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Adapt or Die: How Companies Make “The Big Pivot” to Thrive in a Volatile World

On September 7, IPADE hosted 400 attendees for the Harvard Business Review Summit Mexico 2017, the most important meeting of leaders, organizations, and ideas regarding the future of management. With the theme ‘The Art of Management for a New Era,’ the event served as an opportunity to engage in timely, in-depth discussion of the ideas, practices, solutions, and public policies that will change the way business is conducted in Mexico, in Latin America, and in the world.

Keynote speaker Andrew Winston, a globally recognized expert on how companies can navigate and profit from humanity’s biggest challenges, focused on how to build resilient companies in a volatile world. Warning signs of advancing climate change abound. Extreme weather, scarcity, and the rising cost of commodities foreshadow what might be ahead. Can we alter this perilous trajectory? Mr. Winston thinks we can, but to do so we must fundamentally shift the way business functions.

During his keynote session, Mr. Winston highlighted four mega-trends that are impacting the global economy. The first of these trends is climate change, with extreme weather impacting communities and economies around the world. The second mega-trend is the economics of the clean economy, with major cost reductions in clean energy since 2008 (land based wind, solar, battery costs, LED lights, etc.) The third is a fundamental pressure on resources that will only continue as a billion more people enter the global middle class, including on basic resources like food, water, and energy. The fourth mega-trend is connectivity and transparency, with new technologies connecting consumers and providing information on the way that companies operate, including in supply chains.

According to Mr. Winston, companies must flip their priorities in order to tackle the largest challenges facing humanity today, prioritizing these issues over short-term earnings. Companies around the world must become more resilient through the following steps:

  • Pivot in vision: Companies and corporate leaders must shift their vision away from short-termism and towards long-term priorities, setting science-based goals and pursuing heretical innovation.
  • Pivot in values: Companies must work to change incentives, redefine ROI, and increase the value placed on natural capital.
  • Pivot in partners: Companies must inspire customers to use less and collaborate radically with other organizations that might even be considered competitors. Additionally, companies must get involved in arenas that previously might have been considered outside of their scope, such as political lobbying.

Mr. Winston heavily emphasized the fact that business cannot thrive unless people and planet are thriving as well, a concept that was also emphasized by Professor Robert Kaplan during his earlier keynote session.

Questions were accepted through Twitter, with attendees using the hashtag #hbrsummitmx.

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