viable means to engage with their customers online at low commission rates along with their logistics and fulfilment network.

RedSea … desert agritech

RedSea uses its patented technology to grow fruits and vegetables in harsh desert climates, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the UAE, while reducing carbon, energy, and water footprint. It has developed salt, heat, and drought-tolerant crops and created solutions allowing them to grow. Using sunlight and saltwater as base resources, its innovative technology achieves savings of 300 litres of freshwater per kilo of produce, enabling greater production, improving food security, and reducing food miles in the MENA region.

Savola … sustainable foods

Egypt’s Nile Delta is one of the world’s most vulnerable areas to climate change and rising sea levels.With a population of over 100 million that already imports 60% of its food, any significant decline in agricultural output poses a major threat. Savola is one of the region’s largest food companies, now moving from commodities like cooking oil to develop added-value foods, but with sustainability as a key driver. One recent project was the development of Quinoa-based pasta, a much more environmentally-friendly ingredient, and more healthy too.

STC … daring with digital

STC has evolved from basic telecoms to advanced tech over 25 years, to become a world-class digital leader, built on “drive, devotion and dynamism”. 4 years ago STC recognised it needed to accelerate change in a tech-driven world, and put in place a bold plan to transform itself into a fully digital company incorporating all the elements of an ecosystem to serve the future. The strategy, called DARE, provided a new direction and pace of transformation. DARE stands for “Digitising STC, Accelerating performance, Reinventing experience, and Expanding in scale and scope of everything we do.”

How has SpaceX revolutionising its way to design, build and launch a rocket into space ? How does this technique also apply to Tesla?

In a recent interview at SpaceX’s Starbase, its development location at Boca Chica in Texas, Elon Musk described the process which he has evolved to work smarter in developing and launching anything.

In the Everyday Astronaut interview below he explains the five steps, and specifically the sequence, which he believes are essential to engineering something wholly new.

His approach of building ‘good enough’ is very aligned to Lean Startup and Minimum Viable Product, in fact he refers to a ‘Minimum Viable Rocket’ in the interview.

Here are the 5 steps:

Step 1. Clarify: Make the requirements less dumb.

“Make the requirements less dumb. The requirements are definitely dumb; it does not matter who gave them to you. It’s particularly dangerous when they come from an intelligent person, as you may not question them enough. Everyone’s wrong. No matter who you are, everyone is wrong some of the time. All designs are wrong, it’s just a matter of how wrong,” explains Musk.

Step 2. Simplify: Delete the part or process. 

“Try very hard to delete the part or process. If parts are not being added back into the design at least 10% of the time, [it means that] not enough parts are being deleted. The bias tends to be very strongly toward ‘let’s add this part or process step in case we need it’. Additionally, each required part and process must come from a name, not a department, as a department cannot be asked why a requirement exists, but a person can,” says Musk.

Step 3. Optimise: optimise the design. 

“Simplify and optimise the design. This is the most common error of a smart engineer — to optimize something that should simply not exist,” according to Musk. He, himself, has been a victim of implementing these steps out of order. He refers to a “mental straightjacket” that happens in traditional schools where you always have to answer the question regardless of whether the premise makes any sense at all.

Step 4. Accelerate: accelerate cycle time. 

“Accelerate cycle time. You’re moving too slowly, go faster! But don’t go faster until you’ve worked on the other three things first,” explains Musk. Here he uses another example of how these steps should occur in order. During a wrongheaded process you should simply stop, not accelerate. He says, “If you’re digging your grave, don’t dig it faster.”

Step 5. Automate. 

“The final step is: automate. An important part of this is to remove in-process testing after the problems have been diagnosed; if a product is reaching the end of a production line with a high acceptance rate, there is no need for in-process testing. I have personally made the mistake of going backwards on all five steps multiple times. In making Tesla’s Model 3, I literally automated, accelerated, simplified and then deleted,” says Musk.

You can watch the full Everyday Astronaut video here (the 5 steps are described in the 13.30 mins point), and you can find more here.

Change and transformation are big words, and too often misused.

I cringe when I hear companies implementing new email systems, or an efficiency drive, or a new database, or a rejigged organisation structure. And calling it transformation.

Yes it’s a change. Changes typically fix problems, improve things. But transformation is about creating the future. A different, better future.

Transformation is a journey. Typically bringing together many changes, with a purpose, a direction, a structure, that magnifies their impact. It’s significant, lasting, irreversible, and with big impact.

And don’t be fooled by the phrase digital transformation either. Too often this is misused by IT consultants to mean the automation of existing business models and process. That’s just digitisation. You need to do more.

Transformation typically unlocks significant new business opportunities (say, a 25-50% growth in new types of revenues), and it can take a long time. Sometimes it’s a 10 year journey.

Getting started

What motivates a business leader to embark on strategic business transformation?

Sometimes it’s a financial crisis, sometimes it’s the threat from a disruptive competitor, sometimes growth stagnates as markets mature or decline, sometimes it’s the opportunity to ride a new global megatrend, and sometimes it’s the result of proactive strategic planning.

To better understand the dynamics of why and how transformation happens, Innosight’s “Transformation 20” study evaluated the strategic change efforts of many companies, seeking to identify best practices across industries and geographies. The ranking is based on three factors: finding new growth (% of revenue beyond core), repositioning the core (giving the legacy business new life), financial growth (revenue, profit and economic value over the transformation).

Scott Anthony describes the essence of this kind of transformation: “What businesses are doing here is fundamentally changing in form or substance. A piece, if not the essence, of the old remains, but what emerges is clearly different in material ways. It is a liquid becoming a gas. Lead turning into gold. A caterpillar becoming a butterfly.”

Here are some examples of such transformations:

  • Adobe … transformed from product to service, from document software into digital experiences, marketing, commerce platforms and analytics
  • Amazon … transformed its own infrastructure into “Amazon Web Services” which enables other organisations to operate their online businesses.
  • DBS … transformed itself from a regional bank to a global digital platform, a “27,000-person start-up” and crowned “Best Bank in the World.”
  • Microsoft … transformed from a business model based primarily on selling product licenses (IP), to a cloud-based platform-as-a-service business.
  • Netflix … shifted from DVDs by mail into the leading streaming video content service and now a top original content provider.
  • Ping An … transformed itself from insurance into a cloud tech business providing fintech and AI-based medical imaging & diagnostics.
  • Tencent … transformed from social and gaming business to a platform embracing entertainment, autonomous vehicle, cloud computing, and finance.

Transformation is about significant, lasting, non-reversible change to the way in which the company operates and creates value, typically where at least 25% of total revenues comes from new business units or business models. It can take time, 10 years as demonstrated by Orsted, but also sets the business on a new course for a better future.

Whilst digital technologies are a significant enabler of transformation, companies should beware of the term “digital transformation” which is often used to describe the automation of business functions, seeking more efficiency and speed, or broader applications of technology. Similarly, “culture change” is not the same as business transformation. In both cases it is only transformative if it is accompanying by a more holistic reinvention of the business, including its strategy and business models, propositions and performance.

Pivot to a new space

The destination of any transformation might be quite different from how it was initially envisioned. Many projects, and even businesses, find that they reach a point where they need to significantly change direction, based on what they have learnt. This is a “pivot”, and has been a feature of many start-up journeys in recent years.

