We all need “more female” attributes to seize the opportunities of today’s rapidly changing business world.

Making sense of relentless change and complexity requires us to rise above the data points and short-term priorities, to see a bigger picture – to make sense of a new emerging world. That requires intuition more than logic (intuition is more forwards looking, whilst logic tends to look back).

To add value beyond machines and AI, we need to unlock our humanity, our creativity. That requires us to be more empathetic, to make new connections. Ideas, design, relationships are most valued in today’s business world.

And to solve the big problems of our world, we need to be more thoughtful – to find more responsible, caring and creative, intuitive and inspiring solutions.

You could say “the future is female”

It’s not just about getting to a level playing field in diversity and inclusion, which matters … but even more, its about taking those attributes, those qualities, which are typically “more female” and to embrace them … both for men and women.

We could go into a biological and neurological discussion at this point, but I think the point is clear. Women therefore can have an advantage, whilst for men it might require some unlearning.

The future is not like the future used to be. Being a leader of the future, is not achieved by following the traits of the past success. It’s time to look forwards, together, with a positive mindset, to embrace the opportunities of an incredible new world.

So here are 10 incredible female business leaders, stepping up to disrupt and reinvent our world and our lives:

Kathy Hannun, Cofounder and CEO of Dandelion

Kathy Hannun was at Google X when she became obsessed with geothermal energy for home heating and cooling. It drastically cuts the eco footprint compared with diesel or propane-powered furnaces — but a system typically cost $80,000 or more to install in a private house. Hannun cofounded Dandelion in 2017 to bring down the expense. Already, the company’s innovative equipment means that homeowners can either pay $18,500 up front and recoup the costs over about five years or put no money down and pay $135 a month, less than most diesel heating bills. So far Dandelion has raised $23.5 million and is growing 20 percent month over month; its waitlist is in the thousands. “My goal is to make this the mainstream option,” says Hannun. “And advance the way society heats and cools indoor spaces.”

Cristina Junqueira, Cofounder and VP of Nubank

Cristina Junqueira was working at a traditional bank in Brazil, and in 2013 she scored the largest bonus of her career. She quit immediately. Junqueira realized she wanted to change people’s lives, not just make money. Within months, she helped launch Nubank, a Brazilian fintech company that aims to make banking accessible to everyone via tools like low-interest credit cards, high-interest savings accounts, and an app-based credit system. In the early days, it was all hands on deck for Nubank’s tiny team. “You would call our customer service line and it would ring on my cellphone,” Junqueira says. But today, she’s having the impact she hoped for: Her company is valued at $10 billion, recently announced plans to move into Mexico and Argentina, and is exploring new products like personal loans, investment products, and accounts for small and medium-­size businesses.

Payal Kadakia, Founder and executive chairman of ClassPass

Back in 2010, Payal Kadakia gave herself two weeks to come up with a viable business idea — time enough, she thought, to know whether she was cut out to be an entrepreneur. It worked. That experiment evolved into ClassPass, the subscription-based service that now helps users in 2,500-plus cities in more than 20 countries discover and book exercise classes. This year, Kadakia expanded into corporate wellness with a service that gives employees access to classes with 22,000 studio partners; clients include Google, Facebook, and Morgan Stanley. But the company, which has raised $255 million, is approaching the milestone of 100 million class reservations, a figure that keeps the founder motivated. “Our ultimate success metric is when someone goes to class,” Kadakia says.

Andrea and Robin McBride, Founders of McBride Sisters Wine 

Sometimes a founding story is so good, you just want to bottle it. And these sisters did. Andrea McBride was 12 and living with her foster mom in New Zealand when the phone rang. “Hey, Andrea; it’s your dad,” a man said. He told her he had terminal stomach cancer and she had a big sister named Robin (left) on the opposite side of the world. Andrea set out to find her. It took a few years, but she did. Andrea was 16 and Robin was 25 when the two first met, in New York’s LaGuardia airport. “When I got off the plane,” says Robin, who’d been brought up by her mom in California, “she was standing at the end of the jetway. I thought I was seeing my own reflection.” In 2005, the sisters ended up in California concocting a plan to squeeze into the very male, very white, very old-school wine industry. First they became importers, then distributors, and in 2009 they produced their first vintage. Many followed, including a Black Girl Magic collection, from New Zealand and California. Today the McBride Sisters Wine Collection sells 80,000 cases a year, landing it in the top 3 percent of wineries by size. But the sisters want to see more women there. On March 8, International Women’s Day, they debuted She Can — a New Zealand sauvignon blanc and a California rosé in cans — along with a fund to advance the careers of women in the wine industry. “It’s better than when we started,” says Robin. Andrea finishes the sentence: “But there’s still a lot more work to be done.”

Mariam Naficy, Founder and CEO of Minted

Minted, which transformed over 11 years from selling stationery to being a massive marketplace for indie artists, inked a big deal this summer: Samsung and Method will now license work from Minted’s community, giving newfound exposure to independent designers. “We’re a source for companies that understand the value of one-of-a-kind design but may not have the scale or merchandising bandwidth to develop it internally,” says founder and CEO Mariam Naficy. And Minted doesn’t just have scale; it has crowd buy-in. Back when the company focused solely on greeting cards and wedding invitations, Naficy devised a crowdsourcing model for up-voting the art potential shoppers liked best. Fast-forward to today, and that means big brands can tap into a decade of data on design that inspires both fandom and sales—Naficy even says that by now, Minted can predict which designs will ultimately become best-sellers.

