CEO Monthly July 2017

26 CEO MONTHLY / JULY 2017 , On July 18, ThoughtWorks, a global software consultancy released a first of its kind report, ‘The Next Big Disruption: Courageous Executives’, revealing what sets top business leaders apart from their competition. First-Ever Report on Courageous Leadership among Successful C-Suite Executives “I began my time in the industry as a developer, giving me the tools I needed to approach business with a technology first perspective. Executives across the globe are learning that a strong grasp of technology matters and they’re finding ways to adapt. Our findings show that 54% of courageous executives have developed a deep understanding of technology with a remarkable 57% of these leaders reporting having written code,” noted Xiao. “A tenacious commitment to embrace technology is what today sets apart truly courageous executives.” According to the report, notable themes uniting courageous executives include: Proactive Approach to Technology Changes According to the report, to keep pace and anticipate future technology shifts, ‘courageous executives’ conduct research, analyse their competitors, troubleshoot tech challenges and hire subject matter experts. Most courageous executives (65%) say that digitising and adapting to new technology is a top business priority followed by growth. • Research – 63% of leaders do their own research to stay ahead of technology changes. Top trends they’re exploring include security threats; human and machine interaction; new hardware, software and operational platforms; machine learning and artificial intelligence; virtual reality and augmented reality. The report profiles an elite segment of C-Suite leaders referred to as courageous executives in the US, the UK, Australia and India. The findings underscore the critical role technology plays in business strategy, from navigating the chaos of digital transformation to how they’re setting their business up for future success. The report also sheds light on the leadership styles of courageous executives including their tolerance for risk and failure, their use of customer insights and the ways leaders in all four countries are preparing for the future of work. This report, developed by ThoughtWorks in partnership with research agency Northstar, features insight from Fortune 500 C-Suite executives who are: advocates for digital transformation; have an active role in directing how technology enables their business; have seen their company’s revenue or profit increase significantly due to a recent technology change; and 85% of which self-identified as risk takers. “As companies across all industries embrace the changes of our increasingly digital world, we’re seeing leaders at the helm of these companies dive deeper into how technology is implemented and how it works,” said ThoughtWorks President and CEO, Guo Xiao. • Competitor analysis – In all four countries, big tech decisions are most often fuelled by competition. Asked to identify the largest driver motivating change, 47% pointed to their competitors. Tolerance for risk and willingness to fail Understanding risks and its impact on ongoing business success is an important characteristic of a courageous executive along with the ability to rebound after a perceived failure. • Appetite for risk - In fact, 87 % of all executives agree that taking risks is necessary to achieve goals and maintain a strong competitive advantage with 62 % pointing to their willingness to take risks their competitors won’t as a key differentiator. • Failing well - Courageous executives reported their most common reaction to these setbacks was to focus on what went right with the second being to stay as positive as possible. When asked how failure affected their employees, 54 % globally said that they believed failure made them even more motivated to succeed. Use of customer insights Throughout the world, courageous leaders recognise the necessity of maintaining a close connection to their customers. 91 % report that customer input directly informs their strategic decision-making. While there is some agreement as to the best methods for gathering that customer input, there’s still a lack of consensus among executives when it comes to what data they’re collecting and who is assessing the insights. Data source - Overall, the most common source of insight is customer research, followed by social feeds which are monitored by 68% of Australian, 60% of UK and Indian and only 38% of US leaders. Other ways executives gather information includes using analytics from a content management system or implementing a designated customer insights task force. Customer engagement - Gathering data from multiple sources is universally valued, but 87% of executives’ report having an internal team dedicated to their customers. Additionally, 58% of US and 48% of Australian executives say they speak to their customers themselves, which is far more than 32% in India and 22% in the UK. The future of work Across continents, nearly half of all courageous leaders describe their company culture as “team-first,” meaning they