  • Instagram initially known as Burbn started out as an online discussion forum developed by Kevin Systrom whilst learning how to program, but now has 1 billion users simply sharing images.
  • Slack started as a game called Glitch, developed by Stewart Butterfield after he sold Flickr. The game didn’t take off, but its platform evolved to become Slack, a place for collaborative working.
  • Twitter was previously known as Odeo, a podcasting platform before podcasts took off. Jack Dorsey decided to shift to microblogging as he called, it, rebranding it as Twitter, and a leader in short posts and status updates.
  • YouTube originated as a dating site, encouraging people to upload videos of themselves. Few people embraced the concept, but when the site opened up to anyone who wanted to share a video, over 2 billion people signed up.

For larger organisation, they need to learn to pivot as part of their evolution, and as a sequence of transformations.

As they ride the “S curves” of market change, they accelerate as new ideas take off, but then slow as ideas mature. Eventually, without change, the old business declines, as the market moves in new directions, and a new S Curve takes off. The challenge of transformation is to ride the S Curves, jumping to the new curve whilst still thriving on the old curve, transforming before you need to.

Transform for today and tomorrow

How can you create the future, whilst at the same time deliver today?

Janus was a Roman god with two sets of eyes, one pair focused on what lay behind, the other on what lay ahead.

Change unlocks new opportunities to create new markets. It is the moment when a business typically needs to protect and improve its current activities, but also seize the opportunities of tomorrow, to explore and create new businesses.

Like Janus, business needs to be ambidextrous, to simultaneously think and work in the short and long-term. Short-term sales earn the cash, but also the permission, to create a better future. However, this is not a sequential challenge, nor a parallel challenge. The organisation shouldn’t delay tomorrow in order to win today or work separately on both.

The trick is to ensure that today leads to tomorrow, short-term actions lead to long-term progress. Too many leaders become obsessed by the short-term, and lose sight of the bigger goals. Of course, a heads-down focus on grinding out results looks good, often sub-servient to the perceived impatience of investment analysts. But this misses the point. Investors are most interested in future success, today is just a guide to it.

Dual Transformation

 Scott Anthony, in his book “Dual Transformation”, describes this shift as three components.

  • Transformation A: repositioning and improving the core business to maximise resilience (eg Adobe moving from packaged software to SaaS).
  • Transformation B: creating a new growth engine (eg Amazon adding cloud computing services, and streaming content on top of ecommerce).
  • Capabilities C: the best way to share assets and resources, brand and scale, and managing the interface between the core and the new.

Transformation A involves accepting changed circumstances, devising new metrics, and bringing in fresh talent experienced in emerging work environments. Transformation B requires understanding of future opportunities, changing consumers, and value patterns. This helps develop new business models through iterative experimentation and willingness to pivot. This may involve acquiring other companies and forging new partnerships, depending on expectations of impact periods.

Anthony likens the capability link to an airlock in a spaceship or submarine. This team includes savvy veterans and diplomatic managers, but the business leader will need to drive hard decisions on which core skills are relevant during transformation, and arbitrate during the inevitable arguments and turf wars. Tough calls will need to be made regarding speed of operation, pricing options, and assessing some of the inevitable failures along the way. Other challenges in dual transformation are balancing attention and assets, and protecting traditional income streams while also growing new sources in a slow and experimental manner.

 Shifting the core

As businesses evolve, their centre of gravity moves.

We see this in the evolution of IBM, which grew famous as the innovator of mainframe computers. As the market shifted, driven by technological evolution, from mainframe to desktop to laptop, IBM found many more competitors.

For some time it moved with the trend, developing its own desk and laptops, whilst also exploring new business areas, particularly in services like consulting. Eventually it recognised that its strength was no longer in making any type of computers, but in the advice it could offer, and shifted to become a consulting business at its core.

The shit in the core can be seen in three stages:

  • Focus on the core: clearly define your core business, strengthen it and seek to drive growth through it in existing and new markets
  • Beyond the core: extend into adjacent markets, that can leverage off the core like IBM into services, with their own revenue streams
  • Redefine the core: as markets evolve, the old core business may start to decline, before which is the time to shift to consolidate the new core

Whilst this shift might seem a fundamental transformation of the business, as we saw with Philips, it might simply be about following the same purpose, but interpreting how to deliver on that purpose in new and evolving ways. The shift might equally be represented by a more intangible asset, such as brand or capability, which can be deployed with partners in new industries, as in the shift of Ping An.

Strategic agility

The agile business wins by focusing on the future, by making change normal.

By embracing experimentation and adaption as part of normal business life, change becomes less daunting and invasive. Few strategies are set in stone, most organisational models are fluid, rules become principles, disruption is encouraged.

Traditional forms of stability, such as detailed strategy documents or job descriptions, are replaced by summaries that outline broader areas, define boundaries rather than details, and can be easily adapted over time.

The key attributes of strategic agility are to:

  • Focus on purpose, rather than strategy … try putting your strategy on one piece of paper, use the power of three ideas, embrace frames not details.
  • Focus on customers, rather than competitors … be driven by insight not by being a little difference, solving problems not being cheaper, growth not share.
  • Focus on opportunity, rather than capability … driven by future not your past, what you could do not did do, then find partners to help you do it.
  • Focus on people, rather than structures … think about people and personalities, not job titles and status, and the power of small teams to achieve more.
  • Focus on outcomes, rather than process … give people space to solve problems in creative ways, seek better outcomes not compliance.

The agile business is fluid, which can be disorientating but also liberating.

Agile organisations are complex adaptive systems. Distributed organisations, network-based ecosystems, empowered and self-managed teams, mean that whilst small parts might be clear, they don’t lead to an understanding of the whole. The benefits of the whole, are not achieved as before through standardisation and connectedness, but more through an interconnected web of many personal relationships and projects.

Organisations from Alibaba to Baidu, Haier to Supercell, Wikipedia to Al Qaeda, are examples of organisations who have defied the desire for structure, and instead exist as many moving parts, almost feeling chaotic. Indeed agile organisations are often said to operate “on the edge of chaos”.

More

“Leaders of business. This is your wake-up call. You’ve been living on borrowed time. Raping the natural world of its resources, and leaving a toxic mess in its place. These weather patterns are not freaks, they are the world you have created. Blinding the man on the street with your superficial innovations and image. What about the sweatshops, the emissions, the packaging, the greed? It doesn’t look good”  

That’s the opening paragraph of my book “People Planet Profit“, arguing that not only is climate change a global emergency, but also the best opportunity for business to drive smarter innovation and profitable growth.

Amidst all the distractions of economic crisis, global tensions, and uncertain futures, its not easy to focus on climate change.

But we all know the challenge. The scale of the emergency. The urgency for action.

  • While Earth’s climate has changed throughout its history, the current warming is happening at a rate not seen in the past 10,000 years.
  • According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “Since systematic scientific assessments began in the 1970s, the influence of human activity on the warming of the climate system has evolved from theory to established fact.”1
  • Scientific information taken from natural sources (such as ice cores, rocks, and tree rings) and from modern equipment (like satellites and instruments) all show the signs of a changing climate.
  • From global temperature rise to melting ice sheets, the evidence of a warming planet abounds.

Reducing carbon emissions is essential to help keep temperature rises within 1.5C. Going above this could cause “climate catastrophe”, according to UN scientists.

The UN’s latest assessment of these plans estimates that if all targets are met, global emissions will still increase by 10.6% by 2030 compared to 2010.