Neha Narkhede, Cofounder and chief product officer of Confluent

Next time you swipe a credit card or call a Lyft, thank Neha Narkhede, who is building what she calls a “central nervous system” for companies’ data. It started while she was working as an engineer at LinkedIn, where she helped create Apache Kafka, an open-source software system that processes the deluge of data flowing through the platform — clicks, messages, and news-feed updates — and makes it available to users in real time. “We said, ‘This is not just a LinkedIn problem; this is part of a broader trend that’s happening in the world where businesses are going to become more digital,’ ” Narkhede says. So she and two colleagues left to start Confluent, a software system that turbocharges Apache Kafka’s capabilities for startups, financial institutions, and Fortune 500 companies. Confluent enables its customers to process trillions of event streams every day, integrating data across apps and platforms and making all that information available centrally to analyze in real time. The service has quickly become an integral tool for businesses looking to leverage their digital footprint, and it shows in Confluent’s growth: The company recently raised $125 million in Series D funding, catapulting it to unicorn status with a $2.5 billion valuation. Next year, Confluent will focus on international business while increasing its 800-person workforce. “The market is as big as what the relational database market will be,” Narkhede says. “That’s on the order of tens of billions of dollars—that’s what we’re looking at in terms of total market potential.”

Melanie Perkins, Cofounder and CEO of Canva 

Canva, the Australia-based graphic design platform, was created in 2013 to help anyone, anywhere — with any level of design knowledge — create and publish beautiful, professional materials. Six years later, CEO Melanie Perkins and her cofounders have made strides. Canva has raised more than $140 million, is valued at $2.5 billion, and has 15 million active monthly users around the globe. “We’re now in 100 languages, and a goal for the year ahead is to bring access to every single market,” Perkins says. “We’ve done less than 1 percent of what we think is possible — we’ve got .56 percent of the world’s population on the platform, but we want to empower the entire world.”

Kendra Scott, Founder and CEO of Kendra Scott

As she designed her first jewelry collection out of her home in 2002, Kendra Scott never dreamed it would become a $1 billion brand. But today, her eponymous company has a unicorn valuation, 100 stores, and shows no signs of slowing down — though Scott’s main focus is about more than baubles. Of the Austin-based brand’s 2,000 employees, more than 90 percent are women, many of whom are mothers. Nursing rooms are commonplace at HQ and distribution centers, Kendra Scott Kids provides a children’s playroom, and once a year Camp Kendra invites in employees’ kids for a day of activities, in which office employees become camp counselors. “If we can support our staff, these women, at this very special time in their lives, we’ll have an employee who is incredibly loyal to our brand,” says Scott. “We believe in their future.” In September, that support expanded beyond the walls of Scott’s company, when she announced the Kendra Scott Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Program in partnership with the University of Texas. The programming will feature speaker series and courses on everything from building a business to advocating for equal pay and will be available to University of Texas students. “We want women to be able to access this information,” Scott says.

Reshma Shetty, Cofounder of Ginkgo Bioworks

A biological engineer who can synthesize bacteria to smell like bananas, Reshma Shetty never intended to be an entrepreneur. But as a graduate student at MIT, she became passionate about designing biology-based products the way an architect designs a house. To make her vision a reality, in 2008 she cofounded Ginkgo Bioworks. Eleven years later, Shetty and her 250-person team are known for cutting-­edge biotech and valued at $1.4 billion. Ginkgo’s work has spanned various industries, from healthcare to agriculture, with products like synthetic probiotics that reduce gastrointestinal problems in soldiers and (in progress with Synlogic) medicines that program the body’s cells to treat complex diseases. Earlier this year, Ginkgo spun out a separate company called Motif Ingredients to engineer sustainable alternative proteins that taste like the real thing. “Although we’re going after these radically different markets,” says Shetty, “the common thread is biology.”

Alli Webb, Founder of  Drybar

Drybar founder Alli Webb has a new company, Squeeze, that aims to do for massages what she did for blowouts: Make the experience easy and affordable. The chain launched in March; customers book appointments via an app and can select from a menu of treatments and preferences, from pressure type to areas to avoid. But unlike Drybar (which has 130 locations and 4,000 employees), Squeeze will scale as a franchise, and Webb’s team is creating a two-year blueprint for its future partners, detailing how to greet customers and market locally. “We love the idea of enabling other people to become entrepreneurs themselves,” Webb says.

What are the successful traits?

Fortune Magazine recently asked a range of female leaders about the personality trait they credit for helping launching them into their leadership positions of today:

Ginni Rometty, Chairman, President, and CEO, IBM  … “Be curious. A constant thirst to learn has served me well my entire career, especially in the tech industry. We’ve always hired for curiosity at IBM. We receive 7,000 job applications a day, and our managers and HR teams are geared to look for people who are curious and committed to constantly advancing what they know.”

Gail Boudreaux, President and CEO, Anthem … “My strong focus on leadership has been a large part of my success to date. I believe the ability to build and inspire teams is critical and that individuals and organizations can accomplish extraordinary results when they leverage the power of their collective strength working together.”

Julie Sweet, CEO, Accenture … “Openness: starting with my decision to learn Chinese and live in Taiwan and China in 1987 and 1988, before it was commonplace. I have often pursued paths that were not well-trodden. It has helped me become a continuous learner and to understand that it is often from unexpected sources and places that you learn the most.”

Judith McKenna, President and CEO, Walmart International  … “It must be somewhere between curiosity and always focusing on people. Both are really important, and I really believe that if we always keep our associates, our people, at the heart of everything we do, and build out strong teams, then we’ll continue to make our business successful.”

