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The Executive challenge survey Change is the name of the game

The speed of change is a dominating factor in almost all of what we see as megatrends these year. Carsten Beck, Futurologist, Copenhagen Institute for Future Studies

Scandinavian business leaders should be thriving these years. They rate professional challenges as their key motivator and due to the accelerating speed of change in the business environment; challenges are piling up in every corner both internally and externally. The Scandinavian executives’ perception of their main challenges today is almost an exact reflection of the global megatrends according to futurologist Carsten Beck.

Anyone in the business world knows that it is currently experiencing a rapid rate of change. New companies spring up overnight. Products and services that were revolutionary two years ago are already taken over by new revolutions. It does not come as a surprise that 48% of the Scandinavian executives in the survey rate the speed of change as their no. 1 challenge.

Rapid change in all areas

“The speed of change is a dominating factor in almost all of what we see as megatrends these years. They include areas such as digitalisation, aftermath of the financial crisis, shift in global economic power, change in political agendas, international competition, aging population, increase in customer demands, global warming – and so on. All factors are challenging the business environment today and are – or at least should be - on the radar for any business leader,” says Carsten Beck, futurologist at Copenhagen Institute for Future Studies.

The respondents in the survey were asked to prioritise a list of 20 challenges, and the selection of top priorities are equally split on challenges regarding the internal organisation and the external market conditions. Employee engagement and development and lean production come in as no. 2 and 3, closely followed by ability to achieve customer satisfaction and limited time to focus on the longer-term perspective.

Consumer power

Each of these factors is closely intertwined. Change in market conditions drives the constant need for change internally in the organisation, and it does not seem possible to focus on just one or two.

“It is easy to see the correlation between the challenging factors. We could i.e. start with the challenge of getting satisfied and loyal customers: Customers are getting more and more demanding. Looking back, we did not have services in such huge variety and supply. Today the customer can always choose another supplier to get a lower price, more convenience, higher quality, better service, faster delivery and more individualised goods. Companies need to get closer to their costumers to understand and develop in line with customer demands. And companies need fast and lean production to enhance the agility and adaptability to changes in customer demands. In addition to this, competition is no longer local. It is international,” Carsten Beck says

The war for talent

“Any company navigating in this challenging environment will need a skilled, engaged, and motivated workforce which is agile and up-to-date on required skills, because the employees will be the ones to drive the actual changes of the company. Due to an aging population, the supply of talent is getting smaller leading to the “war for talent”. As digitalisation is a trend hitting all industries, new skills are required in every organisation. Companies need to be good at attracting talent, and the winners will be the ones who great at offering development and career opportunities,” says Carsten Beck.

Lack of time to focus on longer-term strategies

When changes happen so rapidly, many executives lack the time to focus on the long-term perspective. 1 out of ten see “Compromising the long term perspective over short term decisions” as the primary challenge.

“We see this supported in other international surveys where executives state that short term decisions and fire fighting is taking time away from planning for the future. The lack of longer term strategy planning can be a question of life or death for companies if they don’t pick up on the most important trends impacting their business. Earlier we had local butcher and bakery shops on every corner. They have now disappeared as super market chains now meet the demand for one-stop shopping. Blockbuster who were renting out videos are now closing down and  - a little late - reinventing their business model, as movie rental has gone online. Any top executive should prioritise the time to focus on the future scenarios for their particular business – it could spare many from ugly surprises,” is the advice from Carsten Beck.

The Executve Challenge Survey