But the UN’s climate science body, the IPCC, has said they need to fall by 45% by 2030 to keep global temperature rise below 1.5C.

Mark Maslin in How To Save Our Planet focuses on facts, arguing that it is facts rather than scare stories that will really change people’s minds, drive focused actions, and save our world.

Here are some of his collated facts:

  • In the second half of the 18thcentury the Industrial Revolution occurred in one place – Britain. Within 50 years it had spread to the whole of Europe, North America and Japan. The Industrial Revolution led to the age of pollution – with waste materials being dumped into rivers, lakes, soil, oceans and the atmosphere.
  • In 1950 the global population was 2.5 billion. In 2020 the global population was 7.8 billion. A rise of over 5 billion in 70 years.
  • An average American now uses over 10,000 watts per day to power their cars, homes, offices and the rest of their lives, equivalent to running about 160 old-fashioned lightbulbs – compared to just 6 lightbulbs equivalent use by our hunter-gatherer ancestors.
  • We have added 2.2 trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. 25% of this extra ‘anthropogenic’ carbon dioxide has come from the USA. 22% from the EU. Less than 5% from Africa.
  • We have made enough concrete to cover the whole surface of the Earth in a layer 2 mm thick.
  • We have created over 170,000 synthetic mineral-like substances, such as all plastics, concrete, steel, ceramics and many artificial drugs. (There are approximately 5,000 ‘natural’ minerals).
  • There are 1.4 billion motor vehicles, 2 billion personal computers and more mobile phones than people on Earth.
  • We make over 300 million tonnes of plastic per year, equivalent in weight to 1 billion African elephants or every single person on Earth.
  • The current weight of all land mammals in the world is made up of 30% humans, 67% livestock and 35% wild animals. 10,000 years ago wild animals made up 99.95% of the weight.
  • We are not all equally liable for the mess we find ourselves in. The richest 10% of the world’s population emit 50% of carbon pollution into the atmosphere. The richest 50% of the world’s population emit 90% of carbon pollution into the atmosphere. The poorest 3.9 billion people have contributed just 10% of the carbon pollution in our atmosphere.
  • Poor people in developing countries can spend up to 80% of their income on food. Americans spend less than 10% of their income on food.
  • We produce enough food to feed 11 billion people. 825 million people do not have access to enough food.
  • The fossil fuel industry, political lobbyists, media moguls and individuals have spent the last 30 years sowing doubt about the reality of climate change – where none such doubt exists.
  • The world’s 5 largest publicly owned oil and gas companies spend approximately $200 million per year on lobbying to control, delay or block binding climate-motivated policy.
  • Currently the fossil fuel industry receives $5.2 trillion in subsidies. The largest subsidizers are China ($1.4 trillion), United States ($649 billion), Russia ($551 billion), European Union ($289 billion) and India ($209 billion).
  • Western countries have produced over half the extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, while India has produced just 3%.

So what can business do? Be ambitious (and agile) says Mailin –  be open and transparent, set emission reduction targets, focus on energy, apply the circular economy, encourage employee power, link into supply and value chains, change the whole conversation, influence governments, create a new wave of social and environmental entrepreneurs.

And as individuals? Talk about it. And start with ourselves – switch to a more vegetable-based diet, to a renewable energy supplier, make your home energy efficient, use cars less, stop flying, divest your pension from fossil fuels, divest your investments from fossil fuels, refuse/reject excessive consumption, reduce what you use, refuse as much as you can, recycle as much as you can; Use your consumer choice, protest and vote for a better world.

In his new book Speed & Scale, John Doerr, an engineer and venture capitalist brings together a plan based on how to limit further global warming of no more than 1.5°C. His 6 action areas are:

  • Electrify transportation: switch from gasoline and diesel engines to fleets of plug-in bikes, cars, trucks and buses. 6Gt
  • Decarbonize the grid: replace fossil fuels with solar, wind and other zero-emissions sources. 21 Gt
  • Fix food: restore carbon-rich topsoil, adopt better fertilization practices, motivate people to eat more proteins and less beef, and reduce food waste. 7 Gt
  • Protect nature: interventions for forests, soil and oceans. 7 Gt
  • Clean up industry: all manufacturing, particularly cement and steel, must sharply lower their carbon emissions. 8 Gt
  • Remove carbon: remove CO2 and store it for the long term, using natural and engineered solutions. 10 Gt

Doerr focuses on four areas that can accelerate the transition: Policy & politics, Movements, Innovation, and Investment. His plan is geared to the timelines of two other initiatives: E. O. Wilson’s Half-Earth challenge to commit 50% of the planet to nature (50×50) and the Campaign for Nature’s call to protect 30% of the planet by 2030 (30×30).

In Speed & Scale Doerr says what we’re doing is not nearly enough. “We need both the now and the new” he says, “there is a time when panic is the appropriate response, and it is now cheaper to save the earth than to ruin it.”

Big change needs big investment, he argues. Only 9% of the world’s plastic is recycled, while 75% of the world’s aluminium remains in use today – proof of the potential of the circular economy. Deforestation funding outpaces forest protection funding by a ratio of forty to one. Indigenous peoples are only 5% of the population while their land contains 80% of the world’s biodiversity.

Emissions by kilogram of food are highest for beef (beef herd – 59.6), lamb & mutton (24.5), cheese (21.2), beef (dairy herd – 21.1), dark chocolate (18.7), coffee (16.5), shrimps (farmed – 11.8), palm oil (7.6) and pig meat (7.2).

Rice has a score of 4 because the cultivation technique of flooding paddies creates an ideal environment for methane-producing microbes. Controlled, shallow flooding can reduce this by 90% – an important development since rice is a cornerstone food for 3 billion people and provides 20% of calories consumed in the world.

The real challenge, as I see it, is to embrace sustainability as our catalyst for innovation – sustainable innovation will become the most important way in which the world can address these huge challenges at scale – solving them in a way that also creates value for consumers, for citizens – but at the same time, the most significant driver of business growth – value for organisations, too. Impossible Foods, led by Pat Brown is one great example, of creating something better for consumers, and better for the world. Here are some more examples:

  • Eco-friendly Biofuel. Through sustainable innovation, companies can invent and offer novel products or services that directly contribute to achieving sustainability. For example, Bio-bean, a British startup, developed an eco-friendly biofuel made from coffee waste to help power London’s double-decker buses. Bio-bean also upcycles spent coffee grounds into eco-friendly products such as coffee logs and coffee pellets—alternatives to carbon-heavy fuels such as coal briquettes and imported wood logs. Bio-bean is using material previously considered waste, contributing to a circular economy while generating approximately $10 million (USD) in annual revenue in 2020.
  • Fairly-sourced Smartphones. Sustainable innovation is not only about inventing novel products or services. Firms can also innovate sustainably while offering existing products or services when they change their processes. Process changes can occur in many areas, e.g. design, production, marketing, and even HR. For example, Fairphone, a Dutch social enterprise, offers consumers fairly-sourced smartphones. Unlike bio-bean, which created novel products (ie logs and pellets made out of coffee waste), Fairphone products do not have any new technical features. Instead, Fairphone dramatically changed the smartphone production process to make it more responsible and sustainable. They use recycled and responsibly mined materials and provide their workers with fair wages and good labor conditions. Because approximately 80% of the emissions of a smartphone come from its production, Fairphone designs its phones to last. They have a modular design which makes repairs and upgrades easier, thereby significantly reducing e-waste.
  • Smog Vacuum Cleaner. Daan Roosegaarde is the mastermind behind the world’s first smog vacuum cleaner. The Smog Free Tower measures almost 23 feet high (7 meters) and sucks in polluted air, cleaning it through a process of ionization before releasing it again. At its peak performance, the tower cleans 30,000 m3 of air per hour.  Thanks to Roosegaarde’s design, you can even wear rings made from the compressed smog particles collected from the tower. By buying and wearing a Smog Free Ring, you’re contributing to over 10,700 square feet (1000 square meters) of clean air. The project has garnered a lot of attention since its inception, winning multiple awards. Recent tower campaigns have been launched in South Korea, China, the Netherlands, Mexico, and Poland.
  • Solar Glass. Solar glass could change the way we create homes and commercial buildings. Researchers at the University of Michigan are developing solar glass, a sustainable engineering project that has generated a lot of buzz in recent years. Just as the name implies, solar glass would be able to capture and store solar energy. According to the research team, 5 to 7 billion square meters of usable window space exists, enough to power a full 40% of US energy needs using solar glass.
  • Edible Cutlery. A green alternative to plastic cutlery, Bakey’s edible alternative comes in three different flavors—plain, savory, and sweet. They’re 100% natural and will biodegrade if not consumed.
  • Water Capture. Some innovations are the result of using nature as a design mentor (biomimicry), for example, recent advancements in fog catchers or netting systems in arid climates help communities capture water from the morning fog and were modeled on an understanding of how the texture on the Namibian Desert Beetle’s forewings captures moisture so efficiently. The Biomimicry Institute provides learning journals that can help designers create a strong foundation for further learning. They have also created an amazing website called “Ask Nature”.
  • Green Buildings. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or LEED® is an international symbol of sustainability excellence and green building leadership. LEED’s proven and holistic approach helps virtually all building types lower carbon emissions, conserve resources, and reduce operating costs by prioritizing sustainable practices. Canada is one of the top territories in the world for LEED certification. Did you know that buildings generate nearly 30% of all greenhouse gases, and 35% of landfill waste, while consuming up to 70% of municipal water?

From whirlpool turbines to edible cutlery, water blobs, and package-free shampoo and toothpaste, here’s are another 22 inventions that could help us cut back on plastic, reduce garbage in the sea, and make the Earth a better place:

10 great new books on sustainability

Since writing my bestselling book People Planet Profit on the opportunities of sustainable innovation, to find new ways to drive social and commercial progress, there has been an abundance of new books emerge.

Here are some more of the best new books exploring the challenges of sustainability, and opportunities for business, to deliver more meaningful, focuses and profitable impact:

The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability – Designing for Abundance

The Upcycle is William McDonough and Michael Braungart’s follow-up to Cradle to Cradle. “Now, drawing on the lessons gained from 10 years of putting the cradle-to-cradle concept into practice with businesses, governments, and ordinary people, William McDonough and Michael Braungart envision the next step in the solution to our ecological crisis: We don’t just reuse resources with greater effectiveness, we actually improve them as we use them. For McDonough and Braungart, the questions of resource scarcity and sustainability are questions of design. They envision beneficial designs of products, buildings, and business practices – and they show us these ideas being put to use around the world as everyday objects like chairs, cars, and factories are being reinvented not just to sustain life on the planet but to grow it.” Amazon

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and The Breakthroughs We Need

“Bill Gates has spent a decade investigating the causes and effects of climate change. With the help of experts in the fields of physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, political science, and finance, he has focused on what must be done in order to stop the planet’s slide to certain environmental disaster. In this book, he not only explains why we need to work toward net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases, but also details what we need to do to achieve this profoundly important goal.” Amazon

Net Positive: How Courageous Companies Thrive by Giving More Than They Take

Paul Polman and Andrew Winston’s great book is my favourite of the year. “The ex-Unilever CEO who increased his shareholders’ returns by 300% while ensuring the company ranked #1 in the world for sustainability for eleven years running has, for the first time, revealed how to do it. Teaming up with Andrew Winston, one of the world’s most authoritative voices on corporate sustainability, Paul Polman shows business leaders how to take on humanity’s greatest and most urgent challenges—climate change and inequality—and build a thriving business as a result.” Amazon

How Bad Are Bananas?: The Carbon Footprint of Everything

Adidas took the bold step to put a carbon footprint figure on the pair of every pair of its new Futurecraft running shoes. Mike Berners-Lee explore more. “Part green-lifestyle guide, part popular science, How Bad Are Bananas? is the first book to provide the information we need to make carbon-savvy purchases and informed lifestyle choices, and to build carbon considerations into our everyday thinking. It also helps put our decisions into perspective with entries for the big things (the World Cup, volcanic eruptions, and the Iraq war) as well as the small (email, ironing a shirt, a glass of beer). And it covers the range from birth (the carbon footprint of having a child) to death (the carbon impact of cremation). Packed full of surprises-a plastic bag has the smallest footprint of any item listed, while a block of cheese is bad news-the book continuously informs, delights, and engages the reader.” Amazon

The Responsibility Revolution: How the Next Generation of Business Will Win

“How to create a company that not only sustains, but surpasses-that moves beyond the imperative to be less bad and embrace an ethos to be all good. From the Inspired Protagonist and Chairman of Seventh Generation, the country’s leading brand of household products and a pioneering good company, comes a one-of-a-kind book for leaders, entrepreneurs, and change agents everywhere. The Responsibility Revolution reveals the smartest ways for companies to build a better future-and hold themselves accountable for the results. Thousands of companies have pledged to act responsibly; very few have proven that they know how. This book will guide them. The Responsibility Revolution presents fresh ideas and actionable strategies to commit your company to a genuine socially and environmentally responsible business and culture, one that not only competes but wins on values.” Amazon

Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist

Cities from Amsterdam to Berlin all now want to be doughnuts because of this book. “In Doughnut Economics, Kate Raworth sets out seven key ways to fundamentally reframe our understanding of what economics is and does. Along the way, she points out how we can break our addiction to growth; redesign money, finance, and business to be in service to people; and create economies that are regenerative and distributive by design. Named after the now-iconic “doughnut” image that Raworth first drew to depict a sweet spot of human prosperity (an image that appealed to the Occupy Movement, the United Nations, eco-activists, and business leaders alike), Doughnut Economics offers a radically new compass for guiding global development, government policy, and corporate strategy, and sets new standards for what economic success looks like.”  Amazon

Grow the Pie: How Great Companies Deliver Both Purpose and Profit

“What is a responsible business? Common wisdom is that it’s one that sacrifices profit for social outcomes. But while it’s crucial for companies to serve society, they also have a duty to generate profit for investors – savers, retirees, and pension funds. Based on the highest-quality evidence and real-life examples spanning industries and countries, Alex Edmans shows that it’s not an either-or choice – companies can create both profit and social value. The most successful companies don’t target profit directly, but are driven by purpose – the desire to serve a societal need and contribute to human betterment. The book explains how to embed purpose into practice so that it’s more than just a mission statement, and discusses the critical role of working collaboratively with a company’s investors, employees, and customers. Rigorous research also uncovers surprising results on how executive pay, shareholder activism, and share buybacks can be used for the common good.”  Amazon