Amy Hood, EVP and CFO, Microsoft … “I’m pretty gritty. I can work through most things and come out on the other side feeling like I’ve learned a good lesson and I’ll get better.”

Leanne Caret, President and CEO, Defense, Space & Security, and EVP, Boeing … “I love being authentic and letting people see the real me. That hopefully creates an environment where we are all in it together.”

Jennifer Taubert, EVP, Worldwide Chairman, Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson … “I think two qualities have been critical in my career: optimism and perseverance. Optimism because I believe in stretching and redefining the boundaries of what’s possible. Perseverance because, with determination, you can overcome any obstacle to do the right thing for patients. ”

Michele Buck, President and CEO, Hershey  … “Being a great listener has long been one of my hallmark leadership qualities. I find immense value in seeking diverse perspectives when I’m making an important business decision. I want to hear from people who are deep in the organization, closest to the work, as well as those outside the decision domain who may see things a bit differently. As a leader, it’s important to set direction and impart your knowledge to others; but, you have to balance that with listening to the expertise and point of views of those around you. Intentional listening, and the learning associated with that, has undoubtedly been key to my success. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is to weigh the perspectives of those around me with my north star. Then, I listen to my gut, which to me isn’t just natural instinct, it’s been built through years of experience, successes, failures, and everything in between.”

Mary Dillon, CEO, Ulta Beauty … “Curiosity and empathy. I told my children as they were growing up to always ask other people about themselves, to be curious to learn about others and to respect their journey. At Ulta Beauty, this is the way we do business. We have a deep curiosity about our guests and their needs, and we treat associates with the respect they deserve. We believe these values are helping us win customer loyalty.”

Marillyn Hewson, Chairman, President, and CEO, Lockheed Martin … “A focus on effective communication—and it all starts with the ability to really listen. Listening to your customers leads to a customer-focused vision. And listening to those you lead creates a climate of understanding and trust. By focusing on consistent and effective communication, leaders can also more quickly identify those times when it is critical to step forward and reach out directly to customers, shareholders, or employees. Simply put, effective communication is the engine for effective leadership and effective decision making at every level.”

Download a summary of my keynote: The Future is Female

Peter Fisk’s new book Business Recoded is out in September 2020.

The future of food is about authenticity, wellness and relevance – traceability of supply chains, natural and organic ingredients, convenient and well designed packaging, and fantastic, inspiring taste

The UN estimates that by 2050 global food production will have to increase by close to 70% if we want to feed the world. This poses a real conundrum: How do we feed all those people healthy diets, in ways that don’t harm the planet?

In some cases, innovators in this space are doing what was once science fiction. The outcome of these new technologies has profound implications for the human diet, the changing climate, and the global economy.

Here are some most recent examples:

  • DNA Sushi … London-based conveyor belt sushi restaurant YO! Sushi collaborated with DNAfit to help diners choose dishes based on their DNA.
  • Smart food … Nestlé XiaoAI, an AI family nutrition assistant, is a smart speaker equipped with nutrition and health knowledge answering questions on custom recipes, music, and nutrition
  • Upcycled Beer … Kellogg’s teamed up with UK brewery Seven Brothers to convert its rejected Corn Flakes, Rice Krispies, and Coco Pops breakfast cereals into beer.
  • Mood Tea … Marley Mellow Mood Peach Raspberry Relaxation Tea from the US features mood-enhancing botanicals, which are said to calm the soul and ease the mind.
  • Genetic Dining … Vita Mojo was the first foodservice chain to give customers nutritional guidance based on their genetics, providing a great conversation as well as healthy eating
  • Sea Farms … Floating Farm is a dairy farm in Rotterdam, Netherlands, that showcases how food production can become less vulnerable to climate change
  • Indoor Farms … Bowery Parsley is grown in indoor automated vertical farms in New York City, NY promoting itself as “grown locally (in the city!) with no pesticides”
  • Edible Fashion … Modern Meadow in New Jersey grows animal-free leather in their labs, indeed recent fashion shows have been full of aubergine and mushroom-based fabrics.
  • Better Bling … New York City- based Couple is the first company to exclusively sell lab-grown diamond rings as an ethical alternative to real diamonds, and a lot cheaper too!

Splash out on dinner at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck restaurant, and you might find an iPod accompanies your seafood risotto. Sounds of the sea enhance the perceived freshness and flavours, and can also affect our sense of sweetness and saltiness.

Caterpillars, already popular in Africa, contain 28mg of protein per 100g, more than minced beef, and add 35mg of iron too. If you’re in search of a calcium boost, try grasshoppers.

Rising food prices, the growing population and environmental concerns make food one of the big debates for governments, and interest areas for investors. Meat production takes up huge amounts of land, consume water, diverts crops from humans, and adds to carbon emissions.

Insects, perhaps rebranding as micro-protein, could become a staple of our diets – low cost, requiring little space or water. With 1500 edible species, we could soon be tucking into nutrititous crickets and grasshoppers, ground into burgers. Wasps are a delicacy in Japan.

If you still want meat, your next steak could be sourced from a test-tube. Strips of muscle tissue using stem cells taken from cows, a little like calamari to look at, are grown in a lab, and then shaped to expectation, similar to existing meat substitutes such as Quorn. Of course you could just become vegetarian, and still get a balanced diet.

