One of the most interesting findings in our new Global CEO study being released this week is how CEOs are changing the nature of work by adding a powerful dose of openness, transparency and employee empowerment to the traditional command-and-control operating structure of the past. Outperforming CEO’s are even more likely to move in this direction.
This is a significant cultural shift. In the age of digital communications, CEOs understand the need to free up their organizations internally and externally to promote innovation and growth using technology, often with the use of social media platforms. As the world becomes smaller and flatter, society is demanding closer personal relationships in business.
CEOs are also showing a greater appreciation for new connections. By using new technologies CEO’s can enhance relationships among employees, customers and partners, CEOs can advance a new leadership agenda. In so doing, they can take on a new role as the “Chief Engagement Officer” to increase engagement across all levels, both inside and outside their organizations. More than half of the CEOs we spoke with (53 percent) are planning to facilitate collaboration with outside organizations, while 52 percent are shifting their attention to promote greater internal collaboration.
Those who can embrace this new spirit of openness can win. Our research shows that outperforming companies are 30 percent more likely to identify openness to be a key influence on their organization. For example, Baush & Lomb now provides employees with social platforms and mobile technologies to let people communicate at work like they do at home. The rationale is simple: productivity and effectiveness will rise.
On the customer front, the pursuit of customer knowledge is as old as business itself, but where and how those insights are found and used are changing radically. What’s different now is all the data people are dishing up about themselves on social networks, and Web sites. As consumers provide data about their shopping preferences, they are providing an opportunity for companies to recognize and understand what makes each individual unique, and tailor their products and services accordingly. One Brazilian retailer we spoke to has even gone so far as to open a virtual store for each of its customers – so that consumers can visit it to see clothing and accessories tailored to their specific wants and needs.
Today’s CEOs are in a position that none of their predecessors have faced. Although there have been many eras of disruption in the past, several factors make this period dramatically different. First, the number of disruptive forces rippling through society at the same time has never been higher. And pervasive adoption has never come faster. More than anything, this backdrop provides CEOs with a unique opportunity to lead.
The connectedness brought upon by a new open approach is the hallmark of our era – and the driver of innumerable possibilities. How will CEOs capitalize on this change? How will they lead in a more open era? How will they create sustainable business value? The possibilities are endless – and wide open.