The Truth About Green Business

“Everything you need to know to green your business and grow your profit. The truth about what climate change means for your business. The truth about running lean and green. The truth about future-proofing your business. Simply the best thinking. The truth and nothing but the truth. This book reveals 52 proven green strategies and bite-size, easy-to-use techniques that get results.”  Amazon

Rebuilding Earth: Designing Ecoconscious Habitats for Humans

“It is estimated that the earth’s population will expand to an unprecedented nine billion people over the next century. This explosion in population is predicted to place further stress on our environment, deplete our natural resources, and lead to increases in anxiety and depression due to overcrowding. In this visionary and uplifting book, Teresa Coady offers readers new hope. Rebuilding Earth is her blueprint for designing and building the cities, buildings, and homes of tomorrow, resulting in more conscious, sustainable, and humane living. Coady shows us how we can shift from an outdated Industrial-Age framework to a more humane, Digital-Age framework. This revolutionary approach will enable communities to harness various forms of green energy and reduce the amount of material needed to build infrastructure while contributing to a healthier planet (and society). We can then experience a new sense of purpose, health, and happiness. Meaningful and lasting change, the author tells us, can only come through designing interconnected communities that are vibrant, resilient, and communal. Unlike most predictions of doom and gloom, Coady presents a refreshingly optimistic view of humanity and its future. This book will appeal to those in the construction, design and development finance industries, as well as anyone interested in improving their lives through understanding the connections between the environment and health.”

Business and brands are the best platform for change

Here is my recent TED Talk, I describe some of my most recent ideas and insights for turning the challenge of sustainability into a profitable opportunity for business, and progress for our world:

 

More resources from Peter Fisk

More resources from others

Jeff Johnson was Nike’s first-ever full-time employee. His task back in 1966, having joined Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman in the start-up sportswear business, was to create the company’s first store in Santa Monica. As Knight says in his great book “Shoe Dog” the store became a “holy of holies” for runners.

Johnson loved books as much as he did running, and the shop’s shelves were packed with book he thought runners should read. He added photos of all the best runners, and memorabilia from events, alongside the early running shoes from Nike (actually made by Asics Tiger at the time, and imported from Japan). Johnson also kept card files about each of his customers, including their running history, aspirations and shoe sizes. He sent them Christmas cards and congratulatory  if they won a big race. Johnson became a source of knowledge and inspiration – for injury advice, for training plans, for future events – and the store became a Mecca for runners.

In 2002, a young German Tobi Lütke moved to Ottawa Canada to be with his girlfriend. His great love, however was snowboarding, and having failed to find a job he decided to open a local snowboarding store. Like Johnson, Lutke’s passion was the thrill of the sport and his store quickly became a place where snowboarders could hang out, share stories and experiences. However, with a background in coding, he saw how he could scale this idea in the digital world. Shopify was born as way to allow any small physical store to create an online version. But not just to sell products, to engage consumers in what they do, and love. Shopify has grown rapidly across the world during the pandemic. Replicating the power of physical engagement, digitally.

The pandemic has fundamentally disrupted the way people shop, for ever. Online retail has soared as physical shops and malls have closed. The future-focused retailers, and the brands who used to line their shelves, are now racing to win the battle for buyers, with the most important tool, their customers’ data. While most people look at the online giants like Amazon and Alibaba, online retail has grown into much something much more than transactional megamarts.

Take Glossier for example, Emily Weiss creating a consumer-to-consumer community and using the power of its fans to build a loved beauty brand. Take StockX, the online auction site for fashion, where fashionistas snap up the latest drops, then flip them within in minutes, reselling for a huge premium. Take StitchFix, a subscription based fashion retailer, that sends you a box of clothes each month, send back what you dont want, through which it learns what you really like. Take Pinduoduo, fusing social media and online retail, gamification and entertainment, to immerse people socially in a mall-like experience. Take Jio, the Indian super app, which is converging every sector to transform how Indian’s live. Take Epic, the gaming platform, which is embracing metaverse thinking to become a destination for any brand seeking to engage with GenZ, and branded stores like Gucci Garden.

And take Nike today, where almost 50% of all sales now happen online, direct to consumer, encouraged by brand membership, immersive sporting experiences and a vibrant active community.

The most successful retailers will be those that connect with consumers in new ways by leaning in on their digital, omnichannel, and in-store technology ambitions. But this is not “digital or physical” but a dynamic liquification of experiences, a fusion of human physical experiences enhanced and enabled by smart, intelligent tech.

Alibaba coined the phrase New Retail, as a vision for digital, social, realtime shopping. Livestream shopping on social media is rapidly disrupting traditional e-commerce in China. At the heart of this online craze are the top influencers who sell millions of dollars worth of products every night. Now there is over 500 million active livestream shoppers.

Here’s my recent keynote at the Austrian Retail Forum – exploring the changing world, across geographies and sectors, and understanding what they means for retail. I bring together insights and ideas from companies – including retailers – in every part of the world, to identify the big questions, the enduring trends, the new concepts, and the priorities for business leaders.

Contact me at peterfisk@peterfisk.com for retail keynotes, workshops – and for other sectors and topics too!

Pandemic lockdown was a catalyst to rethink why and how we work – how we work personally, how we contribute to teams, how we work for and as organisations and ecosystems.

Hybrid working, obviously – but also more flexible to fit with your life, more collaborative across geographic borders, more access to resources and new work tools like Miro, more multi-tasking, less commuting, more empowered, less formality, more deep work.

Remote working was not the answer. It brought frustrations – the lack of socialisation, of a team home, the intensity of being “always on”, the seeming lack of purpose and importance given of business given else was happening in the world, and then going back traditional organisations seemed too rigid and hierarchical, and “the great resignation” followed.

Now, as companies look beyond the pandemic, many are adapting to new hybrid models – hybrid in the sense of home and work, hybrid in the sense of employed and freelance, hybrid in the sense of work and lifestyle.

The future of work, however,  is a much bigger question – the search for meaning, the shift towards organic organisations, working in partnerships and ecosystems, rewards beyond money, portfolio working as a norm, finding new ways to engage young people, harnessing digital tools for efficiency, and humanity for imagination.

The disruption, and experiment, has allowed companies and individuals to reimagine how we work.

Work Recoded

“The future of work” was already a huge question before Covid ever hit. Digitally-enabled transformation of every market and organisation demands that business thinks, adds value and works in new ways. Fast and connected, automated or augmented, collaborative ecosystems and empowered teams, gig workers and multi careers, more flexible, more hybrid, more human.

Haier, the world leader in home appliances, is a ecosystem of 10,000 micro-enteprises, highly innovative and incentivised. Google did a huge study into what made teams effective, and transformed its ways of working as a result. Haufe, the German electronics engineer, has a bi-annual employee vote to agree the CEO. Dutch homecare organisation Buurtzorg empowers people to work how they judge best to achieve team goals.

The World Economic Forum’s Future of Work agenda, updated annually, creates a strong vision of a rapidly changing world of work, most significantly driven by the fourth industrial revolution, the challenge of technology, but also the imperative for human ingenuity. My new book Business Recoded builds on this, connecting it with other ideas such as Laloux’s reimagined organisations, Haier’s “rendanheyi” devolved structure, and Google Aristotle’s safe and extreme teaming:

  • Future-proofed organisations – simple, flat and agile structures – connecting people and partners
  • Align new technologies and skills – augmenting and enabling people to add more beyond process and machine
  • Work portfolios – everyone is a project worker, internally or gig-working, lifelong learning and evolving
  • Doing meaningful work – more purposeful, more responsible, more valued outcomes, particularly for GenZ
  • Human-centric leadership – organisations as platforms to enable people to achieve their potential

The pandemic’s disruption has accelerated this shift. Without choice, we all found ourselves experimenting with new environments, new tools, new ways of working.

Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends report for 2021 focuses on the shrift from surviving to thriving, both in the sense of surviving the pandemic and thriving as we emerge, but also a more general complacency in business, to choose stability over change.  It highlights 5 big trends:

  • Designing work for wellbeing (and the end of the work/life balance or separation)
  • Unleashing human potential (beyond skills, enabling new mindsets and freedoms)
  • Building superteams (power of teams, and using tech to augment the humanity)
  • Adaptive strategies (embracing uncertainty, to make better decisions, with agility)
  • Rearchitecting organisations (enterprise-wide mindset, more fluid, connected and human)

One of the most insightful analysis of what is happening comes from Microsoft, and while they clearly have a Teams-centred tech view of of the digital workspace, they are also an organisation of 166,000 people across the world. Over the last two years I have seen at first hand how they are rapidly embracing a new work style, physical and virtual, not just where, but why and how their people approach work.

Microsoft’s report (see below) has key messages including “leaders are out of touch … productivity masks exhaustion … GenZ most at risk … authenticity drives well-being … innovation in danger … talent is everywhere”.

Teal organisations, hybrid models, B corporations, extreme teams, psychological safety, meta jobs, soft skills, project centric, GenZ engagement, new work contracts, portfolio working, employee democracy, human-tech augmentation, and much more.

I call it “Work Recoded”:

Future Work

By 2025 the majority of workers will be freelance individuals working around the world, independent of distance or background. They will apply their human, emotional, and creative skills to solve ever-more complex problems. They have the hunger to keep learning throughout their lives, the agility to keep adapting and updating their skills, and the open-mindedness to see things differently.

Modern and high-tech working environments are enhanced by a community feeling with shared facilities and resources. Many of the workers are not even employed by the companies, instead they are happier to remain freelance “gig-workers” working on projects that require specialist inputs. New ideas, new skills, new innovations and new opportunities swirl around in the creative atmosphere, and new partnerships often emerge out of the fusion. This is the new world of work. No jobs for life. Few permanent roles. Fluid job descriptions. Multiple jobs at the same time. And companies working together.

Some of the jobs of the future will be highly technical, whilst others will be much more human. In exploring the jobs of the future, Ben Pring from Cognizant explores 4Es to consider the skills required:

  • Eternal skills: Some human skills have existed since our very beginning. No matter how brilliant our technologies become, these human skills, along with many others, will be of value through eternity.
  • Enduring skills: The ability to sell has always been important. Other such enduring abilities – being empathetic, trusting, helping, imagining, creating, striving – will always be needed. Such skills will be central to jobs of the future.
  • Emerging skills: New skills for the future relate to the complexity, density and speed of work. The skill to use a 315mb Excel spreadsheet, or to navigate a drone virtual cockpit. These will enhance our ability to utilise new machines.
  • Eroding skills: Many skills that used to be special are now normal, to manage a social media platform, to product a fantastic presentation, whilst others are redundant like photocopying or replaced like data entry.

However the World Economic Forum suggests that more jobs will be created than lost, 133 million created and 75 million lost over the 5 years to 2025, as we see a huge evolution in the workplace of what people do, as well as how they do it. Top emerging jobs will include:

  • Data analysts and scientists
  • AI and machine learning specialists
  • Software and application developers
  • Sales and marketing professionals
  • Digital transformations specialists

Beyond technology, data and AI, many new roles will also emerge in the broader aspects of engineering and sustainable development. The growth in elderly will drive a boom in care work, and many more creative roles will emerge through relentless innovation and more human pursuits, like sport and entertainment.

Completely new jobs in specific industries will emerge such as

  • Flying car developers
  • Virtual identity defenders
  • Tidewater architects
  • Smart home designers
  • Joy adjutants

Analysis by BCG in 2020 shoes that 95% of most at risk workers could find good quality, higher paid jobs, if they are prepared to make the transition. This shift also offers the opportunity to close the wage gap, with 74% of women and 53% of men likely to find higher paid roles.  It suggests that around 70% of those affected will need to make a significant shift in job, requiring a huge skills revolution.

At the same time, it is not just about refitting people for new jobs. The “dandelion principle”, embraced by organisations like SAP, starts by hiring great people with a diversity of backgrounds and skills to create a richer talent base. It then seeks to build jobs around people, rather than people around jobs, in a more symbiotic way.

More human, more creative, more female

As machines take on our more physical skills, the opportunity is for people to be liberated from the drudgery of repetitive tasks to add more human, creative and emotional value. Imagination will drive progress, whilst machines sustain efficiency.

Human skills matter not only within the workplace, but also in engaging with consumers. In a world of automated interfaces, brands will differentiate  on their ability to be more intuitive, empathic and caring. The roles of people, assistants in stores, nurses in hospitals, teachers in classrooms, will be to add-value with premium levels of service.

Creative skills are not only in demand in the areas of communication, marketing and innovation, but also in rethinking how organisations can better work, how business models can be transformed, and machines themselves deployed in better ways.

Typically these “softer” skills are what we could call more “female” attributes. Of course, that is to stereotype genders, but it certainly requires more empathy than apathy, intuition than evidence, influence than instruction, care than control. At the same time it requires men to adopt these behaviours too, and in general to embrace inequalities and diversity.

BCG’s 2020 research suggests that analytical and critical thinking skills will be crucial to the future of the work, alongside more emotional intelligence and social influence. Learning and creative capabilities will be the most significant growth areas for development in the coming years. They identified these priorities:

  • Analytical thinking and innovation
  • Active learning and learning strategies
  • Creativity, originality and initiative
  • Technology design and programming
  • Critical thinking and analysis
  • Complex problem-solving
  • Leadership and social influence
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Reasoning, problem-solving and ideation
  • Systems analysis and evaluation.

Meta skills, rather than technical or specialist skills which we may have trained for or focused on in the past, will become more significant. These are the more enduring skills which  allow us to evolve and adapt to relentless change. Sensemaking, learning to learn, coping with uncertainty and change.

Sometimes this will require us to unlearn first, to let go of old assumptions and prejudices, and open our minds to new possibilities and perspectives.

In “The 100 Year Life” Lynda Gratton recognises that as life expectancy moves beyond 100, most of us will work for longer, and transition more often, with around seven different phases in our career journeys – not just new jobs, but entirely new vocations.

Future Organisations

Qingdao is the home of Haier, the world’s leading home appliances business. Over the years, the company’s CEO Zhang Ruimin has become an innovator not only of washing machines and refrigerators, but of organisations and entrepreneurship too.

Once a devotee of the “six sigma” approach, Zhang has developed his own management ideology: rendanheyi. By dividing a company up into micro-enterprises on an open platform and dismantling the traditional “empire” management system, rendanheyi creates “zero distance” between employee and the needs of the customer.

At the heart of rendanheyi is the cultivation of entrepreneurship – by removing the costly level of middle management (Zhang famously eliminated the positions of 10,000 employees), you encourage innovation, flexibility and risk-taking.

