Today’s business environment is unyielding and fast-paced. Falling behind is not an option. A Forbes Insights survey—developed in collaboration with global performance consulting company Gap International—of 400 top global executives reveals that 95% believe business is not as usual and 90% do not think the current environment is business-friendly. (See “Challenge or Be Challenged: How to Succeed in Today’s Business Environment.”) These sentiments persist in the aftermath of a contentious election and a now uncertain political climate. Yet at the same time, half of these top executives believe today’s environment is fast-growth- and expansion-driven.
This demanding and shifting business environment requires a change in how leaders think and act. While change isn’t easy, and it may be a painful proposition for a leader who has been running a successful business, the biggest threat is a leader wedded to past successes and traditional thinking. Old ways will no longer work. Executives who do not continually reframe their mindset to fit the times will be left behind. The pace of change is only accelerating, especially with the emergence of the fourth industrial revolution and technologies such as machine learning and cognitive computing.
Fortunately, executives recognize this need for change. When asked about the most important characteristics in a leader today, the majority cite flexibility, open-mindedness and curiosity over other factors, including experience and a proven track record of success.
Some key findings from the survey:
Innovation: Faced with the enormity of a competitive environment, demanding consumers, fluctuating customer needs and the acceleration of competitive threats, innovation is the key to achieving market share in a world devoid of natural organic growth.
Technology: Technology is increasingly becoming a multifaceted enabler in effecting change. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of respondents are already seeing tangible results from digitization in market share increase, and 66% are experiencing tangible results from digitization in product innovation.
Disruption via disintermediation: As competition mounts, companies are rethinking their corporate structures—eliminating the middleman and sizing up smaller competitors. Seventy percent of global leaders say they are “extremely concerned” or “somewhat concerned” as to whether their company will still be relevant and competitive in two years. More than half of respondents (51%) report that disintermediation is having the biggest impact on their business. And 57% of leaders view startups from the same industry as greater competitors than enterprise-sized companies.
The next-generation customer: Technically savvy, well-informed and firmly planted in the driver’s seat, today’s consumers demand consistent and 24/7 service across multiple channels. In fact, 56% of business leaders describe their customer base as well-informed and/or empowered. Only 26% of business leaders believe that customers—more fickle than friendly—are loyal, and 62% say the very concept of loyalty is almost or fully obsolete—a perspective that’s particularly present in large enterprises.
Culture counts: Seventy percent of leaders cite having a unified culture as “important” or “extremely important” to achieving business goals. Helping shape this culture are millennials—nearly 60% of CEOs report that their culture is changing due to the millennial generation. In response, many businesses are expanding social awareness initiatives as proof that, by leveraging purpose, companies can gain a competitive edge.
Dismantling the hierarchy: Inspired by new corporate structures, savvy business leaders are shedding their corporate powers for new paradigms. More than one-third (37%) of leaders say they are transforming their business by reorganizing reporting lines and replacing old hierarchies with more-flexible arrangements that encourage collaboration and empower employees.
Breakthrough partnerships: Faced with growing competition and economic uncertainties, many companies are forming revolutionary partnerships and alliances. more than half (52%) of business leaders say they are transforming their organizations by collaborating with third parties. Forty-nine percent cite forming alliances and partnerships, and navigating the ecosystem of partnerships and alliances, as having the biggest impact on business. And a sizable 61% are forming alliances with leaders in the field to handle issues and areas that are new.
Economic volatility: The vast majority—80%—of business leaders believe the impact of socioeconomic inequality on their organizations has been “significant” or “very significant.” Sixty percent agree that the economy will continue to be volatile and unpredictable. And 59% cite the economy, income inequality and financial markets as having the biggest impact on business.
This article was written by Hugo Moreno from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.