Another source of improved eating, is sensory-engineering. Scientists have shown that look and smell affect how we taste. Condiment Junkie, a sonic-branding company is exploring how certain frequencies can compensate for sugar in foods, thereby improving health, as well as enhancing the whole cooking and eating experience.

However the most significant source of future food is likely to come from algae. 145 species of green, red, and brown seaweed is already eaten in huge quantities across Asia, often as a delicacy. Ground into other foods, its strong flavour can dramatically reduce the amount of salt used, for example in bread or prepared meals. Algae farming, for food as well as energy, could become the world’s largest crop industry by 2030.

However it is not just the food content that could radically change. It is also about embracing technology to deliver more personalised service and added value experiences. A great example comes from Singularity Sushi, which uses DNA analysis to ultra-personalise food, and 3D printing to produce objects of incredible beauty.

Here are 20 case studies of companies who are shaking up the world of food and drink in profound and enlightened ways, riding the consumer trends, embracing digital technologies, with incredible new experiences and profitable new business models:

  • % Arabica – Asian minimalism, African coffee roastery, and Arabic meeting place
  • AeroFarms – Vertical farming in a crowded world
  • Basmaty – The Arabic cookery community
  • Boring Life – Embracing CBD to relieve the stress and anxieties of a busy life
  • Brewdog – Beer for punks, irreverent and brilliant
  • Deliveroo – Food delivered as fast as a kangaroo
  • Gïk Live! – Blue wine from Spain
  • Graze – Snacking reinvented … fast, healthy, delivered
  • Halo Top Creamery – The Healthy Ice Cream from California
  • HelloFresh – Say “Hello” to easy home cooking
  • Impossible Foods – Can a burger save the planet?
  • Juan Valdez Café – From commodity to premium branded experience
  • Kikkoman – Make haste slowly
  • Mayrig – Cooking up a passion for Armenian culture
  • Mikkeller – The world’s largest craft beer company
  • Nespresso – The business model with an extra shot
  • Ossian Vides y Vinos – Organic fusions of wines from Segovia
  • Red Bull – Space jumps, air races … energy drinks and media house
  • Supr Daily – Digitalised milk delivery in Mumbai
  • Vinomofo – Australian wine lovers community
  • Zespri – Redefining the Chinese gooseberry as the Kiwi fruit

In the past few years, food waste has been a particular sustainable action point for consumers and companies. Companies are finding new ways to reuse food waste. The Kellogg Company worked with UK- based Seven Bro7hers Brewery in 2019 to create beer made from non-standard cereal pieces. Meadow Mushrooms in New Zealand has created a container that is made from the organic waste from its mushroom stalks.

In France, Danone committed to solely using ingredients from regenerative agriculture by 2025. Unilever has a Sustainable Living Plan with three wide-reaching corporate social responsibility goals. Danone, Nestlė, Firmenich, International Flavors & Fragrances, and Sodexo are among more than 80 companies that are part of the We Mean Business climate change coalition. Ecommerce giant Amazon has founded its own Climate Pledge that commits to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement by 2040.

In the next 10 years, consumers will be able to use easily accessible and affordable customised biological tests, data collection, and analysis to learn what makes their bodies one of a kind. The results will help consumers better understand how to address every aspect of their health, including brain and emotional health. While respecting consumer privacy, food, drink, and foodservice companies will have opportunities to develop personalised recipes, custom diet plans, and individualised products.

Consumers are learning more about the natural connections in their bodies as more research discovers how the systems in our bodies work together. In particular, improved understanding of the research into the microbiome has taught more consumers about the importance of maintaining a healthy gut/brain axis, or the connection that links the brain, digestive system, and emotions.

Download: Future of Food: 2025 to 2050 to 2169

Download: Business Model Innovation by Peter Fisk  

Today’s business world is no longer stable and predictable. It cannot simply evolve from the past and extrapolate into the future. Yet too managers hope that their old models will continue to work. They seek to replicate the success formula of the past, to continuously enhance and improve the status quo, and trust that their luck will continue into the future. We call this a fixed mindset. Instead they need to break free, with a growth mindset.

“The best way to predict the future is to create it” said Abraham Lincoln.

Markets are more crowded than ever before. Competition is intense, from across geographies and sectors, whilst customer aspirations are constantly fueled by new innovations and possibilities. Innovation is continuous and essential. Yet too much innovation is just improvement, keeping pace, not getting ahead. It is quickly imitated or redundant, the advantage is lost, and investment is squandered.

“This is the age of disruption … which is not simply about disruptive technologies, but dramatically changing how people think and behave” says Sebastian Thrun of Udacity.

New business models

New business models are the most effective way to transform organisations, to innovate the whole way in which the business works. Inspired by a new generation of businesses – Airbnb to Uber, Dollar Shave Club to Netflix – we see dramatically new business models in every market, through collaborative platforms, data analytics and personal recommendations, or subscription-based payments.

Airbnb makes money by helping you to make money out of your spare room, connecting host and guest, then taking a small fee from each. Nespresso makes great coffee, selling discounted machines, and then getting you to sign up to an everlasting and incredibly profitable direct revenue steam of coffee pods.

What if your business started leasing rather than selling, became part of the sharing economy? What if you simply facilitated an exchange between buyers and sellers and took a cut? How about moving to a subscription model, or a freemium model, or a referral model, or an advertising model?

We used to just think a business simply made things, and sold them. Now its much more complicated. Or rather, there are many more innovative ways to achieve success …

The term “Business Model” is over used and under defined. Business models explain how organisations work – how do they create value for customers, and in doing so how they create value for all other stakeholders. They can map the current business, or explore options for the future.

