Business Recoded with MAPFRE

June 8, 2022 at Online with Headspring

Download a summary of Peter Fisk’s workshop Business Recoded

Incredible technologies and geopolitical shifts, complex markets and stagnating growth, demanding customers and disruptive entrepreneurs, environmental crisis and social distrust, unexpected shocks and uncertain futures.

“Business Recoded” is about making sense of today’s rapidly changing world, and understanding how to prepare for, and succeed, in tomorrow’s world.

We explore how businesses can survive and thrive, and move forwards to create a better future.

How to reimagine business, to reinvent markets, to reengage people. We consider what it means to combine profit with more purpose, intelligent technologies with creative people, radical innovation with sustainable impact.

We learn from the innovative strategies of incredible companies – Alibaba and Amazon, Biontech and BlackRock, Narayana and Netflix, Patagonia and PingAn, Spotify and Supercell, and many more. We also take a look at what this means for insurance, and some of the most innovative companies in the field


Part 1: Megatrends and Metaverses: How do you see the future?

We live in a time of incredible change. Dramatic, pervasive, and relentless. More change in the next 10 years than the last 250 years. Incredible technologies, expectant consumers, climate crisis, social distrust, and much more. How will you embrace the megatrends? Disruptive technologies, connected and intelligent; economic power shifts, 80% of the middle class in emerging markets; resource scarcity, where water is the biggest risk; demographic change, where markets are older, demanding and mobile; and rapid urbanisation, 33 of the 45 megacities in Asia.

  • Every market is shaken up, how pandemic accelerated the future
  • Asia to AI, GenZ and gene-editing, sustainability and the super-apps
  • What the 5 megatrends mean for me, turning challenge into opportunity
  • Customers around the world, and the new agendas and behaviours
  • Who were the winners in fast-changing markets?

Part 2: Creating a Better Future Business: What are the new codes of business?

The old codes of business don’t work anymore. The most innovative companies – from Amazon and Bytedance, to Coupang and Deepmind – succeed with new codes. So what are the new ideas to win in a fast and dynamic world of Asian renaissance, entrepreneurial supremacy, social conscience and smarter machines? What can you learn from Jio’s revolution of consumer experiences, DBS’s transformation of banking, or Vitality in insurance? How can you be inspired by courageous leaders like 23andMe’s Anne Wojcicki, Haier’s Zhang Ruimin and Citigroup’s Jane Fraser?

  • What can we learn the world’s most innovative companies right now
  • Finding purpose, driving moonshots, and starting from the future back
  • Exploring the radical innovations of companies like Orsted to PingAn
  • 10 types of innovation, business models to business transformation
  • 7 priorities for business leaders to be winners in 2022 and beyond

Introduction: Accelerating Change

We live in a time of great promise but also great uncertainty.

Markets are more crowded, competition is intense, customer aspirations are constantly fuelled by new innovations and dreams. Technology disrupts every industry, from banking to construction, entertainment to healthcare. It drives new possibilities and solutions, but also speed and complexity, uncertainty and fear.

As digital and physical worlds fuse to augment how we live and work, AI and robotics enhance but also challenge our capabilities, whilst ubiquitous supercomputing, genetic editing and self-driving cars take us further.

Technologies with the power to help us leap forwards in unimaginable ways. To transform business, to solve our big problems, to drive radical innovation, to accelerate growth and achieve progress socially and environmentally too.

We are likely to see more change in the next 10 years than the last 250 years.

  • Markets accelerate, 4 times faster than 20 years ago, based on the accelerating speed of innovation and diminishing lifecycles of products.
  • People are more capable, 825 times more connected than 20 years ago, with access to education, unlimited knowledge, tools to create anything.
  • Consumer attitudes change, 78% of young people choose brands that do good, they reject corporate jobs, and see the world with the lens of gamers.

However, change goes far beyond the technology.

Markets will transform, converge and evolve faster. From old town Ann Arbor to the rejuvenated Bilbao, today’s megacities like Chennai and the future Saudi tech city of Neom, economic power will continue to shift. China has risen to the top of the new global business order, whilst India and eventually Africa will follow.

Industrialisation challenges the natural equilibrium of our planet’s resources. Today’s climate crisis is the result of our progress, and our problem to solve. Globalisation challenges our old notions of nationhood and locality. Migration changes where we call home. Religious values compete with social values, economic priorities conflict with social priorities. Living standards improve but inequality grows.

Our current economic system is stretched to its limit. Global shocks, such as the global pandemic of 2020, exposes its fragility. We open our eyes to realise that we weren’t prepared for different futures, and that our drive for efficiency has left us unable to cope. Such crises will become more frequent, as change and disruption accelerate.

However, these shocks are more likely to accelerate change in business, rather than stifle it, to wake us up to the real impacts of our changing world – to the urgency of action, to the need to think and act more dramatically.

The old codes don’t work

Business is not fit for the future. Most organisations were designed for stable and predictable worlds, where the future evolves as planned, markets are definitive, and choices are clear.

The future isn’t like it used to be.

Dynamic markets are, by definition, turbulent. Whilst economic cycles have typically followed a pattern of peaks and troughs every 10-15 years, these will likely become more frequent.  Change is fast and exponential, uncertain and unpredictable, complex and ambiguous demanding new interpretation and imagination.

Yet too many business leaders hope that the strategies that made them successful in the past will continue to work in the future. They seek to keep stretching the old models in the hope that they will continue to see them through. Old business plans are tweaked each year, infrastructures are tested to breaking point, and people are asked to work harder.

In a way of dramatic, unpredictable change, this is not enough to survive, let alone thrive.

  • Growth is harder. Global GDP growth has declined by more than a third in the past decade. As the west stagnates, Asia grows, albeit more slowly.
  • Companies struggle, their average lifespan falling from 75 years in 1950 to 15 years today, 52% of the Fortune 500 in 2000 no longer exist in 2020.
  • Leaders are under pressure. 44% of today’s business leaders have held their position for at least 5 years, compared to 77% half a century ago.

