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Introduction

A positive human future

At PA, we believe a positive human future is perfectly achievable. The answer lies in a new and better way to lead. All too often, the workplace exerts a constraining force on our natural creativity, our purpose and our ingenuity. Unlocking the ingenuity stifled in our organisations isn’t going to be easy. Yet it’ll be worth it – just look at the ingenious responses to the coronavirus pandemic. They prove we have an opportunity to build organisations that create more engaged workforces, meaningful and impactful outcomes for customers, and a healthier planet.

The quickening cycles of change and compounding effect of the four forces offer ever more chances for us as individuals, in our teams and in leading our organisations to achieve more in ever shorter periods of time. With bold, focused leadership, we can pursue business for good, prove our organisations’ worth to consumers, inspire our teams and find creative solutions at a pace that's never been seen before.

Read on to learn about the four forces and our essential actions for leaders to take to bring about change – how we can nurture human optimism, empower teams to innovate, lead an evolving organisation and seek inspiration in surprising places.

We offer our thoughts and ideas to encourage debate and positive momentum. To help create opportunities from challenges and make the world a safer, healthier, more prosperous, more sustainable place for us all.

 

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Download the new leadership adgenda

A positive human future

Download the new leadership agenda

 

 

We can reimagine business

The era of mass production and mass consumption, which started in the late 1800s and Fordism and Taylorism powered, ushered in a brand-new way of working that saw significant gains in productivity and growth. The system created organisations as machines. It concentrated power in the hands of the few. Strategies and ideas came top-down. Workers existed in silos, focused on a single repetitive task, unable to see the purpose and result of their labour.

Successive generations worked on the assumption that mechanisation and automation, as well as the exploitation of resources, was the only route to economic success, leading to questionable terms of employment for many workers and creating an economic model based on vacuous consumerism and the destruction of the environment. As a result, business stands accused of having left a toxic legacy for people and the planet.

The issues at hand today demand a different solution. We still require continuous economic progress to maintain and improve standards of living. We also need to tackle challenges accumulated over decades, such as the results of climate change, pollution, over-crowding and population changes, and inequality. And we need to do it in the context of rising political, economic and trade uncertainty.

When we accept uncertainty as inevitable and as an increasingly common part of doing business, we turn it to our advantage. As leaders – in business as in life – we’ve never been afforded a better opportunity. By harnessing human creativity, technologies and a drive to do things differently, we can reimagine our businesses. Not just in isolation by focusing on our own success, but in considering our teams, our organisations, our societies and our planet.

The forces of opportunity

We see four major forces that – when considered in combination – offer an unprecedented opportunity to effect positive change. Specifically, the forces provide a way of building a positive human future in a technology-driven world. By seizing these opportunities, organisations can turn disruption to their advantage. This isn’t only good for business, it’s business for good.

Society
Technology
Consumers
Difference

Cycle times and compounding

When faced with change, people have a habit of focusing on the challenges instead of the opportunities. No sooner have organisations got to grips and worked out what their next steps should be, then the landscape shifts. Particularly in large organisations, the pace of change can easily leave leaders emotionally exhausted, lurching from idea to idea in response, or unable to make decisions.

Yet too much emphasis on the challenges and not enough on the opportunities distracts from the real debate, disempowering innovators and destroying value for clients and the economies and citizens they support. Nevertheless, the cycles of change should be seen as a positive, enabling organisations to achieve more in a shorter space of time. Each cycle enables leaders and their teams to experiment, to try new things and to adapt and learn, faster than the last time.

And the truly exciting development is what happens when the forces combine – and build on one another – to compound the pace of progress. Take the global focus on eliminating single-use plastics. We see the forces compounding for good: socially conscious consumers who find common cause and voice their opinion and pressure organisations to change their approach, and organisations that then respond by exploring breakthrough technologies to create innovative new products. This leads to new revenue streams that organisations reinvest in order to double down on their quest to find eco-friendly solutions to more products. Progress begets further progress in ever faster cycles.

