10 years of the World Business Forum

An annual appointment, two intense days, an event where everyone has a clear purpose: bringing added value to business through their experience.

Perini Journal

Milestones and important interventions followed one another on the stage of the World Business Forum in the course of the last ten years, different experiences that have redefined the course of business, the role of the leader and the rules of engagement. The essence of management was the fil rouge of this tenth edition, what is represents today and what it will constitute in the future.

Tom Peters, the management icon and always researching excellence, has contributed along the years to giving shape to modern mana-gement together with Peter Drucker. Defin- ed the inventor of the “management guru industry”, during his speech he highlighted the importance of the company meant as a unicum comprised of people. “You stay for a long time as a boss, you have a million distractions, but there’s only one question worth asking at the end of the day: did we make the 6 or 6600 people who work for us more successful by just a little bit than when they came to work this morning? Because we can only make our customers happy if the people who work for us are happy. Business is a collection of human beings as much as a theater company or a football team is. And so the notion of excellence and business fit comfortably with one another. The enterprise at its best is an emotion-al, vital, innovative, joyful, creative, entrepreneurial endeavor that elicits maximum human potential in the wholehearted pursuit of excellence in service of others. Now that is a mouthful in any language, but if you dissected this one word at a time and then you made up the opposite of that word, is that what you’d want? Do you want an “unjoyful” organization? Do you want the opposite of excellence? Business has to give people enriching, rewarding lives … or it’s simply not worth doing. We want to serve our customers well, but if we want to do that we must ensure that the people working for us are, in terms of both growth and financial rewards, successful human beings.”

When the wind of change blows, build windmills, not walls. Provocative and captivating was the speech by Kevin Roberts, CEO Worldwide of Saatchi & Saatchi, who focused on the need to rethink marketing today. Through 3 simple questions, it is possible to assess a marketing campaign. “Marketing is dead in its notion of command and control, of “selling by yelling”, of pushing a product. The role of marketing departments now is much bigger. It is to create a movement. You do not buy of ipad or an ipod for its functional benefits, but because you want to be part of the APPLE movement: to show people that you’re creative, hip, that you think different. Being part of a movement, creating it: that’s the role of marketing today. Three are the fundamental questions to ask when evaluating an advertising campaign, a video or a commercial. The first is very simple: do I want to see it again? The second: do I want to share it? Because today, if we see something great, we share it. The third: do I want to improve it? All you need is a computer.”

Why do we buy today? What is in the consumer’s mind? Martin Lindstrom, top exponent of neuromarketing, consultant to some top brands, presented his innovative approach to marketing based on the biology that lies at the basis of consumers’ desires. “I think three things are happening. We will all become individual brands and will become much more aware of it. And to point this out, in New Zealand recently it was discovered that Facebook was doing an experiment, enabling people to upgrade their presence among their friends in the “like” categories and other features. Basically, if you wanted to be more visible on your friends’ page, you had to pay for it and you’d be more visible along the list. That’s the first indication we’re seeing that, suddenly, we as consumers will be asked to make considerations not about other brands but about ourselves as a brand. Facebook has introduced now another feature: if you endorse a brand on-line then you may get some sort of discount from that company, and they will take your endorsement, even your photo and your quotation and put it on all your friends’ websites or their Facebook. What’s interesting is that it won’t be everyone, but only the ones they know as aspiring to you, so they would start to create a hierarchy between who’s looking up to you and who’s not looking up to you. So you will become a very integrated part of how to build brands yourself. And that will require consumers to have ethical guidelines themselves. Consumers today have been able to wash their hands and say “it’s the company’s fault”. But now they become the brand and that, of course, will change everything dramatically. That’s the first thing that’ll happen.

The second will be an extreme degree of “contextual”. I sort of invented that term some years ago and called it “contextual branding and contextual marketing.” I had the inspiration thinking about walking down the street and someone sending a message to you; that message is exactly contextual to the moment you are in. The first time I saw that for real was in Japan, walking down a street in Tokyo. This message said: “Martin, one of your friends is in the area. Would you like to meet the person?” I clicked “yes.” It said: “Starbucks would like to introduce you to the friend at the nearest Starbucks. We can give you a free cup of coffee.” I clicked “yes” and I found my way to the nearest Starbucks and there he was.