Profit is no longer enough; people expect business to achieve more. Business cannot exist in isolation from the world around them, pursuing customers without care for the consequence. The old single-minded obsession with profits is too limiting. Business depends more than ever on its resources – people, communities, nature, partners – and will need to find a better way to embrace them.

Technology is no longer enough; innovation needs to be more human. Technology will automate and interpret reality, but it won’t empathise and imagine new futures. Ubiquitous technology-driven innovation quickly becomes commoditised, available from anywhere in the world, so we need to add value in new ways. The future is human, creative, and intuitive. People will matter more to business, not less.

Sustaining the environment is not enough. 200 years of industrialisation has stripped the planet of its ability to renew itself, and ultimately to sustain life. Business therefore needs to give back more than it takes. As inequality and distrust have grown in every society, traditional jobs are threatened by automation and stagnation, meaning that social issues will matter even more, both globally and locally.

The new DNA of business

As business leaders, our opportunity is to create a better business, one that is fit for the future, that can act in more innovative and responsible ways.

How can we harness the potential of this relentless and disruptive change, harness the talents of people and the possibilities of technology? How can business, with all its power and resources, be a platform for change, and a force for good?

We need to find new codes to succeed. We need to find new ways to work, to recognise business as a system that be virtuous, where less can be more, and growth can go beyond the old limits. This demands that we make new connections:

  • Profit + Purpose … to achieve more enlightened progress
  • Technology + Humanity … to achieve more human ingenuity
  • Innovation + Sustainability … to achieve more positive impact

We need to create a new framework for business, a better business – to reimagine why and redesign how we work, as well as reinvent what and refocus where we do business.

Imagine a future business that looks forwards not back, that rises up to shape the future on its own terms, making sense of change to find new possibilities, inspiring people with vision and optimism. Imagine a future that inspires progress, seeks new sources of growth, embraces networks and partners to go further, and enables people to achieve more.

Imagine too, a future business that creates new opportunity spaces, by connecting novel ideas and untapped needs, creatively responding to new customer agendas. Imagine a future business that disrupts the disruptors, where large companies have the vision and courage to reimagine themselves and compete as equals to fast and entrepreneurial start-ups.

Imagine a future business that embraces humanity, searches for better ideas, that fuse technology and people in more enlightened ways, to solve the big problems of society, and improve everyone’s lives. Imagine a future business that works collectively, self-organises to thrive without hierarchy, connects with partners in rich ecosystems, designs jobs around people, to do inspiring work.

Imagine also, a future business which is continually transforming, that thrives by learning better and faster, develops a rich portfolio of business ideas and innovations to sustain growth and progress. Imagine a future business that creates positive impact on the world, benefits all stakeholders with a circular model of value creation, that addresses negatives, and creates a net positive impact for society.

Creating a better business is an opportunity for every person who works inside or alongside it. It is not just a noble calling, to do something better for the world, but also a practical calling, a way to overcome the many limits of today, and attain future success for you and your business.You could call it the dawn of a new capitalism.

Background: More about Business Recoded

My book “Business Recoded” was published earlier this year, and over the last few months I’ve done some really thought-provoking interviews – at events, in newspapers, as podcasts, webinars, and much more.

From Argentina to Finland, Portugal, Turkey, and South Korea – from future megatrends and luxury brands to business transformation and courageous leadership):

  • In Seoul (with Maeil Business News, South Korea’s Financial Times) we explored how to recode business across the 7 shifts in much more detail (with a big focus on Future Recode and Innovation Recode, how it relates some of the great Korean innovators like Coupang and Samsung, and others across Asia), and how to be ambidextrous!
  • In Porto (at the QSP Summit, with 2500 participants) we explored the megatrends, and how Covid has accelerated new opportunities for innovation and growth – economic shifts, tech disruption, sustainability imperatives (and how companies like Haier, Maersk, and Microsoft are visioning).
  • In Buenos Aires (in Adlatina’s CMO Clinic, the largest marketing platform in Latin America) we talked about how the pandemic has shaken up every market, from energy to finance, retail and entertainment (and of a new generation of Latin American innovators like Mercado Libre, Nubank and Rappi).
  • In Istanbul (interviewed live on Bloomberg TV) we explored the fashion industry, and the crossroads it has reached between sustaining the old business models at rapidly declining markets, and rethinking fashion, in terms of product and process, channel and commercial (when TikTok meets StockX).
  • In Helsinki (at the eCom Next 2021 event with 2000 retail participants) we explored the future of retail, and in particular “the quantum store” or the hyper-blending of physical and digital assets into richer consumer-driven experiences. Nor physical or digital but human, not transactional or entertainment but both. Where Shopify gets Spotify-ed, if you like!

And then there have been some great direct conversations with other thought leaders, people who host their own regular webshows and podcasts – exploring what “Business Recoded” really means, how every market, every business, has been shaken up, and what will happen next:

  • Lancefield on the Line, is a great video and podcast series from strategist David Lancefield. You should watch every episode, but in this interview we talk about leading the future (see below)
  • The Speaker Show interview with Maria Franzoni started with Einstein and Picasso, and how I used their left and right-brain thinking to develop my “genius” series of books and activities.
  • Hack the Future is a brilliant podcast hosted by Terence Mauri. In this interview we talked a lot about courageous leadership, with insights from the 50 leaders featured in my new book.
  • Unknown Origins podcast interview with Roy Sharples who I know from working with Microsoft. We talk about creativity, design and innovation in the digital world.
  • Headspring’s Roundtable on the future of manufacturing was fascinating, from the smart factory of robotics to attracting GenZ to what they see as outdated industries.
  • Lux and Tech, interview with Carlo Pignataro, explores the changing meaning and business models of luxury businesses, and what business transformation really means.

