Leading the Future: Leadership, Innovation, and Growth

October 14, 2019 at IE Business School, Madrid (invitation only)

Markets are volatile and uncertain, winners rise and losers fall, competition intensifies and customer have a relentless desire for better. Of course biggest is not always best. Market share is rarely a measure of success today. Growth is typically found in profitable niches, where you can grow further, focused and faster.

The best organisations are exponential – they harness technology, but also new business and market models – physical and digital – to accelerate value creation. Think about how WhatsApp created $19bn value in just three years, Uber $60bn in 4 years, Xiaomi $70bn in 5 years or Alibaba $130bn in 11 years. At the same time, its about ensuring that revenues and profitability follow the valuations.

Finding fast growth means opening your eyes to new opportunities – to the fast growth markets of Asia, Africa and South America, or to the new consumers, such as women, millennials and boomers. It means redefining purpose in a way that is relevant, refocusing strategy on markets, and particular the new profit pools, and innovating business models and customer experiences for growth. It also means ensuring that growth is profitable – it is easy to be big, but to create profits, and sustained value, is much harder.

What are the growth engines of business today?

  • Markets – finding the best spaces for growth in existing and new markets, for example in new geographies, in niche segments, in adjacent markets, or elsewhere –  in the past we assuming that we continue to focus on the same domains, today growth starts with choice of markets.
  • Customers – redefining your business around what your target (new or existing) customers seek to achieve, rather than what you do, gives you huge space to meet their needs better through more joined-up and relevant solutions – enabling them to achieve more, and you to create and capture more value. Digging deeper to explore what really matters, and solve the real problems.
  • Networks – forget the old thinking about core capabilities where you had to produce and distribution everything, find the best opportunities and ideas, then bring together the right partners to exploit it. Similarly with customers, they trust each other more than brands and distributors. Networks have an exponential effect, on supply and demand.
  • Business models– rethinking the way your business works, in particular the different revenues and cost streams. Consider alternative business models, such as freemium, subscription or time-based –to generate income, to engage customers in more distinctive ways, and drive more profitable sustainable growth in a dynamic world.
  • Leadership– in today’s market requires new ideas, and new ways of working. Inspired by the world’s most innovative companies right now, we explore what leaders do to drive innovation and growth – how to create the future in your own vision, to inspire your people and customers. and to ensure that it happens fast and effectively.

Get ready to change your world!

Whilst creativity is about divergent thinking – opening up to explore new perspectives, make new connections, generate more ideas – innovation is about convergent thinking – evaluating the best ideas, focusing on making them practical and profitable, then making them happen effectively.

In my book “Creative Genius” we explore Leonardo da Vinci’s 8 principles, then apply them to today’s business world: being curious, exploring margins, reframing context, visualisation, resolving paradox, balancing art and science, making new connections and being alive.

Innovation in most companies is still mostly about products and services, whereas innovation has most impact when applied to business models and customer experiences. We therefore focus on business innovation, driven by your purpose and opportunity, and by thinking hard about what is the problem we are trying to solve, and the impact we want to make.

Innovation is particularly about five important factors, looking across the whole business to open up, and then close down:

  • Design thinking – embracing “insight” to understand the deeper motivations and aspirations of customers, through deep-dive immersion with individuals, connecting analytics with observation and intuition. Design thinking is about better defining the challenge – problem, opportunity – then being more human, creative and real in solving it.
  • Making connections – fusing ideas to create richer “concepts”, but also learning from other places, from “parallel” markets where the same customers are already embracing change and new ideas, and then applying to your own market, as a pioneer. Connecting initial ideas into concepts makes them stronger and more distinctive.
  • Creative disruption – how to be different, to challenge the conventions, break the rules, and redefine the markets in a different way – for example by technological simplification, or new customer behaviour. This creates rethinking – changing the who, why, what and how – and can potentially recalibrate the market.
  • New business models – more dramatic and sustainable innovation usually involves changing the way the business works – in particular through new partnerships, and creating new revenue streams built around a strong value proposition at the core – this focuses on value propositions and business model design.
  • Accelerating action – facilitating your best ideas to market better and faster, through challenge and support, bringing your best people together, adding external ideas to internal expertise, and disciplined process. This includes “lean thinking” techniques from minimal viable products, prototyping and then vortex market adoption.


Russian Railways is Russia’s leading railway company and one of the largest companies in the global transport sector. The Company is a natural monopoly and fully owned by the Russian Federation. Our primary goal is to meet the state’s rail transport and employment needs, and to provide services to passengers.


1000 – 1130 :  Fast-changing world

Making sense of fast and connected global and local markets, inspired by the world’s most disruptive businesses right now 

  • Changing markets, exponential technologies, disruptive innovators
  • Learning from 23andMe, Alibaba, BMW/Daimler, WhatsApp/WeChat
  • Thinking bigger, thinking different, 10 times not 10%
  • Application to Russian Railways: What’s your moonshot?
  • Inspired by the world’s 100 most innovative companies – right now!
  • Ideas and networks – using the assets of a connected world
  • Taking the best ideas from other sectors and places – copy adapt paste
  • Application to Russian Railways: Which companies could we learn from?

1200 – 1330 : Gamechanger strategies

Shaping your business and your market to your advantage, by ecxploring how to shake up the market in new and creative ways

  • Creating a higher purpose, future vision and better brand
  • Exploring 10 different ways to innovate your business
  • Changing the who, why, what and how of your business
  • Application to Russian Railways: How could you change the game?
  • How business models transform business and markets
  • 36 different business models to choose from, our create your own
  • Learning from Netflix and Nespresso, ARM and Tesla
  • Application to Russian Railways: Which model would you choose?

1430 – 1600 : Customer-centric innovation

Engaging the changing customers, finding the best new insights to engage them with more powerful ideas and solutions articulated through value propositions

  • New customers, new dreams and expectations, new ways to connect.
  • Reframing your business around the customers world
  • Learning from Amazon and DBS Bank, Harley Davidson and Rapha
  • Application to Russian Railways: What’s our customer purpose?
  • Being digital and physical, to deliver better propositions and experiences
  • Personal, positive and predictive – going what we do, to achieve more
  • Building brands that inspire people and communities, social in a C2B/C2C world
  • Application to Russian Railways: How to rethink our value proposition?

1630 – 1800 : Leading the future

Defining your direction and priorities for innovation and growth, and developing a strategy that balances tomorrow and today, and combines vision with agility

  • Starting with “future back” thinking rather than “now forwards”
  • Innovation that drives profitability and growth, organisations and futures
  • Horizon planning, mapping out the directions and choices for future growth
  • Application to Russian Railways: What could be our 5-3-1 roadmap?
  • Leading the future, leading change, leading innovation – what will you do?
  • Making the case to business leaders, to investors and your people
  • Inspired by Elon Musk and Jack Ma, Mary Barra and Anne Wojcicki
  • Application to Russian Railways: How would you lead the future?