The quantum mechanics of business

On meeting, we quickly found a common background, having both studied physics, and specifically quantum mechanics. I was curious about how he had embraced the ideas of physical science into his vision of how Haier should work as an organisation. We quickly got into a passionate, and somewhat technical discussion about atomic structure and wave theory. Whilst I’m not sure atomic physics would be many business people’s ideal topic, I was intrigued.

“When I first studied physics, I was amazed by the perpetual motion of subatomic particles. Electrons and protons coexist in a dynamic equilibrium, created by their equal and opposite charges. This sustains a continual existence, it enables atoms to come together in many different formats as molecules, each with their own unique properties, and within these atomic structures is huge amounts of energy”.

The application to business becomes clear, and also much of the founding ideas behind why and how he has developed his rendanheyi model of entrepreneurial businesses.

“Applying this idea from physics to business” he says “small teams of people with different backgrounds, skills, and ideas, can co-exist incredibly effectively. It is the ability to create small diverse teams where ideas and actions are equally dynamic, that enables a business to sustain over time. They become self-organising and mutually enabling. Ideas, innovation and implementation are continuous. And they can easily link with other teams, like atoms coming together as molecules, for collaborative projects and to create new solutions.”

As a result, he challenges the old supremacy of shareholders in the value equation, putting a premium on employees, and the value created by them and for them. However, at the same time, he recognises the need to empower employees to be more customer intimate. As a result, the rate of growth has risen from 8% to 30% in recent years.

 “People are not a means to an end, but an end in themselves. We took away all of our middle management. Now things are working much better. Zero signature, zero approval. Now we have only one supervisor, which is the customer.”

Haier’s evolution has been rapid and relentless, as Zhang has driven the company from an old refrigerator factory – where indiscipline and poor quality was so rife that he took to shock tactics, taking a sledge hammer to some of the products to demonstrate that such mediocrity was no longer acceptable – to a pioneer of digital tech.

In the 1990s, Haier focused on the Chinese market, building a portfolio of high-quality standardised products. The 2000s was about internationalisation, reaching across the world, and then adding more localisation and customisation. The 2010s have been all about digitalisation, embracing the power of automation and data, to the point where Haier is now one of the world’s leading producers of “smart” products, embedded with Internet of Things, IoT, and connected intelligently.

However, the implications are profound. Today, Haier is not motivated by seeking to create the best product. With a brand purpose that seeks to make people’s lives better, it looks beyond products to services, to how it can do more to help people live in their everyday lives, with a focus on the intelligent home.

“In a digital world of globalization, connectivity and personalization, there is no such thing as a perfect product. People will buy scenarios, or concepts, where the products might be free and act as enablers for services. Haier’s products embrace IoT to ensure that they connect with other devices, with other partners in our ecosystems, and with people and their homes. In the future, maybe the product will be free, and people will pay for services – from food delivery, to home entertainment, security or maintenance.”

Organisations as living organisms

The way we manage organisations seems increasingly out of date.

Most employees are disengaged. Too often work is associated with  dread and drudgery, rather than passion or purpose.

Leaders complain that their organisations are too slow, siloed and bureaucratic for today’s world. Behind the façade and bravado, many business leaders are deeply frustrated by the endless power games and politics of corporate life.

Frédéric Laloux offers an alternative. In his book “Reinventing Organizations” he uses the metaphor of an organisation as a living system, with radically streamlined structures that facilitate active involvement and self-management.

He envisions a new organisational model, which is self-managed, built around a “wholeness” approach to life and work, and guided by an “evolutionary purpose”.

Wholeness means that people strive to be themselves, rather than putting on a mask when they go to work. This, he argues can only be achieved when they let go of the idea of “work-life balance” which encourages a compromise. By aligning personal and organisational purpose and passions, you have less stress, and contribute more.

Evolutionary purpose means that meaning and direction of the business is not defined from above but drawn from what feels right amongst people. It might be articulated in a manifesto which defines the actions most admired, the new projects that receive the most interest. And it is constantly evolving, as both the culture inside, and world outside, evolve too.

Laloux describes humanity as evolving in stages. Inspired by the philosopher Ken Wilber, he describes five stages of human consciousness, with associated colours, and proposes that organizations evolve according to these same stages. They are:

  • Impulsive (red): Characterised by establishing and enforcing authority through power, eg mafia, street gangs. For business, this is reflected in the functional boundaries, and top down authority.
  • Conformist (amber): The group shapes its own beliefs and value. Self-discipline, shame and guilt, are used to enforce them, eg military, religion. For business this means replicable processes, and defined organizations.
  • Achievement (orange): The world is seen as a machine, seeking scientifically to predict, control and deliver, eg banking, MBA programs. For business this means Innovation, analytics and metrics, and accountability
  • Pluralistic (green): Characterised by a sense of inclusion, to treat all people as equal, more like a family, eg non-profits. For business this means a values-driven culture, empowerment and shared value.
  • Evolutionary (teal): The world is seen as neither fixed nor machine, but a place where everyone is called by an inner purpose to contribute, eg holocracy. For business this means self-management and wholeness.

Most organisations today are “orange”, still driven by analysis and metrics, driving profitability and growth. Examples of “green” organisations include Apple, Ben & Jerry’s, Starbucks. Examples of “teal” organisations might be Patagonia, Buurtzorg and Morning Star.

The end of hierarchy

What replaces the old hierarchies of organisations?

Henry Ford built his organisation for stability, efficiency and standardisation. Clearly defined processes and controls ensured that it worked like a machine, no space for deviance or change. Some decades later, Kaori Ishikawa went further to systemise the approach with total quality management, seen as the secret of Japan’s industrial success in the late 20th century. Efficiency was the goal, not creativity.

However, today’s world requires a different approach. Business needs to be fast and adaptive to a world of change. Technology has transformed the roles of people inside organisations, automating processes, adding intelligent systems, and digital interfaces. The value of organisations lies in its ideas, reputation and reach. Organisations embrace the connectedness of the outside world, technology enabling knowledge sharing, fast decision making, and collaborative working.

Flat organisations became fast and agile, putting customers at their heart. Yet this is all structural, and did not in itself create difference. In a world where businesses could essentially do anything, they have become more purposeful, and also more distinctive in their character and beliefs.

Expert teams don’t need the old controls. Empowered and enabled, they become more self-managing, and teams collectively work together towards a higher purpose and strategic framework that guides but doesn’t prescribe. As a result, the business develops a human-like consciousness. It resembles a complex adaptive system, where there is a wholeness built on multiple non-linear connections, combining progress with agility.

Buurtzorg, like Haier, is a great example of self-managing teams. The Dutch healthcare business provides home support to elderly people. It recognised that local teams, which acted largely autonomously had a much great commitment to their work, than if they were managed centrally using standard efficiency metrics.

Haufe Group is an innovative media and software business in Freiburg, in the heart of Germany’s Black Forest. As an organisation they have long put people first, sharing in the development of strategy, and the rewards of success. When it came to appointing a new CEO, the company realised that this couldn’t just be imposed on such a democratic structure, and so now holds elections to find who amongst peers will be the leader.

If, as Peter Drucker said, “the purpose of an organisation is to enable ordinary human beings to do extraordinary things” then organisations must evolve to make this possible.