How to “recode” your future

Here’s the full interview with David Lancefield which I particularly enjoyed:


Think of an inspirational leader. What impact does she or he have on you? What have they done that you think is extraordinary?

They’ve probably created a leap forward in the positioning, performance and profile of the organisation you’re in. They’ve been bold enough to look at a situation with new lenses. More from the customer perspective. Or as an outsider. Or imagined what a “fiercest competitor” might do.

They look for stimulus inside and outside of their organisation, listening carefully to new voices and those who are at the margins. And then they have the courage to take the leap forward. That means letting go of the past – activities, mindset, even people – and identifying the limiting assumptions you make about the business or the space you compete in. So what do you need to do to “recode yourself” to make this leap forward?

Here’s a fast track to different parts of the interview:

  • 0:00 : Start
  • 1:48 : His process for selecting inspirational leaders – and his top pick
  • 7:22 : Biggest obstacles that get in the way of leaders recoding their businesses.
  • 9:30 : The first step leaders can take to explore new possibilities
  • 13:38 : The most material shifts that deserve the attention of CEOs and Boards
  • 18:24 : What helps organisations and individuals make big leaps
  • 21:06 : How the CMO should evolve and relate to other C-suite roles
  • 24:53 : Why he’s intrigued by developments in Asia and South America.
  • 25:49 : How and what he has changed in the last 18 months
  • 30:40 : How he measures his impact.

As David says “In this series of interviews I want to get under the skin of topics relevant to leaders – developing strategy, pursuing growth opportunities, responding to disruption, evolving their culture. I talk to executives, entrepreneurs and management thinkers from all over the world. I challenge them to be clear, precise and simple in what they say! And I want them to leave us with ideas we can action.”

Now is the time to dare

Here are some more Q&A with Peter Fisk from interviews in various publications:

How do you see the business world right now? What should business leaders be thinking and doing as the world starts to move beyond the pandemic?

Now is the time to dare. Now is the time for leaders to have courage to reimagine their businesses. Now is the time to create the future of retail. Which is not just about digital technologies. Or social media. Or super speedy delivery. But fundamentally harnessing the power of the present to create a better future.

18 months of global health crisis has created a huge opportunity. Every market is being shaken up. In financial services, Visa and Paypal are more valuable than any bank. In automotive, Tesla outperforms Toyota despite selling 10 times less cars. In energy, carbon giants are displaced by Orsted and Schneider. Even in food and drink, Kweichow Moutai is twice as valuable as Coca Cola, or Unilever, or Diageo.

Of course, the pandemic has also been a difficult time, but like “wei-je” (the Chinese word for crisis) when translated means both danger and opportunity. 57% of Fortune 500 companies were created in a downturn, 90% of patents are filed in or just after a downturn. And many retailers describe how 10 years of transformation happened, in just a few months of lockdown.

My new book “Business Recoded” argues that the old codes of business don’t work. The maelstrom of change, driven by disruptive technologies, by economic power shifts, by new agendas like sustainability, and by consumer attitude change, have all been accelerated by Covid-19. We now need to reimagine, reinvent, recode our businesses for a better future.

What does “a better future” mean in this context? How have markets changed over the last two years and where are we headed?

Firstly, we are at the point now where every company is a digital business.

Take retail, for example. What’s important is to stop thinking of it in a separate way from physical formats. By that I don’t just mean omnichannel, but moving to a point where we create a truly “liquid” experience for customers, which embraces the best of physical and digital opportunities.

My expectation today as a consumer is that every retailer, however small or niche, will have a website. And from that website I can engage, ideally transactionally. But it’s more than that How can my mobile phone help me navigate the physical store? How can it become more personal by individual offers and advice? How can I buy online and collect or take back to store? Or buy instore, and get delivered to my home? None of this is rocket science, but is harder if we think in silos.

Look at the way in which Nike has transformed its distribution model over the last 24 months. The sportswear company has massively invested in its mobile platform – not just for incredible efficient and simple purchasing, but with a wide range of content to enjoy sport and engage audiences. VIP clubs, limited editions, celebrity events, dynamic pricing and relevant offers. But also its physical branded stores, which is equally a digitally-enabled, immersive-brand experience. Nike really is a direct-to-consumer brand today, and a great example of liquid retail.

I’m a big fan of Tobi Lutke, the German entrepreneur who followed his love of skiing to Canada. There, he created his own online snowboarding shop, but focused on what his consumers loved – the stories of snowboarding, not simply the products. This richer content engaged people more deeply, his brand became a community, and his physical store, a cult hangout for snow lovers.

Other retailers loved his online store so much that they wanted to create a similar brand experience. And so Tobi create Shopify, which is a cloud-based, subscription-based “e-commerce in a box” which provides everything from inventory and distribution, to payments and promotional tools. The smallest store in Finland can become a global business.

How has the global pandemic and these exceptional times influenced your thinking regarding your main topics of interest?

The pandemic has massively accelerated the application of digital technologies, for online transactions, and much more broadly in terms of brand building, supply chains, product and sales personalisation, inventory management, channel partners, local relevance, pricing models, and customer experience.

It’s also changing customer attitudes and behaviours forever. Banking, communication, entertainment, healthcare have all become digital-centric experience. But so has retail, and particularly in areas such as transport, hospitality, music, books, fashion and groceries. That’s not news.

But what is interesting, are the consequences. Social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest are now significant retailers – click on a photo shared by a friend, and you can buy the same item instantly. Gaming platforms, like Fortnite, have become the new spaces to engage young people in new ideas, product launches and brands – Travis Scott just launched his latest album, and “tour” on the gaming platform.

In Singapore, DBS, the leading bank pioneered a strategy to “make banking invisible” and to embed its financial services within every other industry that matters to customers – not just for payments, but to manage money better. At the same time, Grab, which is a taxi and grocery delivery business, introduced Grab Pay, which has become a leading financial business.

