A few weeks ago I had two enjoyable visits to Ashridge Business School. On Tuesday evening I set 20 senior executives a tough question: how can we pursue the opportunity of supporting companies as they shape their context for a sustainable future? On Friday morning I had three presentations. This is what they said.
If you ever get the chance to go to Ashridge then you should go. The gothic revival entrance is gorgeous enough for Hogwarts. The grounds are green. And the teaching excellent (on this last, if you can get someone else to pay so much the better). I was there twice in a week to set a challenge to a group of senior executives on the Fast Track Advanced Management programme. They grilled me over dinner on the Tuesday evening and I returned on Friday morning to hear presentations from three groups.
The problem we set them was a tough one: how can we pursue the opportunity of supporting companies as they shape their context for a sustainable future? That needs just a little unpacking!
Let’s start with why Forum’s approach to change is all about system innovation. Three or so years ago our leading partners kept telling us that they were reaching the limits of what they could do by themselves. They were constrained by things like customer behavior, investor expectation, and perverse regulation. We also felt that progress was too slow and too small. We needed to affect things at the system-level.
So, at the heart of our work we put system innovation – a set of actions that moves a city / a sector / an economy on to a more sustainable footing. Over the last few years we’ve been acting in the global food and energy systems, plus developing our own best practice through hard-won experience.
Then something more surprising started happening. Our leading partners started to ask us how they should go about moving their sector. Nike, for instance, asked for help setting up their ‘Mobilize’ team, all so Nike can deal with the external constraints on their leadership.
Hence the question to the Ashridge students. These leading companies will only be the first with this need. What should we do to pursue this opportunity?
The three groups came back with many ideas, both large and small. The main things I took away:
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.