7 Business Shifts

How can you you reimagine the future of business?

We start by exploring the 7 big shifts in mindset: each is a transformation in how we approach business, individually significant, collectively seismic. This is not simply about adding “purpose” to an old organisation culture, or “digitalising” an old business model. However, taken together, the 7 shifts begin to shape a better future for your business.

Reimagining your business for the 21st century demands a fundamental rethink of why you exist, and how you succeed:

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

Below, we explore each of these 7 shifts, together with inspirations from around the world, some of the key questions to ask yourself, and useful resources to build on. The 7 shifts are underpinned by the 49 codes in the next section

Shift 1 … “Aurora” … Recode your future

How will you reinvent your business for a better future?

From profit machine to enlightened progress

Aurora is the Latin word for dawn, originating from the ancient Roman goddess of the dawn. In meteorology it describes the luminous bands that occasionally form in the upper atmosphere when charged solar particles align with the Earth’s magnetic field.

Consider the stretching aspirations of these companies:

  • Adidas, the global sports brand, believes that “through sport we have the power to change lives.”
  • Bulletproof which creates innovative foods, including great coffee, exists “to help people perform better, think faster, and live better.”
  • Google seeks “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”
  • IKEA rises above its flat-packed creations to say it is here “to create a better everyday life for the many people.”
  • Nike wants “to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world” and notes that “if you have a body, you are an athlete.”
  • Shopify seeks to “make commerce better for everyone, so businesses can focus on what they do best: building and selling their products.”
  • Tesla for all its focus on fast and stylish cars, has a more worthy aim, “to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”
  • Whole Foods wants “to co-create a world where each of us, our communities and our planet can flourish” adding “with great courage, integrity and love”.

How will you recode your future?

5 questions:

  • Look forwards not back … What’s your future potential?
  • Find your inspiring purpose … Why does your business exist?
  • Have a better vision … What’s your future story?
  • Creating positive impact … How do you measure success?
  • Be farsighted … How much time do spend on the future?

5 books:

  • “Hit Refresh” by Satya Nadella
  • “Find your Why” by Simon Sinek
  • “Trailblazer” by Marc Benioff
  • “Reimagining Capitalism” by Rebecca Henderson
  • “Catalyst” by Jonah Berger

5 places:

Shift 2 … “Komorebi” … Recode your growth

Where are the best opportunities to grow further and faster?

From uncertain survival to futuristic growth

The Japanese term komorebi has no translation into English but describes the effect of sunlight streaming through the leaves of the trees. Looking up to the midday sun can be blinding, yet from other perspectives the effect becomes beautiful and inspiring.

Consider some of the innovations in every industry, in every country: 

  • In Shanghai, Chinese police wear augmented reality glasses, with AI-enabled facial recognition software, able to identify every citizen and their social credits.
  • On Wall Street, AI-based Fusemachine software is helping Citibank investors to make better investments, minimising risks and maximising returns.
  • At DeBeers’ head office in Johannesburg, Tracr is a new blockchain-based system that tracks the life of diamonds, ensuring their authenticity, and ethical practices.
  • In London, MedicalChain are using blockchain to create and maintain a single version of medical records for every patient, enabling better care from any doctor.
  • In Indonesia, homeless charity NewStory is working with Icon to create thousands of new homes after natural disasters, each 3D printed in 24 hours for just $4000.
  • In San Diego, Organovo 3D prints human tissue. Currently synthetic skin is the bestseller; however, 3D printed hearts and other organs could soon transform life.
  • At the University of South Denmark in Odense, a unique running track with hills and spirals, is used to test robotic exoskeletons for Paralympians and extreme jobs.
  • In Seattle, Amazon’s warehouses are dominated by 10,000 Kiva robot platforms carrying purchases from stockroom to delivery points faster than humans can run.

How will you recode your growth?