In India, Jio was a phone company launched by the country’s richest entrepreneur – Mukesh Ambani, whose main business was in petrochemicals. He launched the phone with free calls and text, and became market leader with 3 months. He also became the leading advertising platform, the ad revenues subsidising the free calls. He then started using the phone to build Jio apps for different services – food delivery, taxi hailing, entertainment, grocery retail, healthcare and financial services.

Jio, Grab – and similarly others around the world like Line, GoJek, Rappi and WeChat – are super apps, which ignore the old boundaries of business sectors. Instead they focus on the customer, and see the world through their eyes. Indeed, by extension, every type of business can be a retailer today – banks and phone companies, manufacturers and game companies.

You have a unique perspective on markets around the world – nobody knows them better. How else have markets changed? Both in terms of the use of technologies and in new markets around the world?

Covid-19 has had huge impact on markets. Most significantly is the shift to digital platforms in work and life, from working and learning, to shopping and entertaining. Many retailers say we have seen a decade of change in one year.

However this is not simply about developing an online platform, it is about fundamentally different business models, that embrace a wide range of technologies. Big data and AI enable consumer experiences to be more personal and predictive. Robotics and 3D printing are rapidly transforming supply chains and manufacturing. This transforms sectors like retail and finance, but also transport and mining.

A great example of this would be Rappi from Colombia – the accelerated growth of the online delivery service, which is rapidly becoming a source for everything – not just grocery or restaurant deliveries. Other “super-apps” across the world, like Grab or Jio, have shown that once they embrace a financial engine, they become essential for everything to everyone. Mercado Libre is now starting to follow this model too.

Other examples would include PingAn, China’s largest financial services company, which extended into healthcare. It’s Good Doctor business now has a billion subscribers, offering AI-based patient diagnostics, video-streamed consultations, automated prescriptions and services, linked to physical clinics and hospitals. It is now the world’s largest online healthcare platform.

Your early career was in marketing. How has marketing changed during your career, and what should marketing leaders be doing now?

Too many marketers are too obsessed about communications, and many are still stuck in the old world of advertising, being guided by their ad agencies to spend the majority of their budgets on old media.

The biggest disruption is in markets – (1) changing customers – new audiences, new priorities, new experiences – (2) changing sectors – blurred boundaries, new competitors, new business models – (3) changing geography – more pan-regional, reaching new geographies, new ecosystems.

The business, the CEO and executive team, need the CMO to be the pathfinder, to make sense of these fast-changing, uncertain and disrupted markets – to take the business in new directions, to drive innovation and growth.

CMO’s should most importantly champion the “growth plan” of the business, both short and longer-term. That doesn’t just mean how to engage existing customers in existing markets, but how to find new opportunities, to innovate in new ways.

The impact of a CMO being a “strategic growth leader” can change the market value of the company by 100% in a year (look at companies like NotCo in Chile, Nubank in Brazil, or more globally like Alibaba or Amazon, Tesla or Tencent).

The impact of a CMO being a “advertising guy” is probably 10% at most.

The CMO of Tesla doesn’t just focus on advertising cool cars, he is focused on how to develop the mobility network of the future – in a world where cars are autonomous, and nobody owns their own vehicle, people will subscribe to mobility operator networks. How is Tesla positioned to become the leader in this? In fact Tesla actually defines itself as an energy company, and is also focused on developing smart energy solutions for homes and cities. These are probably more valuable markets than cars!

What are the challenges of digital transformation, how are the most innovative companies tackling it, and how can it be done better?

The biggest challenge of “digital transformation” is the description – too many companies seek to digitalise their existing strategies and business models. They don’t reimagine why, where or how to do business, they just automate the old model.

The challenge if therefore “business transformation” and understanding how the new technologies can enable things which were not previously possible. For example, how a big data enables the largest companies to offer personalised products and services as efficiently as it is to create the same product for everyone. Or consider how brands can now sell direct to customers, no longer needing intermediaries, creating richer customer experiences. Or consider subscription models, or co-creation models, or licensing models.

Digital technologies gives us the opportunity to reimagine business in so many ways. Take the Canadian company Shopify, which creates complete “solutions” for the smallest local business to become a global player – to create their online store, but also to manage their global inventory and distribution, marketing and administration. More generally, how can you be the Adobe, the Glossier, the Netflix, the Paypal, the Stitchfix, the Stripe, the Zozo, of your industry?

This is a challenge of strategic imagination – the choices of what your business could do, are virtually unlimited today. We need the creative, market-driven mindset to explore and find the best opportunities, to make the case for change, and then engage and align the organisation in transformation towards a better future.

What are some of your favourite examples of companies that are seizing the opportunities of change, and disrupting markets around the world?

Now is the time for every business – and particularly every retailer – to reimagine their future. What matters, is to not be limited by where you come from – whether you are big or small, physical or digital – but by the vision which you have. And that vision should not just be to “sell lots of stuff”, but to make the world better in some way – to help people to do what they seek to do better, be that run faster or build a better home, care for the environment, and more equality in society.

Don’t be limited by technology thinking, don’t be intimidated by its language and complexity. Focus on the future, and how you can create a better future for customers. Start from the future back, and the outside in. Think in a liquid way, about the human experience you want to create and how that can be enhanced physically and digitally.

Who are my favourites? Around the world, I love the rise of these new generation businesses – like StockX where consumers bid for purchases in an auction, most often focused on limited edition sneakers. There are so many great examples, which I will talk about. Like Pinduoduo, one of the fastest growing retailers in the world right now, which transformed itself from an online retailer to be a social-gamified-shopping experience. Imagine walking along a mall with friends, sharing things which catch your eye, playing games to win discounts, live-streaming your experience to friends. Or Stitch Fix, developed by Katrina Lake, which sells fashion by monthly subscription, sending you a box of clothes each month, and using data analytics to rapidly learn which clothes you will like best.  Or Bookshop, developed by Andy Hunter from Canada, with a business model supporting small independent physical bookstores, providing an collaborative online local-to-global sales platform, and an antidote to the power of Amazon!