The approach originates from mapping “value networks” in the 1990s, understanding the systems across business and its partners through which value (both financial and non-financial) is created and exchanged – by who, how and for whom. I remember working with Pugh Roberts to create a multi-million dollar dynamic model for Mastercard which showed varying any one driver – such as interest rates, or branding – affected everything else. And thereby being able to test new ideas and optimise the model.

Business models represent the dynamic system through which a business creates and captures value, and how this can changed or optimised. They are a configuration of the building blocks of business, and their creative reconfiguration can be a significant innovation.

Business models became fundamental to business strategy, driven by them but often driving them. Hambrick and Fredrickson’s Strategy Diamond is all about aligning the organisation, achieving an economic logic between strategic choices. They help to align the business, matching the right strategies for outside and inside, using the proposition as the fulcrum, and profitability as the measure of success.

Business models can often appear very mechanical, lacking emotion and easy to imitate. In 2001 Patrick Staehler, in particular seeking to explain the new breed of digital businesses, created a business model “map” driven by the value proposition, enabled by the value architecture, creating economic value and sustained by cultural values. The last point here is most interesting, in that it captured the distinctive personality of a business, its leadership styles and ways of doing business. This is much harder to copy, and also sustains the other aspects.

Alex Osterwalder’s subsequent Business Model Canvas emerged as the most common template on which to map a business model. He popularised the approach so much so that his supersized canvas now features in workshops throughout the world, always with an array of multi coloured sticky notes as teams debate the best combination of solutions for each box. Whilst the canvas lacks the sophistication of value driver analysis and dynamic modelling, it is about testing hypothesise in each aspect, and how they could work together, and that respect works as a thinking model.

Business models have become a practical tool for rethinking the whole business, seeing the connections and then innovating the business. In fact they offer a great platform to facilitate new strategy and innovation thinking. That’s why we’ve created the Business Innovation Program, which combines design thinking, new business models and strategic implementation – a great way to engage your team, to think about new ways to grow, and to create the future, practically.

We explore at least 50 different business model templates which could transform your business. We start with the customer, to explore emergent needs and behaviours, shaping better propositions and solutions, then exploring how to deliver them commercially, and as engaging customer experiences.


0900 – 1030: CHANGING WORLD

  • Making sense of today’s world, the challenge and opportunity of relentless change
  • The future isn’t like it used to be, so we can’t keep doing what we used to do
  • 100 companies changing the world right now. What can you learn from them?
  • Start with a future mindset, jump ahead, look forwards not backwards
  • Going beyond limits, how will you be the change, how will you achieve more?
  • Growth strategies – innovation beyond products, technology, and creativity


  • Starting from the future back – create the future you want, then work backwards
  • Working from the outside in – rethinking solutions through customer eyes
  • 10 types of innovation – products and services to business models and experiences
  • Ecosystems, from make or buy, to partner and connect, platforms and communities
  • Innovation multipliers – accelerate ideas further and faster to accelerate growth
  • Creating a growth factory – portfolios, self-tuning and the invincible company


  • Business models – emergence of business models, 50 models to adapt and apply
  • Linking business models to strategy, business plans and organisation design
  • Rethinking your business model – what is it, and not – and different ways to define it
  • Mapping existing business model – simplifying how your business actually works
  • Innovating new business models – rethinking how your business could work better
  • Developing a business model portfolio – creating the invincible business


  • Innovation in your sector – how are others innovating, what are the new models?
  • Rethinking products and services – what would deliver the proposition better?
  • Rethinking channels and brands – how to build more inspiring connections?
  • Rethinking revenues and pricing – exploring alternative ways to make money?
  • Rethinking assets and resources – how to use what you have better?
  • Rethinking activities and partners – what do to do yourself, and by others?


  • Your products and services – what would deliver your proposition better?
  • Your channels and brands – how to build more inspiring connections?
  • Your revenues and pricing – exploring alternative ways to make money?
  • Your assets and resources – how could you use what you have better?
  • Your activities and partners – what do you need to do yourself?
  • How would you change Endesa’s business model? Where will you start?

Maersk, the Danish shipping business, was another traditional company trying to compete in an increasingly digital and disrupted world. It struggled to understand how to respond to a new generation of shipping innovators, alternative transport providers, and digital disruptors.

And then it thought again.

Last year I interviewed Jim Hagemann Snabe, chairman of Maersk, on stage at the Thinkers50 European Business Forum in Odense. Snabe had recently joined the board after a career largely in technology, with SAP and Siemens, and also as digital advisor to the World Economic Forum.

How would he turn an old shipping line into a digital business, I asked him?

Soon afterwards Maersk started exploring blockchain, and how it could revolutionise the traditional processes of shipping goods around the world – everything from the intensive paperwork required through every port, to tracking just in time goods that need to find their way rapidly around the world to market.

Today AP Moller-Maersk, as it is more formally known, describes itself as an integrated container logistics company, connecting and simplifying trade to help our customers grow and thrive, with a dedicated team of over 76,000, operating in 130 countries, the largest shipping company in the world.

However change is never easy, particularly in a traditional business where most workers have done the same jobs in the same ways for many years. The speed and glamour of Silicon Valley or Shenzhen might seem far removed.

This is it’s way of engaging people, inside and outside Maersk, in its future:

“We are not doing this halfway. 

We are going all the way. Challenging ourselves to stay ahead of the curve for our customers. Pushing boundaries to connect and simplify their supply chains.”