5 questions:

  • Riding the megatrends … Which trends will take your business further?
  • Learning from Asia … How can you learn from Asia’s distinctive approaches?
  • Technology radar … Which new technologies will be most important for you?
  • Using networks better … How can use network effects to multiply your impact?
  • Build a growth portfolio … How balanced is your current and future portfolio?

5 books:

  • “Seeing Around Corners” by Rita McGrath
  • “The Future is Asian” by Parag Khanna
  • “The Invincible Company” by Alex Osterwalder
  • “Unstoppable” by Chris Zook
  • “The Future is Faster Than You Think” by Peter Diamantes

5 sources:

Shift 3 … “Transcendent” … Recode your market

How will you reshape your market to your advantage?

From marginal competition to creating markets

Transcendent comes from the medieval Latin word transcendentia. It means to go beyond ordinary limits, surpassing and exceeding the normal, and once there to experience an unusually heightened level of perspective and purpose. 

Consider some of the challenges of our changing world:

  • In the last 25 years, China’s share of global manufacturing output has grown from 2% to 25%. Over that time China’s GDP has grown thirty-fold.
  • In the last two decades, 9.6% of the earth’s total wilderness areas has been lost, equalling an estimated 3.3 million square km.
  • 51% of job activities can be automated, only 5% of jobs entirely replaceable by machines. However more new occupations will emerge than those lost.
  • New digital technologies can enable a 20% reduction in global carbon emissions by 2030, equivalent to eliminating more than China and India’s CO2
  • Car sharing could reduce the number of cars needed by 90% by 2035, resulting in only 17% as many cars as there are today.
  • CEO pay has risen 1,000% over the last 40 years, howeveraverage worker pay has increased by just 11%, essentially stagnating taking into account inflation
  • 72% of people feel that companies have become more dishonest. 93% of CEOs believe it’s important to engender trust that their company “will do the right thing”.
  • 87% of millennials say that they base their purchasing decisions on whether or not a company makes positive social efforts.

How will you recode your market?

5 questions:

  • Framing your space … How could you redefine your market space?
  • Disrupt your own business … If you were a start-up what would you do?
  • New customer agendas … What are the biggest changes in your customers?
  • Manifesto brands … How could you embed more purpose into your propositions?
  • Enable people to do more … What would a community of your customers look like?

5 books:

  • “Smart Business” by Ming Zeng
  • “The Phoenix and the Unicorn” by Peter Hinssen
  • “Blue Ocean Strategy” by Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne
  • “Who Can You Trust?” by Rachel Botsman
  • “Digital Darwinism” by Tom Goodwin

5 sources:

Shift 4 … “Ingenuity” … Recode your innovation

What does it take to drive more radical innovation?

From technology obsession to human ingenuity

Ingenuity is the quality of being clever, original, and inventive. Popular in the 1800s, and less so today, it also has a sense of nobility, of ingeniousness. It comes the French ingenieux or Latin ingenium referring to the mind or intellect.

Consider some more innovations, and their effect on people:

  • Pokémon Go, the AR game from Nintendo, was downloaded 500 million times globally in 2 months, and generated $600 million in revenue in 3 months.
  • Tobii Pro, the world leader in eye tracking, allows advertisers to pinpoint which parts of advertising and packaging design attracts the most attention.
  • In initial tests, a machine-learning algorithm created at Carnegie Mellon was able to predict heart attacks four hours in advance, with 80% accuracy.
  • Necomimi is a pair of cat-shaped ears that contain electroencephalogram (EEG) brainwave sensors, perking up when brain is alert, flat when relaxed.
  • The HiMirror a smart mirror that uses an integrated camera to analyse your skin, track changes, and monitor the effect of skin care products.
  • LiSA is a voice-activated social wellness platform helping older people who live alone by providing voice-based email, messaging, tips and reminders.
  • Deep Space sells a line of low-pressure, eco-friendly propulsion solutions that use water to power small satellites on private missions into deep space.
  • Celestis offers off-planet DNA storage enabling your genetics to be stored in a space craft, and eventually on a different planet for future analysis.

How will you recode your innovation?