In Europe, I’m a big fan of Rapha, which started in the UK, as a brand of premium cycle wear, rapidly opening stores across the world called Cycle Clubs, with coffee shops, showers and bike stores. Or Germany’s Zalando which has gone beyond simple transactions to build better product brand experiences within its platform, and to engage with people on the big sustainability issues in areas such as fast fashion, packaging, and deliveries.

What should business leaders be focused on right now?

Markets are the major source of change – rapidly disrupted and transformed. Marketers understand markets best, and should therefore be the catalysts and drivers of business change. (In the past, when markets were stable, most change happened internally, more driven by operational or culture leaders).

Also, sustainability has become much more important to customers and society, generally. The old model of sustainability was about reducing impact, about compliance and efficiency, now it is about using business and brands to create products and services. It is about creating brands as platforms for good, to engage customers, in changing behaviours, and driving more positive impacts. How can you have your product or service, and make the world better at the same time. A bit like the Toms shoes model, but applied in a commercial way to every kind of business.

Business leaders are the drivers of growth and transformation, they are the executives who can make sense of the future, and find the path from today to tomorrow. Therefore their role is in

  • Inspiring leadership – sense making, vision shaping, growth finding, future defining, path finding, change driving, business connecting.
  • Strategic innovation – reimagining how markets work, new market models, new business models – as well as new experiences, products and services.
  • Positive impact – building brands as platforms for good, to enable customers to make a positive difference to their lives, their communities, and the world.

What is your big message, right now?

We live in an incredible time of opportunity – more change in the next 10 years than the last 250 years – harnessing the power of technology to transform markets and business models, embracing sustainability to innovate everything from logistics to packaging, using the power of data to personalise in mass markets, and much more.

Now is the time to dare, for business leaders to have the courage and creativity to reimagine the future of their retail businesses, and to use this moment – as we emerge from the pandemic – to accelerate a better business future.

Creating a better world

Here’s my TED Talk which links to my theme for this year’s European Business Forum:


Could you briefly tell us how the idea for your book ‘Business Recoded: Have the Courage to Create a Better Future for Yourself and Your Business’ originate? Was there a particular incident?

I started writing the book just as Covid-19 locked down the world. I was sitting at home, unable to travel, unable to work. Everyone was asking, what will happen next? For a long time we have talked about the ways in which business will change because of the rapid development of new technologies, the economic power shift west to east,  and the rise of social and environmental agendas. Now I could see they were happening faster than ever – accelerated by the pandemic. Business would not return as it used to be. There would be no going back to normal.

I started writing “There will be more change in the next 10 years, than the last 250 years”. That change has now been accelerated by Covid. Most businesses are not fit for the future. For too long business leaders have kept trying to extend the old models of success, with diminishing returns. We now need to think fundamentally differently. We need to think about new ways of working, new ways of competing, and new ways of measuring success. We need to “recode” business.

You illustrated seven shifts in the book. How did you come up with the seven shifts? Do business leaders need to go through all seven shifts to growing and creating better future for the companies?

I talked to 50 business leaders across the world. I particularly focused on those companies that are shaking up markets, exploring new possibilities, and creating the future. I wanted to understand what these companies were doing, how they were changing, and what they thought were the old codes – and new codes – of business success. Many of the companies are featured in the book.

The 7 shifts emerged out of categorizing the many different changes that are happening – and started with the highest level of “why” do companies exist. The shift was from the “old” mindset of achieving market share leadership and optimising profitability to shareholders, to a “new” mindset of achieving a higher purpose has positive impact for the world, and then understanding how all stakeholders can benefit. That doesn’t necessarily mean less profit, it could actually mean more. By doing more for society, by doing more for employees and customers, companies often find that they can be more profitable and valuable over the longer term.

The other shifts then followed, from old to new mindset:

  • Recode your future… from profit machine to enlightened progress
  • Recode your growth … from uncertain survival to futuristic growth
  • Recode your market … from marginal competition to market creating
  • Recode your innovation … From technology obsession to human ingenuity
  • Recode your organisation … From passive hierarchies to dynamic ecosystems
  • Recode your transformation … From incremental change to sustained transformation
  • Recode your leadership … From good managers to extraordinary leaders

Together these 7 shifts begin to shape a better future for your business, delivered through the 49 codes. The 49 codes make up the chapters of the book, each with specific examples, and practical tools and approaches for change.

The first shift is “recode your future.” What are the specific ways business leaders can realize what their companies’ future potential is?

 Most companies are limited in their future potential, because of the way in which they look ahead. They look through the narrow lens of their current business – their current sector, their current business models, their current audiences. Indeed most companies view their strategies for growth, by doing more of the same – faster, cheaper, better.

Look at a company like Hyundai. It largely sees the future through the lens of vehicle production. However it is slowly waking up to the reality of a future where cars will be electric and self-driven, where people will not own cars but rent them, where mobility solutions will converge, and we will see cars like local, personalised trains, available on demand. Who will succeed in this future? Probably the mobility network providers who we most trust to provide an efficient integrated service of travel.

Therefore companies can increase their “future potential” by changing their perspective. By jumping to the future, then working backwards. By seeing the world from a customer’s perspective, not dominated by existing products. By “reframing” their marketspace, in a new or bigger way. Hyundai are not a car company, but a mobility company. Samsung is not an electronics company, but an entertainment company. Now where are the best opportunities for the future?

Once leaders realize their company’s future potential, what are the practical steps they can take to achieving the potential and bringing out performance(positive financial results)? If there is an example of a business leader that took the steps, could you share the story?

