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PA OPINION

Live from Davos – Four ways to address pressing challenges

We're following all the latest trends live from Davos. Below, we explain how to address the pressing challenges leaders face. Read our other insights from the World Economic Forum, including what purpose means in the post-digital era and why sustainability is key to growth, and watch our wrap-up of the week.

“In a world characterised by sweeping change – from rapid technological advances to shifting trade patterns and increased pressure on natural resources – leaders of organisations large and small find themselves at a crossroads.” Those are the opening lines of our paper on The New Leadership Agenda, our analysis of how leaders can build a positive human future. And it’s perhaps one of the best ways to summarise the sentiment at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

The challenges are real, but so is the imperative to act. In their Global Risks Report 2020, the World Economic Forum (WEF) says “the world cannot wait for the fog of geopolitical and geo-economic uncertainty to lift. Opting to ride out the current period in the hope that the global system will ‘snap back’ runs the risk of missing crucial windows to address pressing challenges.”

At PA, our experience tells us these challenges are opportunities and that a positive human future is perfectly achievable. We’ve identified four forces that, when considered in combination, offer an unprecedented opportunity to effect positive change:

  1. Society – the business agenda of the past isn’t fit for the future. New attitudes towards issues such as sustainability, security, privacy and wellbeing require organisations to hold themselves to greater account and answer to their employees and customers, as well as their shareholders.
  2. Consumers – Modern consumers are increasingly well informed and empowered to demand more. They’re looking for inspiring and purposeful brands, brilliant and innovative products and experiences, and transparency in a business’s operations. Businesses that do good – and can show it – are resonating with a growing consumer conscience.
  3. Difference – Our economies were built on the assumption that conformity drives growth. The conformist economic model is typified by the production lines of the 20th century, which sought to standardise and replicate tasks and processes in pursuit of efficiency and productivity. But when it comes to the complex and diverse problems we face now, it’s difference that unlocks the biggest benefits.
  4. Technology – There’s a world of technologies that are mature or maturing and, if brought together in ingenious ways, can create entirely new businesses and opportunities. We can shape the relationship we want between human and machine, which includes ensuring no one is left behind.

As a leader, reframing complexity and harnessing the disruptive forces to your advantage isn’t easy. This is especially true at a time when many view disruption as a threat. You need to find a way to get your people – your shareholders, your employees and your wider stakeholders – to trust in your vision.

Despite these challenges, if the conversations here in Davos this week are any indication, leaders understand the urgency to act. The question is how? The answer is to adopt the New Leadership Agenda:

Nurture human optimism

Optimism unlocks our biological wiring for innovation and change. It’s optimism that lets us see an opportunity and innovate to seize it. Leaders can encourage optimism through their behaviours. So, lead by example to help people have a positive outlook and act on it.

Empower teams to innovate

Inspire teams to find ways to better understand their customers’ desires and give them the permissions and space to dream up creative responses. This will ensure they can rapidly bring to life ideas that are desirable for customers, technically feasible and commercially viable.

Build evolving organisations

The pace of change is accelerating. So, build an organisation where humans work in aware, alert, inclusive and responsive teams. Where we tune into and bounce off each other, attentively and rapidly responding to our customers and competition. And where we adapt and transform in ever more ingenious ways.

Seek inspiration in surprising places

Take a different perspective. The wider world offers incredible inspiration. Start-ups and disruptors offer a fresh take on the world, old technologies provide the building blocks for new and even the natural world, with its ability to continuously adapt to change, offers powerful stimulus for growth.

These are the essential actions for every leader. Put them into practice and you'll be on your way to creating a positive human future.

The opportunity's never been greater for leaders of organisations large and small to create a positive human future

Discover why today

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