5 questions:

  • Find your ingenuity … What would make your ideas more ingenious?
  • Designer mindset … How can you get deeper insight into function and form?
  • Customer agendas … What are the significant shifts in your consumers minds?
  • Faster experiments … How could you solve problems better and faster together?
  • Moonshot thinking … What is a “10x not 10%” goal for your business?

5 books:

  • “Out of Our Minds” by Ken Robinson
  • “Questions and the Answers” by Hal Gregersen
  • “Change by Design” Tim Brown
  • “The Start-Up Way” by Eric Ries
  • “The Corporate Start-Up” by Tendayi Viki

5 sources:

Shift 5 … “Ubuntu” … Recode your organisation

How can the best teams achieve more together?

From passive hierarchies to dynamic ecosystems

Ubuntu comes from Xhosa and Zulu languages, referring to the essential human virtues, compassion and humanity. It was a favourite word of South Africa’s Nelson Mandela who reminded people of the power of togetherness, how together they can achieve more.

Consider the changing nature of work and organisations:

  • Organisations in which employees perceive meaning at work are 21% more profitable. However only 13% of employees worldwide feel engaged.
  • The ideal team size is between 4 and 9, with an optimal 4.6 people. Such teams bring diversity but can also make fast decisions and get things done.
  • Around 30% of useful collaborations typically come from only 4% of employees. Women are 66% more likely to initiate collaboration.
  • Companies where women are at least 15% of senior managers had more than 50% higher profitability than with less than 10%.
  • Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity were 35% more likely to have financial returns above national industry medians.
  • Migrants make up just 3.4% of the world’s population, but they contribute nearly 10% of global GDP.51% of CEOs of billion-dollar “unicorns” are migrants.
  • 75% of millennials want to work from home or from another location where they feel more productive.
  • Of the children entering primary school today, 65% will end up working in job categories that do not yet exist. [illustrative facts, to be improved]

How will you recode your organisation?

5 questions:

  • Create your butterfly … How could reinvent yourself as a “butterfly” ecosystem?
  • Fast work … What would change the pace and rhythm of your organisation?
  • Pizza teams … How could you engage people in smaller, better teams?
  • People and perks … What would better align people with your organisation?
  • Extreme teams … How could you create safer but stronger teamwork?

5 books:

  • “Reinventing Organisations” by Frederic Laloux
  • “Humanocracy” by Gary Hamel
  • “The Project Revolution” by Antonio Nieto Rodriguez
  • “Legacy” by James Kerr
  • “The Fearless Organisation” by Amy Edmondson

5 sources:

Shift 6 … “Syzygy” … Recode your transformation

What does it take to transform your business effectively?

From incremental change to sustained transformation

Syzygy has its origins in the Greek word suzugia, meaning yoked or paired, and became popular in 18th century Latin and English. More generally is means a conjunction or alignment. Synergy is a more modern word derived from it.

Consider how these organisations have reinvented themselves:

  • Berkshire Hathaway started as a merger of the Berkshire Spinning Association and Hathaway textile mill. Warren Buffett transformed it into an investment powerhouse.
  • Domino’s Pizza stands out amongst today’s fast food retailers, reinventing itself to offer a digitally-centric brand experience that people will pay more for.
  • National Geographical grew famous through print. Then it started exploring more instant and immersive media, becoming the most popular brand on Instagram.
  • Nintendo was founded in 1889 by Fusajiro Yamauchi as a playing card company, transformed over the last 60 years his grandson Hiroshi into a digital gaming empire.
  • Shell was a London shop specialising in exotic shells from Asia before becoming the world’s largest oil company, and now seek to transform itself into clean energy.
  • Western Union, once a network of early telegraph companies in the American outback, reinvented itself as the world’s largest money transfer service.
  • Wipro started in 1945 selling vegetable oil, before diversifying into other products. It is now one of the world’s largest IT outsourcers and software engineers.
  • American Express’s Ken Chenault says, “successful transform demands unchanging change”, requiring constant values but relentless reinvention.