Lei Jun is the founder of Chinese electronics company Xiaomi. He initially sought to be a business that competed with Apple and Samsung – making phones and tablets for the Chinese market. By changing his perspective he realised that content was far more important than hardware. He realised that people maybe buy one device every two years, but they buy and use content every day. Content in many forms – news, entertainment, gaming, social media, retail etc. Now Lei Jun is one of the largest investors in the movie industry, with a particular focus on creating Chinese entertainment for his local consumers.

The second shift is “recode your growth.” One of the ways to doing so is to ride with the megatrends. Of the five megatrends you pointed out in the book, which do you think business leaders should be the most alert of in the current crisis? Has the COVID-19 crisis brought out new megatrends as well?

 These 5 megatrends are still the most significant pathways to the future, and a useful checklist for any business leader exploring their future strategy.

All five megatrends have been accelerated by Covid-19. The shift from young to old, particularly in providing healthcare. The shift from west to east, particularly in the rise of Asian businesses like Alibaba and PingAn. The shift from towns to cities, particularly in emerging markets in search of jobs and support.

However most significant have been the huge acceleration in shift to technologies – the digitalization of our lives, from education to work, from retail to entertainment. Many online retailers say they saw 10 years of change in 3 months. However this has not just been in shopping online, but also the convergence of shopping and entertainment. Look at Sea in Singapore, or Pinduoduo in China, the gamification and socialization of retail.

The other shift, towards a huge awareness of the fragility of our planet and society, has also been hugely increased by Covid-19. We have seen the impacts of extreme weather on the environment, but we have also seen the impacts of pandemic on society. Inequality of wealth, inequality of access to services. This is why we have seen such as growth in interest in companies having a greater purpose, and stakeholder capitalism.

One of the megatrends is the fast growth of Asia. In the book you mentioned that “The E7 will be larger than the G7 by 2030 and double their size by 2050). For clarification, do you mean that the GDP of E7 countries in total will double the amount that of G7 by 2050? If yes, what will be the drivers of the growth? Also, could you share the source for this data?

This was initially discussed by the World Economic Forum back in 2010. And yes, we are rapidly seeing a new world order, with the E7 growing far faster than the old G7. The general principle still holds true, although the definition of E7 – or the top emerging nations – has changed a little, for example Brazil becoming less successful.

The drivers of this growth? Population is one – predominantly in emerging markets. And in broad terms, the rise in personal incomes and living standards. As education has improved, so has business success – better standards of production, innovation and growth. The best ideas in business now largely come from emerging markets, not the developed markets. The G7 is largely stagnant, fading giants, trying to work out what to do next. The E7 are ambitious and energized, the new giants, plating a new game.

Next comes ‘recode your market.’ As you mentioned in the book, the terms market and industry has been overlapped. How do you define ‘market’? When you say ‘recode your market,’ what do you exactly mean?

Markets are blurring incredibly rapidly – the old boundaries and definitions of sectors are increasingly redundant, and many – perhaps most – companies now work in multiple sectors, and their solutions are combinations of multiple products and services.

I love the story of PingAn, which is the world’s second largest insurance company. They have a huge technological platform, and customer base of billions of people in China. How could they grow? Well by thinking outside of their old “market” definition. Jessica Tan tells how as COO, she developed PingAn’s new healthcare business, and now Good Doctor is the world’s largest healthcare platform offering online and physical services to over one billion consumers.

The best examples are probably the “Super-apps” that have emerged across the world, as online single-point to reach many different services – companies like WeChat from China, Jio in India, Grab in Singapore, GoJek in Malaysia, Line in Japan, Rappi in Colombia. Most either started as messaging platforms, taxi services, or online retail delivery services. Now they are also platforms for gaming, movies, healthcare, and most significantly financial services. Once they have a payments engine, or bank, they can become the core of almost every type of transaction you make. What sector are they in? Everything!

One of the ways business leaders can recode the market is by setting the market space. You argue that ‘a customer-centric mindset is the best way to setting market space.’ Could you elaborate on this? Also, how can business leaders change their mindset to a customer-centric mindset?

You can define your market any way you want, there are no rules, or limits!

Both in terms of what type of business you are in – transport can easily become mobility – and equally geographically. Increasingly, there are more commonalities between consumers across nations, than within a nation. Young people have more similarities with other young people in other countries, than with old people in their same country. Therefore why think in treating each geographical country differently, when you could develop different propositions by multi-national segments.

Taking a customer-centric mindset to define your marketspace is one of the most useful ways to reframe your market.

Take a pharmaceutical company – you could equally call it a healthcare company, which would give you the additional space to offer non-drug type of products and services, or you could even call it a “wellbeing” company, which would give you even more space to innovate and serve customers in areas such as nutrition and fitness. A drug company could become a sports company!

Or think about insurance. Most people inside insurance companies are obsessed about financials, about risks. When I take out car insurance, I actually want peace of mind, to enjoy driving. Therefore insurance companies, like Sompo in Japan for example, are no focusing on developing car driving services that enhance the driving experience. If these can also reduce the risk – for example, by encouraging safer driving – then they can directly benefit the core business, while also adding new revenue streams.

The fourth shift is ‘recode your innovation.’ Innovation starts with questions. In the book you explained Professor Hal Gregersen’s ‘Question Burst.’ Do you know any company that has implemented the ‘Question Burst’ method in its quest to recoding innovation?

I have worked with Microsoft over the last few years, helping them to strategically and culturally change their approach to the market. In the most simple terms this has involved a shift from product-thinking to customer-thinking.  In the past they were an organisation of salespeople selling billions of software licenses – Windows 365 to individuals, cloud computing to corporations.

Now, to grow further, and to add more value to their customers, they are focusing on understanding and solving customers problems. How can the software help their customers to do more? How can the Windows user be more effective at what they do? How can a small company in a small town become a global player, with the help of a cloud-based digital platform? The focus on problems, and exploring what the real problem is, is key to this.

