Leadership

What does strategy have to do with a platform approach?

Heading in the right direction? Strategy officers provide CEOs with contextual intelligence

Anil Menon
Executive Vice President, Community & Urban Services, Sharecare Inc
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Nearly 300 of the world’s leading strategy executives and futurists are meeting at the World Economic Forum’s Industry Strategy Meeting. We have convened chief strategy officers in the past, but never at this scale or with this level of seniority. The question is, for an organization that is better known for bringing together the top-level leaders from organizations across government, business or civil society, why we are doing this? The answer is simple.

As the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation, the World Economic Forum has, since 2015, established itself as a platform for multistakeholder collaboration. This has meant going beyond convening leaders, generating knowledge, building communities and all the other activities we have undertaken over the past four decades in pursuit of our mission to improve the state of the world. The result has been that we now believe we have a true operating system to tackle the world’s most critical challenges.

To reflect the complex, interconnected world we live in, we have built this operating system on what we call an integrated platform approach. What does this mean? Basically, that we believe any problem of a magnitude capable of impacting our world, or a whole region or industry, needs to be addressed in a systemic way, and all efforts need to be integrated and aggregated for scale and impact. We simply don’t have the time to deal with individual symptoms any more.

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For example, when we look at the future of energy, we don’t just think about one aspect of it, such as the transition to renewable energy, we think about the whole energy system. This means promoting the transition to sustainable energy without having a negative impact on affordability, security or a host of other factors that would put us in a worse position overall.

Because all platforms are integrated with each other, our model also allows the most relevant expertise to be brought to bear on any given challenge; for example, pairing up technology companies with healthcare companies to prevent major disease outbreaks, or insurance businesses with the automotive sector to ease the transition towards autonomous or electric vehicles.

This is where strategy officers come in. There is perhaps no one better in an organization – not even the CEO – with as detailed a grasp on the future threats and opportunities facing their industry or sector. Strategy officers provide CEOs with the contextual intelligence they need to make long-term decisions.

I believe they can play a role in determining the success of our platforms model, too – by identifying creative ways their organizations can contribute to solving shared challenges. At our Industry Strategy Meeting, we’ll be putting them to work grappling with some of these, from turning our ageing population from untapped pension liabilities to economic assets, to fighting back against climate change and making sure new 5G technologies put people, rather than profits, first.

The insights generated here will feed directly into the work of our platforms, but my expectation is not for our engagement with the strategy community to be a fleeting affair: once the meeting is over, we will build a fully fledged community where these officers will be able to engage with our platforms as leaders and advisers. Our world may rarely have felt more fragmented than it does today, but I believe there has never been a greater consensus among the business community that it must act together to create a more purposeful, inclusive and sustainable world.

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