Last week I attended the 2-day World Business Forum at Radio City Music Hall in New York. I was covering the event as part of the WBF Blogger's Hub. The list of guests at the event was impressive, and in summary the speakers provided the audience with advice and insight into the following different areas:
- Trends and directions in managing people within global corporations
- Must-have qualities for corporate leaders
- Trends and directions in corporate marketing
- Economic outlook from outside of the US
- A call to action by former US President Bill Clinton
New Management Paradigms
When it comes to the management of corporate employees, there are clear trends emerging. Traditional management techniques strive to increase productivity and intellect; the new direction includes a focus on increasing employee passion, creativity, and initiative. Bill Conaty's message on performance evaluation stressed that employees should be measured on their adherence to corporate values. If the corporation values passion, creativity, and initiative, then employees must be measured on these qualities.
Gary Hamel was much more blunt. A new kind of productivity is embodied by the following employee statement: "I am working on exactly what I chose to work on, and I'm flat out"! Note the emphasis on employee choice. This indicates that employees are not necessarily told what to do, but they choose what to to. Hamel backed up this radical notion by citing real world examples of this type of management style. He cited the development of LINUX, as well as the management techniques of several other companies.
Several speakers emphasized the importance of transparency, availability, and consistent messaging from the top leaders in a corporation. Bill George was one of the speakers that led the charge on this point. Corporate leaders not only must stay connected with the customers consuming their products, but they must also open up and act more transparently with their employees.
Pat Lencioni agreed with Bill, and augmented his thoughts with a specific set of to-do items for corporate executives (many of which are common sense). The executive leadership team must be cohesive, and a unified corporate vision must be over-communicated with absolute clarity. Pat's final point for the leadership team was to minimize bureaucracy in the HR system.
On the afternoon of Day One of the World Business Forum, Kevin Roberts took the stage to discuss new trends in corporate marketing. As he built on the theme that the "consumer is boss", Roberts focused on the importance of making an emotional connection between a product's brand and the consumer. These brands must be purpose-inspired and benefits-driven.
Today's marketing strategy has moved from an "attraction economy" to a "participation economy". Corporations must figure out how to get consumers to participate in the marketing of their products! Roberts mentioned the new ROI: Return On Involvement. The most successful brands were referred to as "lovemarks". These brands not only have the respect of their customers, but their love as well. See the "love-respect axis" shown above (taken from the Lovemarks.com Website).
Global Economic Outlook
From a purely domestic perspective, the view of the recovery from the economic crisis was grim. Furthermore, Jeffrey Sachs claimed that the lack of checks and balances that could have prevented the crisis (e.g. tighter Wall St. regulation) are still not in place today.
However, during the morning of Day Two a set of international speakers was brought in to provide a more global perspective of the world's economy. Their view of the economic crisis was much more optimistic:
- Francisco Gonzalez, Chairman and CEO of BBVA , described how BBVA was one of the world's five largest banks that did not require a government bailout, and how their emphasis on technological innovation has them well-positioned for growth.
- Peter Voser of Royal Dutch Shell optimistically pointed out Shell's focus on biofuels, and encouraged the US to continue to lead via "cap-and-trade" innovations (such as the acid rain legislation of the 90s).
- Morris Chang of Taiwan Semi-Conductor reported extremely positive job growth amongst engineers in the Taiwan region.
- Finally, Roger Agnelli of Cia Vale do Rio Doce S.A. in Brazil (second largest mining company in the world), reported on the huge economic opportunities his country is realizing. Agnelli reported on strong business ties with China and mentioned that he "prays for China every night".
Bill Clinton: Interdependence
Bill Clinton ended the World Business Forum by describing the framework through which he views the world. He chooses to use the word "inter-dependence" as opposed to "globalization" (which is largely an economic term). He views interdependence as the world's one hope and its greatest challenge.
Mr. Clinton summarized three main troubles in today's world:
- Unequal: 25 % of the world's population will die from diseases such as malaria, AIDS, and dysentery, even though the rest of the world has the resources to help and heal.
- Unstable: the ripple effect of the Wall-Street crisis, the speed of the swine flu virus, and the shared vulnerability to terrorism, all highlight that we live in an increasingly unstable world.
- Unsustainable: the world population's use of natural resources is outpacing the amount of available land, air, fossil fuels, and water.
Mr. Clinton pointed out that the only way to solve these problems is to recognize and leverage our common humanity; the US cannot solve these problems on its own anymore. The world's citizens must not argue about "how much" to spend, but argue instead on "how to solve". He also pointed out that "sustainability is good for business".
A Well-Rounded Event
This was my first time attending the World Business Forum. Many thanks to HSM and in particular George Levy for the invitation to cover the event as a blogger. The business men and women attending the event were treated to a wide range of perspectives that should help them plan for change in their corporations.