Perhaps the most common ways companies recode their innovation is by developing new business models. Is there any new business model that you have recently learned about that impressed you?

The super-apps!

Do you think remote work will continue to grow? If yes, how can business leaders recode their organization as remote work expands? How can teamwork be created in the remote work environment?

Yes. But not in isolation from the real world. We will see almost every company moving to some form of hybrid working model. I actually prefer to call this a liquid model, because people will learn to move more fluidly between physical and digital modes. The same in education, the same in retail, the same in healthcare, etc.

Many organisations across the world have already stated that for many employees, they will continue to work 2-3 days/week at home. But this is more than home/office thinking. It is also about a more flexible, personalised lifestyle – something which young people particularly want. It will also drive a change in work contracts – we will see more flexible contracts, less permanent employees, more part-time, or short contract workers, maybe working for many companies at the same time.

Similarly, teamwork is not simply about being in the same place, or managers have sight of their people. In many cases, during Covid-19, team effectiveness actually increased, by people in different places – functions, or countries, or even companies – being able to easily join online meetings or workshops, and be involved in projects quickly and easily. Once we get used to the technology, and the ways of staying in touch socially too, then remote working will be an extremely positive force. But we are still human, and there are also times when it is better – and good for us – to be together physically!

When of the big areas I explore in the book is the rise of “extreme teaming”. This is largely about building teams that are more diverse, and more self-managed. Bringing together different types of people – age, gender, experience, attitude – drives greater creativity in teams. But also letting those teams have the power to define their roles, to manage their own progress, gives ownership and improved performance. Google and Netflix are great examples of this, as is Haier with its “rendanheyi” organisation model.

For companies to recode their transformations, ‘pivoting’ is essential. How can business leaders know how to pivot the business and when is the right time to doing so?

Innovation is a constant in business today, and so is transformation. Companies are constantly evolving. They therefore need to become much more “ambidexterous” – the ability to deliver for today, and create tomorrow, at the same time. One practical strategic way to do this is to develop a dual portfolio approach – a portfolio of innovations and businesses which will succeed in today’s world (to meet the needs of current customers, outperform current competitors, and generate profitability over 1-3 years), and also a portfolio to succeed in tomorrow’s world (future customers, competitors).

By working with two portfolios, business leaders can increasingly shift from today to tomorrow’s world. The “pivot” if you like, is the moment when the core business shifts from the old to the new. Take the earlier example of Hyundai, the today portfolio is about manufacturing better cars, the tomorrow portfolio about future mobility networks. The pivot comes when the core of Hyundai is no longer a car maker, but a mobility operator. Leaders need to judge when is the right time to make that shift.

Lastly comes “recode your leadership.” One of the ways to recode one’s leadership is to developing one’s own leadership style. What are the basic steps leaders take to developing their own leadership style?

I did a huge research study with IE Business School in preparation for writing the book about what are the changing characteristics of the most effective business leaders. I call this the new leadership DNA – and in particular it defines the critical role of leaders in creating better futures, making change happen, and delivering positive impact.

However there are many ways to be a leader. It is certainly not about standing at the top of the building and shouting commands! When we look at many of the leaders in the book – Anne Wojcicji at 23andMe or Jeff Bezos at Amazon, Piyush Gupta at DBS or Zhang Ruimin at Haier – they are all different. Yes they have incredible vision, they bring together great teams, they are problem solvers, and they have enormous courage to step up and make the future happen – but they are all different.

The biggest challenge in developing yourself as a business leader is in being authentic. And finding ways in which you can make your personal strengths work for you, and for others. There is no simple or single leadership model to follow. And indeed, leaders will need to behave in different ways at different moments. This is a real skill. But the leaders who can do this in an authentic way, will be more trusted by others, and will be more effective in themselves.

The book was written before the Covid-19 pandemic began. Apart from the 7 shifts you illustrated in the book, are there any additional shift that should be included in order for business leaders to creating and delivering a better future amidst the current crisis?

The biggest shift now is to create a better future. As every company emerges from Covid-19, it is not about getting back to normal, but about imagining better. Now is the moment when business leaders need the imagination and courage to step up, to think different, and to accelerate the changes that are necessary and possible.

What is the most important insight you want readers to take away from ‘Business Recoded: Have the Courage to Create a Better Future for Yourself and Your Business’?

The pandemic has given us this unique opportunity to hit the “reset” button. It has given us a reason to let go of many of the old ways of doing business, and it has demonstrated why new ways are urgently needed. Now is the moment when investors, employees and customers, are seeking and supporting leaders who are brave and bold. Now is the time to have the courage to step up, to create a better future.

Inspired by Einstein and Picasso

Here is the interview with Maria Franzoni for The Speaker Show:


You have a very interesting professional background, with many different projects and experiences around the world. Can you tell us a bit about your journey and your professional experience?

My journey started in a physics lab under the Swiss mountains, pouring liquid nitrogen into a test tube of materials, and then watching what happens for a week. I was studying for a PhD in superconductivity. It was fascinating, intellectually, to understand how the natural world exists, but also boring.

I decided to work in business, with people, with brands, and within 5 years I was managing the Concorde brand for British Airways. In marketing, people always gave me the analysis to do, which was fine but I preferred the creative stuff. Years later I wrote a book called Marketing Genius, all about combining your left and right brain, analysis and creativity, or being the Einstein and Picasso of today’s business world.

After that I worked for 10 years in management consulting, which is a fantastic way to work with many different companies on their most important projects. I worked on every continent, and almost every sector. It’s also a great way to build your personal toolkit, far better than an MBA to be honest, and learning to connect all the business disciplines.

I then co-founder a digital start-up, which exploring the future of business education, which led to becoming the CEO of a 500 person company, which is actually the world’s largest network of marketers. This really allowed me to talk about business, about the future, to a much wider audience.