How will you recode your transformation?

5 questions:

  • Butterfly business … How could you reinvent yourself as a “butterfly” ecosystem?
  • Fast work … What would change the pace and rhythm of your organisation?
  • Pizza teams … How could you engage people in smaller, smarter teams?
  • People and perks … What would align and energise your people?
  • Extreme teams … How could you create safer but stronger teams?

5 books:

  • “Building the Transformational Company” by Chris Rangen
  • “Dual Transformation” by Scott Anthony
  • “More than Less” by Andrew McAfee
  • “Emotional Agility” by Susan David
  • “Cradle to Cradle” by William McDonough

5 sources:

Shift 7 … “Awestruck” … Recode your leadership

Do you have the courage to create a better future?

From good performance to extraordinary futures

Awestruck means to be filled with awe and revealing it to others. Awe has its origins in Viking culture, and meant both fear and wonder. It is about being moved, inspired and driven by something so great and impressive that few have the courage to approach.

Consider these inspirations for business leaders:

  • “Change will not come if we wait for somebody else, or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek” said Barack Obama
  • Leadership is lifting your vision to higher sights, raising your performance to a higher standard, building your personality beyond normal limitations” said Peter Drucker
  • “Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else”said Sara Blakely
  • “Great entrepreneurial DNA is comprised of leadership, technological vision, frugality, and the desire to succeed” said Steve Blank
  • “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear” said Nelson Mandela
  • “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” said Maya Angelou
  • “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life … Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition” said Steve Jobs
  • “Never give up. Today is hard, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be sunshine” said Jack Ma

How will you recode your leadership?

5 questions:

  • Have more courage … Are you ready to step up to lead the future?
  • Leading in style … Which leadership style works best for you, and your people?
  • Finding your strengths … What are your strengths, that you can make more of?
  • Creating legacy … How will you work to contribute towards a better future?
  • Extraordinary … What will you do that is, in some way, “extra” ordinary?

5 books:

  • “The Leadership Code” by Dave Ulrich and others
  • “Dare to Lead” by Brene Brown
  • “The Future Leader” by Jacob Morgan
  • “Endure” by Alex Hutchinson
  • “Dreams and Details” by Jim Snabe and Mikael Trolle

5 sources:

© Peter Fisk 2020


About the author

Peter Fisk lives in Teddington, England, and is married with two daughters. When he’s not working or travelling around the world, he can usually be found running around the nearby  Bushy Park, or Richmond Park, and along the River Thames.

He is a leading business thinker, bestselling author and inspiring speaker, whose career was forged in a superconductivity lab, accelerated by managing supersonic travel brands, shaped in corporate development, evolved in a digital start-up, and formalised as CEO of the world’s largest marketing network. 

He now leads GeniusWorks, a strategic innovation accelerator based in London. He is a professor of leadership, strategy and innovation at IE Business School in Madrid, where he leads their flagship executive programs. He is also Thinkers50 Global Director and founder of the European Business Forum.

He has 30 years of practical business experience, working with business leaders in over 300 companies and 55 countries, from Adidas to Aeroflot, Cartier and Coca Cola, McKinsey to Microsoft, P&G and Pfizer. His distinctive approach is future back and outside in, fusing insights with inspiration, creativity and structure.

His insights come from a rich diversity of projects: creating flat beds for aircraft, sustainable strategies for fashion, transforming energy companies to renewables, reinventing cheese from Persia and sportswear with technology, creating AI-driven solutions for business, reimagining stock exchanges, new business models for lawyers, developing railways to Asia, direct channels for retail, new services for healthcare, and better leaders.  

His 8 books in 35 languages – including Gamechangers, Creative Genius, People Planet Profit, Customer Genius, and Marketing Genius – fuse the brains of Einstein and Picasso, explore the creativity of Leonardo da Vinci, reframe sustainability for innovation and growth, connect leadership and strategy to create more future-focused organisations, and are inspired by the ideas of the world’s most innovative companies.