This is your brain

It is your reptilian brain that holds you back. When new opportunities arise and you want to go all the way. It has been like this for millions of years.

That’s why change is hard.

It’s a neurological fact

Watch professor of psychology, Henrik Høgh-Olesen, explain why the reptilian brain fights change and how to work around it to evolve.

We are going all the way – pushing the boundaries to discover new and valuable connections between people, processes and data to find new paths to growth for our customers.”

Here are three examples of projects within the transformation:

Example 1: Maersk Spot

Imagine if a restaurant was like shipping

You wouldn’t accept complex booking, overbooking nor price uncertainty. So why do it in shipping? Introducing Maersk Spot with loading guarantee, easy online booking and a fixed price at booking.

We believe it’s shipping the way it’s meant to be, and we hope you think the same. Take a closer look and see how to get your cargo moving the simplest way.

Example 2: Cleaning up the oceans

The only way the plastic issue can be alleviated is by working all together, contributing with the best of our capabilities and engaging ourselves into groundbreaking solutions. This is the main reason for Maersk to keep supporting The Ocean Cleanup in the relaunch of its upgraded drifting system to the Pacific.

We sail the oceans every day and see the plastic problem growing. At current levels, by 2050 our oceans will contain more plastic than fish. With an estimated 5 trillion pieces of plastic waste littering all major ocean basins. This crucial problem is a high priority on our agenda. That´s the reason why Maersk Supply Services keeps providing offshore project management and vessel operations support to a re-developed offshore cleaning system.

They spent three months at the Pacific Ocean testing and collecting relevant data. Due to a structural malfunctioning of the cleanup system, The Ocean Cleanup took the decision to return to port earlier than planned to -based on findings and data- upgrade the system.

Following six months of onshore work, The Ocean Cleanup is now ready to re-send its upgraded passive drifting system to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, located roughly midway between California and Hawaii.

In Maersk we believe that, setbacks like this are inevitable when pioneering new technology and we know that, being in port has provided The Ocean Cleanup with the opportunity to make upgrades to a system that it is expected to be back at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by the end of June 2019.

Example 3: TradeLens

TradeLens is an open and neutral industry platform underpinned by Blockchain technology, supported by major industry players. It is a Maersk and IBM solution formerly known as Global Trade Digitization (GTD), is a trade platform for containerized shipping, connecting the entire supply chain ecosystem. Some of the benefits include:

  • An open, neutral, and distributed platform underpinned by Blockchain technology
  • Seamless, permissioned document and data sharing with a common access control structure
  • Ecosystem participants access the platform through open APIs

The TradeLens platform integrates trade data from industry partners onto a common, secure business network, and will provide real-time, secure access to end-to-end supply chain information to all actors involved in a global shipping transaction. Using the platform, you can publish events related to a consignment (shipment) or transport equipment (container), and set up subscriptions to be notified when events occur that match your subscriptions.

TradeLens allows you to manage the documents involved with a consignment. Submitted documents generate events for your documents. This adds to the complete view of activities involved with your consignment or transport equipment. The TradeLens document functions could be used as part of the process of submitting filings for the import and export of goods by enabling end users to securely submit, stamp, and approve documents.

You can use TradeLens directly through REST APIs, or through the Shipment Manager UI. The Shipment Manager (SM) component provides a web user interface to interact with the platform. You can view the events related to a consignment, and perform operations on documents.

Blockchain addresses the underlying challenges inherent in collaborating across a distributed, fragmented supply chain ecosystem:

  • Shared Ledger – Append-only distributed system of record shared across business network
    A network of industry participants maintains a distributed, permissioned ledger with copies of document filings, relevant supply chain events, authority approval status, and full audit history; every change results in a new, immutable block
  • Smart Contract – Shared business logic governing what transactions may be written to the ledger
    Cross-organizational business processes, such as import and export clearance, are pre-programmed and built into Blockchain and distributed to and executed on the network, preventing any member from changing the business logic
  • Privacy – Ensuring appropriate visibility; transactions are secure, authenticated and verifiable
    Cryptography enables permissioned access so only the parties participating in a specific consignment can submit, edit or approve related data
  • Trust – Transactions are endorsed by relevant participants
    Information such as documentation filings and authority approvals can only be changed if endorsed by the parties taking part in the consignment; full audit history maintained on the Blockchain

We lease cars. We rent designer dresses. When the lease is up, we return it and get another.

Could a similar leasing model work for furniture? IKEA, the world’s largest furniture retailer, is launching a subscription model where people can lease everything from office chairs to kitchen cabinets. Imagine you’re ready to redecorate your office or update your kitchen. Instead of going through the rigmarole (and expense) of buying all new and getting rid of the old, you just return everything and pick out something else. It’s the same as leasing a car or a piece of designer clothing. Once returned, it gets cleaned up, refurbished, and goes back into rotation for someone else to rent.

IKEA will pilot the program in Switzerland starting as soon as this month. There’s no word yet how much subscriptions will cost or exactly which Ikea products will be eligible. If the subscription model goes well, Ikea may launch the program globally. The company will start by leasing office furniture like desks and chairs to businesses. Kitchen cabinets are also a possibility. Because of the way Ikea’s cabinets are designed, all you’d have to do is swap out the doors for a completely different look.

“Instead of throwing those away, we refurbish them a little and we could sell them, prolonging the lifecycle of the products,” Torbjorn Loof, chief executive of Inter IKEA, told The Financial Times.

Time to innovate your business model

“The failure of any business reflects at root the failure to innovate, failure to recognise change, and the inability to respond to change adequately or appropriately” says Langdon Morris in his great new book Business Model Warfare.

