September 29, 2022

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The Future of Business in 2021

The Future of Business in 2021

At the SxSW interactive conference, B. Bonin Bough, Global Director of Digital and Social Media at PepsiCo and Ellen McGirt, Senior Writer, Fast Company Magazine joined me to discuss what business will need to do today to survive and thrive over the next ten years.

Note: There is significantly more interesting detail in the video.

“The thing that we look for when we look for innovative companies that we believe will scale and grow is flexibility,” according to McGirt. Both “flexibility of business model [and] openness to new ideas. Technology enables a lot of that with being able to innovate quickly – to abandon ideas that aren’t working quickly.”

Collaboration – true collaboration across the enterprise is becoming a key to this rapid growth. “…Because the cost of creating new products are so low, the cost of collaboration through new technology has gotten lower. We’re seeing people who are collaborating over long distance, perhaps collaborating with the vendors, [and] collaborating with the customer.”

The use of collaboration changes the role of employees, and requires a different type of leadership to fuel growth. “So this [is the]kind of leader who can be flexible in this environment – we’re not looking for the command and control types of a person that needs to aggregate power… [We’re looking for] the person who can distribute power and enable innovative groups of people to come up with ideas with teams as few as three… people. These are the hallmarks of people who can build a company sustainably in the modern age. It’s flexibility and completely enabled by technology.”

Bough, who took Pepsi strongly into social media and helped grow their social responsibility initiatives, has a concern of companies who are failing to adapt to the high-speed digital age. “How I think we get there is through this concept of digital fitness… we have to do it in the same we get to physical fitness. It takes commitment, it takes rigor, it takes a training agenda and it takes pushing beyond the point where you want to say no.” His role at PepsiCo is to be a “digital fitness trainer.” “It’s more than just the marketing communications department. In fact it’s 280,000 employees that are going to be transformed by the revolution of technology. We need them all participating, engaged… It’s sales, it’s supply chain, it’s packaging, it’s vending – you name it. Every single piece of the business has to be able to move. Then we have to not let perfect be the enemy of the good. We have to be experimentation … and if we’re not doing that and we’re not evolving over time, we don’t stand a chance.”

McGirt points out that “Baked in to all of this is love, purpose, meaning. What we’re seeing in entrepreneurs is that they love what they’re doing and they see what they’re doing can have impact in the wider world, very, very quickly….”

The performance and purpose business PepsiCo business model focuses on three scalable pillars: human sustainability, environmental sustainability talent sustainability. Each become part of changing the world when “ a compostable bag of Sun Chips is not just a compostable bag of Sun Chips. In fact, when the second largest food and beverage company in the world can make it a compostable bag of every chip and actually change the world – that’s what I think is exciting.”

So how does this translate to a smaller business? McGirt believes a principal from Google scales nicely to smaller companies as well:

“I would encourage innovative and innovation thinking and risk taking by giving people an opportunity to pitch their ideas without fear of failure. Google has a 20 percent rule: If you can make the case that you can build this side project … we’ll let you use 20 percent of your time here to do it. There are all kinds of ways that companies can give people the opportunity to pitch their ideas … without fear of being ostracized or being fired.”

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