Faster cycle times and the compounding effect of the four forces offer more chances for us as individuals, in our teams and leading our organisations to achieve more in ever shorter periods of time.

A new way to lead

Organisational models are ripe for disruption. The good news is, the opportunity to effect positive change has never been greater. We can radically rethink how we lead by believing in the ingenuity of our people.

Do you remember the sense of wonder you had as a child? The constant desire to question, create and explore the things around you? The sense of optimism and confidence that anything was possible? So many of us had ingenious dreams and a confidence that we could move the world in a positive direction.

Many of us feel we’ve sacrificed some of our imagination and childlike curiosity to the demands of the boardroom and the balance sheet. As we enter the world of work, we begin to lose confidence, fear change, defend our position and become blind to the opportunities in front of us. We’re steered to conformity. We lose our difference. So, we celebrate small achievements closer to home and miss the bigger purpose in what we do.

Strangely, as we get to the latter years of our careers, we start to see the world with a new perspective. We start to think about our legacy. Suddenly, the desire to change seems much more relevant. We see the bigger picture again, often at the peak of our influence, yet time is running out to make it count.

The workplace doesn’t need to exert such a constraining influence on our dreams, our sense of purpose and our ingenuity. As leaders, we can close the gap that successive generations have failed to fill by unlocking and nurturing ingenuity.

Unlocking ingenuity

As leaders – in business as in life – we’ve never been afforded a better opportunity to make change happen. By unlocking human ingenuity, we can reimagine our businesses, pursuing purposeful action and sustainable growth.

Imagine throwing a pebble into a pond and the ripples it creates. Unlocking ingenuity is a bit like that. It starts with how we nurture optimism in ourselves and those closest to us, at home and in the workplace, how we empower innovation in our teams and how we lead our organisations. At its widest, unlocking ingenuity is about how we influence, and are influenced by, the wider world.

Nurture human optimism
Empower teams to innovate
Build evolving organisations
Seek inspiration in surprising places

A positive human future is in our hands

As we consider the changing nature of our world, and the new technologies, attitudes and issues that affect us all, we consistently come back to one concept: opportunity. We have an opportunity to redress our negative impact on the planet. We have an opportunity, through new technologies and changing consumer behaviour, to rethink the way we create value in business. And the key to the opportunity is in unlocking human ingenuity in the workplace.

All too often, leaders view the powerful forces in our world as threats they must mitigate and control. And while there are genuine reasons for concern, there’s never been a better time to change this narrative and to find opportunity in the challenges. Neither new technology nor the disruption that comes with it are exogenous forces over which humans have no control. All of us are responsible for guiding their evolution, in the decisions we make daily as citizens, consumers and investors. We should use our agency to usher in a future that reflects our common objectives and values.

A technology-driven world, as a complement to human creativity, empathy and stewardship, can lift humanity through a shared sense of purpose. A positive human future in a technology-driven world is in our hands.

Download the new leadership adgenda

A positive human future

Download the new leadership agenda

Continuing the conversation

Bringing ingenuity to life

At PA, we have a clear sense of purpose. We’re different in what we do, and even more in how we do it. There’s a sense of optimism behind our purpose. It’s a feeling that inspires our people as well as our clients.

At PA, we believe in the power of ingenuity to build a positive human future in a technology-driven world. As strategies, technologies and innovation collide, we create opportunity from complexity. Our diverse teams of experts combine innovative thinking and breakthrough technologies to progress further, faster. Our clients adapt and transform, and together we achieve enduring results.

We thank our clients for choosing to work with us, and our people for their ideas, expertise and commitment. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about what we think and who we are. And that it’s inspired you. We’d love to continue the conversation.

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For 75 years, our diverse teams of experts – strategists, scientists, designers, technologists, digital experts and engineers – have been creating breakthrough innovations with technology. These solutions have impacted human life for the better, and there's no knowing where these ripples of invention might eventually lead.

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