“Business model innovation is perhaps the most important form of innovation, because it’s available to any company of any size, anywhere in the world. All it takes is insight, and the willingness to listen well and try something new.”

Here’s a short extract:

Today, as we see that yet another massive wave of new technology is about to crash across the global marketplace — what with artificial intelligence, blockchains, machine learning, self-driving cars, robots, quantum computing, etc., etc., all arriving immanently, — we must therefore anticipate that every existing business model of every existing business is thoroughly and utterly subject to disruption. This is a stark warning about the need to innovate.

Wouldn’t it be so incredibly helpful if there were a formula to explain all this, to simplify it and make it useful in practice? And indeed there is, a simple, three element framework:

  1. Outside: The company provides experiences to customers through the delivery of products and services. The current quality of those experiences is today’s reality; making them transformatively better is the vision.
  2. Inside: The factors inside the organization make this delivery possible. These can be many and varied, including the product or service itself, the supply chain, the operations, and technology. These are the means.
  3. The Bridge: And then the way that a company communicates this value proposition to customers through marketing and branding, which are the messages and means through which the company communicates. This is the story.

This formula for business model innovation immediately gives us three essential questions to ask about our own business model, and how to improve it:

  1. What’s the best possible experience that our customer can have? (Vision)
  2. How can we organize ourselves to deliver that? (Means)
  3. What’s the best brand identity to represent it? (Story)

We also observe that the most successful business model innovators tend to focus obsessively on one particular aspect of their business means, and develop it innovatively and far beyond what’s been done before. That is, they push it to the edge, the absolute limit of possibility, and in so doing create an entirely new capability that they then leverage to define or enable an exceptionally better value proposition for their customers. (See the illustration at right.)

Let’s look again at some of the companies we’ve already been discussing to see how this applies: where did they push it?

Amazon: The company’s determination to leverage its core technology into every aspect of the customer relationship.

Apple: Obsession with the user interface design created an ease of use that is the basis for nearly everything else that Apple has accomplished.

Google: Obsession with creating user traffic on its platforms has driven two decades of growth.

Southwest Airlines: Obsession with reducing operating costs enabled an entirely new business model and created three decades of exceptional growth and success.

Walmart: Obsession with supply chain optimization is the foundation of its global retailing empire.

The word “obsession” shows up in each one for good reason, and in fact in each of these examples it’s a dual obsession. On the inside, it’s the obsession to optimize some aspect of operations; on the outside, it’s the obsession to optimize the customer’s experience.

Getting there may not be easy, though. Southwest Airlines had to endure a near-death experience during its startup stage before a core element of its eventually-successful business model became clear; it took Google years to figure out how to make money; Amazon and Uber are still losing money; and Apple was moribund as late as 1997, and it was only in about 2005 that its many decades of persistence began to pay off.

How does this work in practice? Business model innovators often begin with these questions simultaneously at the forefront of their thoughts:

The first is simply, What would make the customer’s experience better? Answering this question well requires a detailed understanding of the tacit dimensions of the user experience.

The second is, How can we achieve that? This is the means.

The third question then focuses the compelling story, the critical importance of branding.

Yes, the table is of course a simplification (and possibly an over-simplification), but isn’t it interesting anyway? Do you agree with all the labels I’ve chosen? Perhaps not. But it does convey some important ideas that you need to think about with respect to your own business model:

  • Can you articulate what your business model is about clearly and concisely?
  • Does it tell a story that matters to your customers?
  • Can you deliver on the promise?

Notice that nowhere on the chart is the story or the experience actually the technology itself. Thus, it becomes clear that the importance of new technologies is that they’re the means through which new and better experiences are delivered, but they should rarely be the focus.

Mediocre marketers sell technology. But people buy the hole, not the drill, so skilled marketers sell the hole.

That is, the best business model innovators figure out how to deploy new technologies in order to create better experiences for their customers, while the non-innovators push technology without considering what it means for their business model, or how their business model should be designed to create optimal experiences.

If you look at the up-and-down history of retailers like Best Buy, this is one of the key lessons. They originally designed their stores as temples for people to come and worship technology, which immediately got them commoditized, and soon squeezed by Amazon and Walmart. To turn the business around they had to make it experiential and thus interesting, which they did by turning the stores into brand bazaars, collections of interesting shops in one big box. To complete the turnaround they’re now developing the new brand identity, an essential element of all business models.

Brands and business need to be bold and brave to win in today’s world. They need to stand up for what they believe in the world, to talk about more than their products, to care about their societies and futures.

Of course ‘purpose’, ‘meaning’, ‘relevance’ are all keywords during any strategy workshop which I facilitate, but in recent times they have started to really matter. To have substance beyond slogans, and to shape the way organisations think and behave. To be real and human, authentic and trustworthy. The best brands are embracing this in quite dramatic and daring ways.

There was a time when all that companies seemed to care about was themselves – their heritage and quality, to be the best in their industry, to maximise returns to their shareholders. Then they slowly shifted attention to customers, leading to rather meaningless statements about putting customers first, service matters and lifetime relationships. Whilst the shift to become customer-centric can be significant and profound, it still sounded hollow – textbook words that lacked passion and difference.

But then the world started to be shaken up like it hadn’t in many decades. Instead of relative peace, stability and certainty, a tidal wave of economic instability rolled at lightening speed across the digitally-connected world. The frustration and aspiration which followed led to revolutions and radicalisation. The Arab Spring toppled dictators and unleashed new religious extremism, war and terror, and floods of refugees across geographical borders that had been eroding for years. At the same time, Russia grabbed a piece of Ukraine, claiming ethnicity means sovereignty, and tried to recreate polarities between east and west.

