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Disrupt or be disrupted: sound advice from global CEOs

Source | LinkedIn : By John Veihmeyer

Every business leader is grappling with an unprecedented pace and scale of change to their business. They know the threat, as well as the opportunity, of disruption is real and present. We can all think of numerous iconic brands that were at one time household names but have now disappeared.

Most of the nearly 1,300 CEOs we spoke with as part of our just-released 2017 Global CEO Outlook are embracing disruption. They see it as an opportunity, rather than a threat, and three out of four say their business is aiming to be the disruptor in their sector. The factors driving the pace of disruption are increasing as well. Everything from the rapid advancement in cognitive technology, the impact of social media, and cyber security threats are having an impact. For business leaders, disruption for disruption’s sake isn’t the goal. Rather, it’s to out-innovate the competition, and build a sustainable future of growth for a business.

So what does it take to be the disruptor?

Not surprisingly, the top strategic initiative of the CEOs we surveyed is “greater speed to market,” followed by “fostering innovation” and “implementing disruptive technology.”

Being a disruptor means innovating and taking action – whether that’s understanding new types of customer relationships, or making bold investment decisions in technology – to prepare a business for a future that requires agility and flexibility.

At the same time, these CEOs haven’t lost sight of the need to also focus on core strengths. Amid an increasingly uncertain geopolitical and business environment, they know their businesses must continue delivering over the short term on the things that ‘made them famous’, while transforming the way they create value.

CEOs were also clear about recognizing the risks that they need to manage in the midst of disruption. Reputational and brand risk was near the top of the list for CEOs this year – not having made the top 10 risks in 2016. This tells me that CEOs are intensely aware of how much scrutiny they face and how transparent the business environment has become. This is a risk that will continue to evolve, and is seen by CEOs as potentially having a sizeable impact on growth in the next 3 years.

CEOs are also clear about the need to disrupt themselves as leaders and many are actively developing new skills (often in areas they haven’t needed to manage before) and are more open to exploring new collaborations than they have ever been.

As I think about those brands that have disappeared in the past 30 or 40 years I see lessons that today’s CEOs seem determined to apply. Businesses in today’s market are facing some new risks and a faster pace of change, but the challenge is the same: do the things necessary to transform, or risk missing the opportunity to succeed in the future.

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