That is contextual branding, sending the right message to the right audience at the right time, and this is happening on-line as well. The latest we’re seeing is a concept from Brazil called Predictor. It enables the system on-line to change the content on your homepage depending on where you were visiting before, not necessarily with your permission. For example, you’ve just had a baby and started a family. If you go into a website like Carrefour, for example, and see that their homepage is all about cars and you don’t need a car, you leave. But what if just a second before you went into Carrefour you went to Pinterest and was pinning some photos of your new baby? The system gets this information a fraction of a second before you go into Carrefour and they will customize their entire homepage around your liking kids. That sounds like science fiction. This is reality. And reality will go even further. In the future, everything will be contextual. So that means, when you walk around in a supermarket, depending on what your profile is on Facebook, on Google, Gmail and whatever, they are ranking you based on your popularity and aspiration levels so if you are really popular, you are more attractive for advertising than if you’re not. That data will go into the supermarket and you will be shopping around and notice on the little display that the prices for Pampers are surprisingly low for you because you happen to have a strong voice. So this is the level we’re seeing where contextual will really go far. I did not predict that 15 years ago but it’s very clear to me that that’s what will happen right now.

The third thing I expect we’ll see is that everything will become a game, a gamification. I think that gaming will be everywhere. We see that already now with doctors being trained in how to perform complex operations in computer games. The whole military in the US is basically trained on computer games. We’re seeing that coming into the schools. But in the future, everything will become a game, in branding as well.”

We create our own luck: this is the basis of Álex Rovira’s philosophy. Expert in personal development and one of the most widely read and influential authors in Spain, Rovira firmly believes in the power of transformation of words and in the enormous potential inherent in each one of us.

But how do transformational leaders think?

One can be a controlling leader, using pressure to reach their goals. They’ll get good results in the short term, but in the long term, they will be draining talent from the system. However, when there’s transformational leadership, with agreed changes, fear, inertia and laziness vanish, leading to good will, courage, initiative, purpose and enthusiasm. Because we know what unites us and we know we are doing something that is bigger than us. When we cannot change the situation we are facing the challenge is fundamentally changing ourselves. “Even though nothing changes, if I change, everything changes” is probably one of the key factors for transformation and leadership.

Steve Jobs, Anita Roddick, Larry Page, Ingvar Kamprad, Jimmy Wales have a common denominator: they have democratized the use of products and services. But how have these entrepreneurs thought and how do they think? How does the entrepreneur think? Normally a businessman, an entrepreneur, a leader follows this mental sequence: First the “What”, then the “How” and then the “What for.” What will I offer? Computers. How am I going to do this? I’ll buy the parts in Asia, I’ll assemble them and sell them by franchising, and also through e-commerce. What for? To provide home and professional computer solutions to whoever asks for them. That’s the habitual rationale, by seeing the product as well as by seeing the demand, especially the way of seeing the product, “What, How, and What for”. Jobs, Roddick, Page, Kamprand and Wales think the other way round, they don’t start with the “What”, they start with the “What for”. Then comes the “How” and there comes the radical reinvestment. Because innovation can be incremental or radical and this rationale leads to radical innovation. Then comes the “what”. To be transformational leaders, we must start thinking from the “What for”, and that’s how the thinking process, when it calls on the heart, leads to different conclusions, very different to the ones we get if we start with the “What.”

What really motivates us? Daniel Pink, authoritative voice in the realm of motivation and creativity at work, in his speech tried to explain what the motivational dynamics that act on people are. “If we take the example of a simple, straight-forward, routine algorithmic kind of work like turning the same screw on an assembly line or adding up stacks of figures, the classic motivators we use in organizations are the “if/then” motivators – if you do this, then you get that. And these work fine. But science shows that for more complex, conceptual work that requires innovation, creativity, solving non-obvious problems, if/then motivators just don’t work very well. We need to come up with a new set of motivational mechanisms and, again, science yields some possibilities. It’s providing autonomy, giving people control over what they do, how they do it, when they do it, who they do it with, providing a sense of mastery that is the innate desire to get better at something that matters and plugging people into a purpose so that they know that what they do each day contributes to a larger whole. And there are many companies around the world, from an Australian software company called Atlassian to an Argentine software company called Globant to an American shoe company called Zappos, to the American software firm Inuit to a whole array of companies that are practicing a very different approach to motivating people by giving people a lot more control, by helping them make progress and by having a purposeful workplace. They’re paying people enough but they’re trying to get money off the table rather than making money the most important thing in the world because human beings deep down want to contribute want to have control over their lives, want to do something that matters. More and more we’re seeing that companies that go with the grain of human nature rather than against it are the ones that are doing the best.”

Companies are in constant evolution, just like human nature, for this reason, the essence of management passes through the people who live and work within the organization’s ecosystem. Not just business but human relations. *

Login or Register to publish a comment