A new wave a fearful, nationalistic and divisive politicians jumped on the bandwagon, sweeping people up without logic or humanity, from Brexit to Trump, as symbols of change. They challenged the established order. A new world order started to emerge, but not led by Britain or America. China’s rise has been profound, although its debt mountain is fragile, whilst other emerging markets have emerged to drive the world’s faltering economy. And at the same time, Polemon Go came and went, Snapchat captured a new generation, cyberhacking became the new form of attack, and presidents told blatant lies like fake news was simply a different channel.

VUCA was no longer just a military term – volatile, uncertain, complex, ambitious – it applied to every aspect of work and life.

Polarisation, localisation, extremism and  have been the consequences of progress, connectedness and democracy. People who used to yearn for change – to love social and tech progress, to travel the world, to embrace the future – and the sure way in which any new politician could galvanise followers – now seem to reject change. Whilst it felt like people were more engaged, they didn’t seem to care – climate change declared a hoax by the US president, people banned from travel simply because of religion, a hatred of diversity, and walls emerging between the closest neighbours. This isn’t the 21st century we signed up to.

What does all this mean for business and brands?

Companies are a highly visual and practical part of this polarising world.

Leading brands have started to assert their voice, and take sides. They need to, in order to stay relevant but also to make real choices about how they work, treat people, and do business. Brands are the icons of today’s world – they can often have more influence than governments, relevance and maybe trust, working across traditional borders and social divides.

But taking sides also has consequences – it means not everybody will like you. Instead some will love you, others might hate you. Actually it was Nike and Starbuck’s marketer Scott Bedbury said that this is the perfect role of a brand – to polarise people.


Whilst politicians have lost their heads, and electorates are left spinning by what is real and fake – and others more extremely seek to whip up a frenzy of thoughtless action – then it is left to brands to fight for a better world, to stick up for fairness and equality, and to re-embrace a positive future.

Challenger brands have long embraced polarisation, knowing that the potential upside of being loved by one tribe and loathed by another is better than people feeling indifferent. These polarised times however, mean people are expecting brands of all shapes and sizes to choose which side of the fence they sit. The results of which have allowed for some glorious rubbernecking as brands discover the quickfire consequences of taking sides.

With a flurry of new #Boycott <Brand> trending every day. It doesn’t matter what you sell, no brand is safe from a consumer who believes you have backed the wrong side. In the current climate, it’s impossible to please everybody, and as such, no particular position is safe.

Take Starbucks’ response to Trump’s potential so-called travel ban. The brand pledged to hire 10,000 refugees over the next five years. Howard Shultz launch a direct assault on his president, reminding people that we are all human and equal, and that Starbuck’s would not stand by watching unfairness. Whilst many people met this gesture with cheers, #BoycottStarbucks began trending on Twitter.

Similarly, Budweiser’s Super Bowl ad which was deemed as pro-immigration led to angry threats to ditch the (previously considered ‘all-American’) beer whilst others pledged to buy it in bulk. This highlighted that responding to our split political climate can lead to both good and bad-will in equal measure. Many other Super Bowl ads took a similar stance. Movie and sports stars have been similar in their vocalness.

At a grassroots level, people are combining their efforts across multiple targets with both #TheResistance and #GrabYourWallet movements. As punishment for toeing the new White House’s party line, these aim to hit brands where it hurts most – in the pocket.

Under Armour fell foul to a backlash after their CEO Kevin Plank expressed his excitement at having such a ‘pro-business president’. Sponsored athletes vocally condemned this point of view and #BoycottUnderArmour gained momentum. In response, Plank took out a full page ad in The Baltimore Sun where he used a letter to personally clarify that he did not agree with Trump’s approach to social justice.

Similarly, sparks flew when fashion retailer Nordstrom pulled Ivanka Trump’s brand from their range after sales began to plummet. Unsurprisingly, Nordstrom received a huffy tweet from President Trump himself and once again, the twitterati responses involved adulation and disgust in seemingly equal measure.

Where brands claim they haven’t taken a side, assumptions are quickly made on where they may stand. Take Mark Zuckerberg’s ‘Building Global Community’ manifesto questioning whether collectively ‘we are building the world we all want’. Although avoiding specifics, Zuckerberg’s choice of language around ‘divisiveness’ and ‘isolation’ led to swift interpretations of an anti-Trump message.

For years brands were dying to ‘join the conversation’ and now they’re involved, people are demanding more from them. And since this boycott train doesn’t feel like it is slowing down, brands need to be confident and consistent in delivering on what they believe. It needs to pervade their business, in passion and action, not just intent and words. For a brand with a clear, longstanding purpose, taking a side is made much easier.

Take Airbnb, who have been galvanised by the passion of CMO Jonathan Mildenhall and his team. From capturing their brand around the bigger idea of ‘belong everywhere’ to their ‘community commitment’ request where they ask travellers to accept their terms and conditions of use, their ‘we accept’ Super Bowl ad, to their support for minority groups in society, they have a purpose that goes far beyond image, slogan or campaign.

Take a little inspiration from this:

Now is the time for brand’s to show who they are, to have a personality and attitude, a purpose and conscience, and follow though in practical and meaningful ways – to stand up and have an opinion, express a point of view, create debate and inspire a better future – to be positive, bold and inspiring.