That’s when I started writing books – and have now written 9 titles – “Marketing Genius” was translated into 35 languages. My other books explore the renaissance creativity of Leonardo da Vinci, in “Creative Genius”, how to innovate with purpose for positive impact, in “People Planet Profit”, and learning from the world’s most innovative companies, in “Gamechangers”.

And most recently I wrote “Business Recoded” which is all about having the courage to create a better future – for yourself, and your business.

Today I lead my own business, GeniusWorks, an innovative business accelerator, based in London. We do lots of interesting consulting projects, mainly working with business leaders and their exec teams on developing more innovative strategies for the future. This is really exciting, and I get to work on some amazing projects.

I am also a Professor of leadership, strategy and innovation at IE Business School in Madrid, where I am the academic director responsible for executive programs. I’m also a visiting professor at business schools in Cambridge, Singapore and Zurich. Teaching the next generation of business leaders is particularly rewarding, and exciting, particularly in such a fast changing world.

You work with large companies, helping them grow and develop innovative strategies. What does this process consist of and with which brands have you been working?

 I’ve got over 30 years of practical business experience, working with over 300 companies and 55 countries … from Adidas’ growth into new markets to Asahi’s consumer-centric innovation, Cartier’s redefined luxury and Coca Cola’s growth strategy, McKinsey’s leadership development to Microsoft’s new approach to strategic innovation, P&G’s direct to consumer strategy and Pfizer’s future scanning, Santander’s future bank vision and Sompo’s digitally-minded leaders, Takeda’s patient-centric healthcare and Tata’s growth as a global business.

I use a proprietary methodology, Innolab.

InnoLab is an approach to accelerated innovation – bringing together insights and ideas, creativity and design, development and commercialisation.

The approach has three phases which bring together many established, and some new, processes and activities for accelerating your ideas into practical action. Much of it can be done in-house, bringing together the right teams and disciplines from across your business, but it works best with a little added structure, facilitation and stimulus.

The approach has been developed through 20 years of practical experience – managing and facilitating problem-solving and innovation – in every type of category, organisation and culture. The detail is described in my new book “Creative Genius: Innovation from the Future Back”. The process is customised to the particular challenge, but there are typically three phases

  • The Ideas Factory: Customer insights, future possibilities, and creative ideas
  • The Design Studio: Shaping and connecting ideas, hypothesise and concepts
  • The Impact Zone: Evaluating, developing and commercialising the best ideas

As an example, Philosophy is an inspiring cosmetics brand from Phoenix, Arizona, that has developed a cult following for its distinctive products such as “Hope in a Jar”. Recently acquired by Coty of France, the brand team wanted to rethink the brand for global growth. We developed a fast, high-energy series of workshops in New York brought the global team together to develop a new core proposition, growth platforms with focus on Asian markets. This included the development of a new brand strategy, core brand proposition, and how to combine the serious skincare products with fun bath range. It explored new opportunities such as how to leverage its deep community of users, for example through brand experiences and gifting, and prioritised horizons plan for extensions into new markets. It included a roll-out of new concept stores in Singapore and South Korea.

Another example is with Visa, which wanted to make more of its role as a global sponsor of the Olympic Games, to go beyond the conventional support of advertising and client hospitality. We explored the potential alignment with brand and business strategy, to understand how such a huge investment could be used more significantly. The team defined an ambition to make the Olympics a cashless games as a showcase of Visa’s new contactless and mobile payment technologies, bringing together its multiple new technologies to demonstrate how life really can flow faster, on and off the track.

How did you come up with the idea of founding GeniusWorks and what does the company consist of?

GeniusWorks is really built on my passion for strategic problem solving – to help business leaders to think differently, to have the courage to develop bolder and braver ideas, and to use their businesses as platforms to create a better world.

Sometimes, it is about strategic consulting. Sometimes it is an innovative project, like launching a new brand and developing a new product. Sometimes it is about creating inspiring events that engage people in new ways. Sometimes it is a keynote speech to contribute to highlight a conference, or to provoke and energise an internal team.

What I also think makes GeniusWorks special, is that we seek to curate ideas and insights from all around the world – in particular from emerging markets. In the west, we still underestimate how advanced the markets, and the companies, of Asia are today. We can learn so much from companies like Alibaba and Haier in China, DBS and Grab in Singapore, Jio and Narayana in India.

I also seek to be a curator of the best new concepts in business – every business school academic, every new business book, every interesting business report – I seek to bring them together, to highlight was is new and important, and to share them widely. Actually, a key thing is to connect them – so, for example, how do you connect Design Thinking with Blue Ocean Strategy with Business Model Innovation with Adaptive Leadership. And on.

What interests you outside your professional work and why?

My passion is running. I have run almost every day since I was 10 years old. I was inspired by the challenge of testing myself to run further and faster, but also by the love of feeling fit and healthy, and to run through the countryside or cities of the world and see everything at high speed.

I was inspired by the world’s great athletes, but also be legendary feats of endurance, like the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico who are able to run hundreds of miles everyday. Today I can’t run quite as fast for the mile or marathon as I could in my youth. But I still love the freedom, the friendships and the feeling of wellness and achievement by starting each day with a run.

You are a global business leader, best-selling author, professor and academic director. How do you manage all these roles? Is there any secret?

Passion. Curiosity. Relationships. Hard work. And trying to focus on where I can make the biggest difference. It’s a lot of fun too!

And what are your tips for anyone seeking to innovate and grow their business?

Go and spend time with your customers. Real people. Don’t ask them what they need or want. Ask them about their lives, how they work, what they are trying to do, how they want to be different, what stops them, and what they dream of. Then make it happen for them.

Most importantly, remember that we live in the most incredible time – more change in the next 10 years than the last 250 years. So how is your business changing? How are you?

Never stop reinventing … never stop thinking, never stop listening, never stop exploring, never stop changing, never stop innovating, never stop growing. Never stop believing in your own potential.

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