Walk into the new Amazon Style fashion store in Santa Monica and you are guided by your smartphone through a truly personal, interactive, realtime shopping experience – as good as an online experience, better because it is 3 dimensional, human and sensory too. You’re guided to recommendations, can quickly try on design with your avatar, and one-click buy and ship home.

Sit down at home and dream of an interior by selecting the IKEA Place app, pointing the camera at your room then imagining what could be. Augmented reality, it might be, but a few clicks and you are quickly replacing your sofa with the latest Swedish design chic, adding wallpaper and lighting, cushions and curtains. Click to order wait to arrive.

Immerse yourself in the online gaming environment of Roblex, and you can browse in Gucci Garden, an entirely virtual format of Gucci’s store and museum, where you can buy digital handbags for your avatar, but real ones too (often cheaper), and deliver next day. You could head over to Nikeland for a virtual workout, but actually with physical friends, who you connected with in the gym.

Time for some entertainment, and you could find Justin Bieber‘s next gig is in the metaverse rather than a huge stadium. IN fact Fortnite, became the place for music stars to launch new albums, and put on concerts during the pandemic. And it continued afterwards. But if you want a real event, head to London’s ABBA Voyage concert, where you can dance the night away to four avatars on stage.

Liquifying the CX

Physical and digital is an old idea. This is not a choice, physical or digital. Today, they are the same thing.

“Liquid” experiences are more than “hybrid”, more than “omni”-channel, more than “phygital” (strange word!).

They flow seamlessly in their format between physical, sensory moments and digital, intelligent moments. They are neither one nor the other, but both. They combine the best of being human, with the enabling power of data and technologies.

In reality, this has always been the case. Even the most digital experiences, still require us to engage with it, at least in a Web1 or Web2 world. But we still liked to refer to solutions as either digital or physical. Think of retail, or banking, or entertainment. We have Netflix or a movie theatre, but imagine if both were part of one enhanced experience.

A liquid state, as any student physicist will tell you, is that state in between a solid and a gas. It has properties which are similar to both – it is visible, finite, bordered (like a solid) – but takes the shape of its container, transient in time (like a gas).

A liquid experience for customers is similarly constantly flowing and flexing in its character – sometimes real, human, tactile – sometimes virtual, yet highly intelligent, and automated – and sometimes both.

“Liquidity” challenges CX designers, and their brand owners, to rethink every type of experience, how they can harness the best of all formats, to create more human and enjoyable, yet virtual and convenient, solutions.

The reality is that we are ultimately human, physical beings. And therefore this is where most holistic value can be created. Digital is the ultimate enabler. The creative challenge is to better embed digital power within essentially human experiences.

Imagine how a “liquified” approach to CX design could transform your brand, and consumer’s experience?

Examples of Liquid CX

IKEA Place … using AR to imagine new physical possibilities with a simple app.

Amazon Style … the new physical fashion stores are fully digital.

Alibaba New Retail … a new vision for stores online, and in the high street.

Nikeland on Roblox … go online to get a physical workout

Moleskine Smart Writing System … fusing digital and physical notebooks.

ABBA Voyage … physical concert, dancing to the digital avatars.

Steve Aoki … creating art at the junction of physical and digital.

It’s not easy to understand corporate financials.

The traditional metrics tend to hide what is really going on – the different sources of revenue, particularly as brands diversify into many types of services to complement their products – and then how profits are actually derived, or not.

Here are some fabulous visually-engaging financial analysis by Bertrand Seguin, a 37 year old French investor, who spent 12 years at Japanese gaming company Bandai Namco explaining finance to his bosses. They utilise what is known as a Sankey diagram to illustrate revenue and cost flows in ways that spark interest and conversation.

In his newsletter, which you can sign up to, he goes further and interprets the latest financial reporting, forthcoming IPOs and much more, to help make sense of the underlying health of organisations.

Apple is a money machine, now more valuable, market cap $2.4 trillion, than the rest of the “FAANGs” (Meta, Alphabet, Amazon, and Netflix) together.

Microsoft‘s reinvention has been impressive in recent years, driven by the cloud. It’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard will continue the revolution.

Alphabet’s dominance of search advertising sustains its model, but needs to look beyond this to new business models as markets evolve.

Amazon generates huge revenues but little profits, but that is the sign of a relentless innovator, able to focus on the future.

Disney had a great pandemic, as its streaming services rapidly caught up with Netflix. It is no in the driving seat of convergent media again.

Shopify, Tobi Lutke’s digital retail business, has come a long way since his first snowboarding shop which was more focused on community than sales.

Meta is a business in a mess, having lost 60-70% of its value in the last 12 months, with rapid decline in Facebook activity and advertising, and  self-indulgent dreams of its founder.

Visa is the most valuable financial services company in the world, more valuable than any bank. Payment systems in general are driving the real innovation in finance.

These are just examples, from the most recent financial reports. Seguin continues to generate more, and also to add much deeper, interesting commentary in his regular reports. Here are a few more of his diagrams:

 



You’ll find much more similar analysis, and interpretation, on his website and in his newsletters.

Over the past one hundred years, the office has been integral to the development of modern society. It has shaped the architecture of our cities, the behaviour of our organisations, and the everyday movements of millions of people.

And then the global Covid-19 pandemic brought our attendance in the office to an abrupt halt and triggered a complete reevaluation of the purpose of the workplace. Is it the end of the office as we know it?

Many companies have only partially returned to their offices. Most are currently exploring hybrid-type models of 2-3 days a week together. Some, like Dropbox have defined themselves as virtual-first companies. Airbnb said you can work anywhere, for life.

Many offices have been scaled back. Some have reinvented themselves – gone are the hot desks and cubicles – instead it is a place designed for creativity and collaboration – meeting rooms, social spaces, creative studios.

In fact that’s the point. It’s not about where you work, its about why and how you work most effectively.

There is a more profound transformation than just home or work. It is about the role of organisations in society, the role of talent in organisations, how teams can be most effective, what attracts GenZ, and much more. Teal organisations emerge, Netflix pride themselves on a no-rules culture, Haufne elect their leaders annually, DBS calls itself a 26000 person start-up.

Here are some of the best sources to explore on future of working:

In the midst of all this, what is the future of the office?

Jeremy Myerson and Philip Ross are founders of Unwork, a consulting firm specialising in office design, or more broadly, work design. They are also founders of the WorkTech Academy.

They’ve just published a new book, “Unworking“.

Here’s why. “Right in the middle of the biggest transformation of work and workplace for a generation, our new book seeks to provide an essential guide to the future by exploring 10 key forces at play.”

“We’ve put our heads together to create a panoramic view of the workplace and a manifesto for ‘Unworking’, – unlearning old habits and rituals established for an outdated office and crafting and creating new ones fit for an age of digital technology, design innovation, and diverse workforces.

We explore how the working patterns and established principles of the office over the past 100 years are now being disrupted by new ideas. Our book aims to bring these new concepts and ways of thinking to life.”

The book will make you think back to the offices in episodes of Mad Men through to the hybrid revolution that is currently underway, with conversations on important topics such as the four-day week, remote work and diversity and inclusion.

How can your office help create a happier workforce? How could your workplace contribute to your team’s wellbeing?

By examining 10 forces of change that all business leaders should understand, Ross and Myerson encourage us to reflect on and rid ourselves of defunct habits and rituals established by an outdated office.

The result leaves you free to create new blueprints for an age of digital technology, design innovation and diverse workforces.