IN TOUCH: Full speed ahead

Ten years on, vision articulated by world-leading CEOs has in many ways been realised. International consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) has been checking in with global CEOs since 1998 when their collective vision for the future embraced simpler more connected world, an ‘extreme optimism’ about future growth prospects, and the market potential of China looming on the corporate horizon.
PWC’s latest conversations, which encapsulate the views of almost 1100 CEOs across 50 countries, reveal customer bases spanning continents, goods being sourced from network of global suppliers, technologies enabling flexible systems and knowledge-sharing in extremis.
Just how well, PWC’s researchers had wanted to know, have the CEOs actually predicted trends over the past 10 years? Are CEOs better equipped to anticipate the future today and if so, how do they capitalise on what’s going on in their sector? More specifically, who and what influences their worldview and how do they inspire their people to go after ever-shifting opportunities?
“The changes in 10 years have spawned breed of CEO who is more adept at seeing ahead, at sensing where opportunities and obstacles will appear,” say the authors of PWC’s latest report. “Managing rather than avoiding risk is the hallmark of the successful CEO. Resilience and adaptability set them apart.”
Not that the intervening years have been smooth as silk. In the past decade, global businesses have weathered the collapse of Enron – and its subsequent fallout, seen the dotcom bubble pop, suffered or benefited from the consequences of rising commodity prices, and felt the unrest in the Middle East.
New business models are now emerging, according to PWC. “Hierarchical models have given way to more interconnected and networked style. On broader scale you have internalised corporate social responsibility to such degree that ‘business and society’ has become ‘business in society’.”
It marks, the report suggests, transition point on the journey from chief control officer, through chief executive officer to chief empowerment officer.
Many CEOs, the report goes on to say, have articulated vision that aims to balance better the value extracted by global concerns with the value added to local communities. “In today’s commercial world, this remains worthy aspiration.”
Many successful CEOs, too, realise the importance of anticipating change, taking into account not just business objectives but also rash of social objectives. To quote Dow Chemical chairman and CEO Andrew Liveris, senior executives are now “paid to look around not one corner, but two”.
In an effort to dig deeper into the survey’s findings, this year PWC also conducted face-to-face interviews with 12 leading CEOs, among them Lenovo Group chairman Yang Yuanqing, Malvinder Singh – the CEO and managing director of India’s vast Ranbaxy Laboratories, and Paul Anthony, managing director and CEO of AGL Energy, Australia.

• For full copy of the report and to access interviews with the 12 selected international CEOs go to
www.pwc.com.

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