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Three things CEOs can do to make 2021 work

It is difficult to overstate how challenging 2020 has been. Obstacles will continue to appear as the pandemic’s repercussion generate a domino effect that will be hard to stop and will require time and all kind of resources. And while we must contend with social and economic collateral damage, there is also another side to this coin that we should embrace with optimism.

In the course of 2020, CEOs have demonstrated that uncommon opportunities can arise from turmoil. They are seizing those opportunities with speed and urgency. They know that speed is essential: The pace of the world – already breakneck – has accelerated even more because of the crisis. Digitalization efforts that were originally expected to take five years have happened in just five months of 2020.

Next year, standout leaders will:

Double the purpose. Nowadays people long for inspiration, connection, a sense of purpose. They want to know that they are being heard in all dimensions of their lives. It is up to business leaders to make sure those needs are met in the workplace. But to accomplish that is harder now – since we have fewer in-person meetings, more isolation and caution. Effective CEOs go to lengths to emphasize the very important “our role in the word” – in other words, the nexus where the company’s core capabilities come together with society’s needs. 

Integrate digital and technology into everything. Data and technology must be at the core of the business, not just called upon as needed. The successful company will be “ bionic” – human- and machine-driven – where technology and analytics functions work together and alongside business-critical functions to drive the core business. This will require agile teams – with the right functional skills – that can complete tasks quickly.

Simplify. In order to support clear objectives, leading CEOs constantly simplify. A critical goal for such simplification initiatives in the coming year should be ensuring that funding is available for continuous innovation, R&D and investment in new tech business models. Leaders know that firms with strong core operations are best able to fuel and secure the large investments that are needed to innovate and grow.