Recode your business … with Swedish CEOs in Malmo

February 10, 2023 at Malmo, Sweden (1000-1130)

From perma-crisis to consequences, from meta-madness to moments of optimism …

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.

What does it take to drive a business for innovation and growth … and to  lead a business towards a better future?

The answer lies in a reinvention of these three mindsets – stepping up to make sense of a rapidly changing world, to explore new ways to win, to step back as a team to rethink where and how to win, and taking the best new ideas from around the world, the new relevant concepts, to experiment and learn by doing, to be an expeditionary, transforming leader.

  • Bold leadership that is “heads up”, not heads down – having the courage to let go of the past, to create a better future.
  • Strategic innovation, rather than strategy or innovation – reimagining markets, then business, then solutions.
  • Transformational action, rather than efficiency and change – taking your people on a journey towards a better place.

Time for a boost. Time to accelerate your mind, to up your game. Time for action.

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.

Swedish inspiration

“Lagom”, pronounced lar-ghom.

Lagom means not too little, not too much. During the centuries it was used to highlight the importance of balance, often in a team – the benefit of the group far outweighs the benefit of the individual. However, in success, everyone gets a fair share, not too little, not too much. Lagom is about being more flexible, more democratic which allows for a company culture where everyone’s ideas are considered. Some of the best-known Swedish brands exhibit quite a bit of lagom, from IKEA to H&M, Spotify to Klarna, Oatly and Skype, Ericsson and Volvo.

Founded in 1943 by Ingvar Kamprad, IKEA has grown into an industry giant that is present in 38 countries, including the notoriously difficult to break Asian market. Most famous for its flat pack solution for easy transportation, you probably didn’t know that an IKEA worker named Gillis Lundgren spontaneously invented the flat pack in the 1950s. That’s lagom in action! IKEA collaborates with an array of incredibly cool collaborations with brands and designers like adidas, Teenage Engineering, Virgil Abloh, Tom Dixon and Saint Herron, just to name a few, thus firmly positioning itself not only as a furniture maker, but a tastemaker in the fields of fashion, sports, technology.

Some people claim they don’t own anything by H&M. Impossible! If you somehow missed walking into one of its 2,500 stores around the world, you probably still have something from H&M without even realizing it. You see, not only is Hennes & Mauritz the master of selling trendy clothes and accessories at affordable prices, it also owns hugely successful brands like COS, &Other Stories, Cheap Monday, Monki, Arket, Weekday and Nyden. They were the first to launch super successful collabs with high-end designers and are keen on innovation. Case in point: their stylish recycled collections, and kudos for becoming a natural beauty advocate by ending retouching on all bikini models!

Ericsson is the company that made modern communication possible! They launched the first smartphone, invented Bluetooth, launched the first LTE networks… and so many more inventions that make modern communications as we use it today possible. Originally started as a telegraph equipment repair shop in 1876 by Lars Magnus Ericsson, Ericsson remains at the forefront of communications innovation due to the company’s approach that sees them collaborate with various universities and research institutions around the world.

And then there are less well known, but just as interesting brands – like FOREO, short for “For Every One”, offers a new standard of beauty and wellbeing solutions, from the award-winning facial cleansing brushes in its LUNA line, inventing a whole new way to mask courtesy of UFO, to reinventing the toothbrush with ISSA. Founded by Bosnian-born Swede Filip Sedic in 2013, it has a bold approach: the brand doesn’t just improve existing designs – FOREO tears them down and restarts from the ground up – ensuring the best solutions are not reserved for the wealthy few. FOREO promotes self-confidence: when you feel good, you look good – mission complete!


You can read more about the topics covered, including:

  • Futures … What are the megatrends, and how are they shaking up every industry?
  • Leadership … What are the new challenges for leaders, and why inclusive leadership matters?
  • Innovation … How are businesses responding, what are the new business models?
  • 49 Codes … Where do I start, what do I do, how do I transform my business for a better future?
  • 100 Leaders … Arabica and Aerofarms,  Zespri and Zipline, who are the most innovative companies?
  • 250 Companies … Anne Wojcicki to Zhang Yimin, who are the world’s most inspiring leaders?
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