Major trends are fundamentally reshaping the global business, social and economic landscape: Technology is revolutionizing the way business is conducted and the global economy is becoming increasingly interconnected through networks that span geographic boundaries, industries, social groups and organizations. There is a fundamental shift in the economic center of gravity. Concerns about the environment and the overall relationship between business and society are on the rise and new generations of employees and consumers are challenging the ways people live and work - and what they expect in the future. As a result of these and other trends, organizations are facing growing uncertainty and volatility on all fronts.
Putting off identifying and addressing the challenges of the future is no longer an option for businesses and their leaders today. However, the difficulty is putting the complex megatrends that are reshaping our world into some sort of understandable framework that organizations and leaders can use to prepare their organizations, their leadership teams and themselves for sustainable, long-term success. IMD's research initiative, Leading in a Connected Future (LCF) is focused on building an understanding of major long term trends that are impacting our world and our businesses and supporting leaders in taking concrete actions today to prepare for the future.
Under the leadership of Professor Thomas Malnight and working with former Unilever Director and former IMD Executive-in-Residence Kees van der Graaf, LCF was founded in January 2011, based on the insights gained from interviewing more than 150 CEOs and senior leaders of organizations worldwide. The overriding theme that arose from the interviews was a distinct move toward firms building sustainable, mutually beneficial relationships across a broad array of stakeholders. This shift toward recasting business around relationships rather than transactions is built on the notion of growing interconnectivity and interdependence. The journey from a transactional to a relational perspective requires fundamental changes within the organization. The roles, activities and orientation of individual leaders will need to be re-examined, as well as the composition of leadership teams and the ways in which they work. The structure, processes and culture of the organization and the development and application of its core values will also need to be reconsidered.
An important finding highlighted in our preliminary research is that many organizations and executives are not actively - or sufficiently - addressing the longer-term challenges facing them. They are too busy dealing with strong and growing short-term pressures and demands, so they focus on incremental changes to respond to these immediate pressures with current best practices. The question is, how can they create leadership agendas today that will prepare their organizations to compete in a connected future?