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Author's profile photo Daniel Wellers

New CEO Study from IBM

IBM just released their 5th biennial CEO Study, gauging their perspectives on emerging trends and issues. The study  is based on face to face interviews conducted by IBM with over 1700 CEO’s from 64 countries in 18 Industries.  I’ve reproduced most of the executive summary below, and attached a link to the full document.



CEO’s have a new strategy in the unending war for talent. They are creating more open and collaborative cultures — encouraging employees to connect, learn from each other and thrive in a world of rapid change. Collaboration is the number-one trait CEOs are seeking in their employees, with 75 percent of CEOs calling it critical.  The emphasis on openness and collaboration is even higher among outperforming organizations — and they have the change-management capabilities to make it happen.

To engage customers as individuals, CEOs are building analytical muscle to respond with relevance and immediacy.  As a group, CEOs are investing in customer insights more than any other functional area — far above operations, competitive intelligence, financial analysis and even risk management. More than 70 percent of CEOs are seeking a better understanding of individual customer needs and improved responsiveness. Outperfomers are far more adept at converting data into insights, and insights into action. CEOs expect a step-change in the use of social media. Over half expect social channels to be a primary way of engaging customers within five years.

Extensive partnering is providing the edge CEOs need to take on radical innovation. The pressure to innovate is not subsiding, and organizations are teaming to meet the challenge. More than half of all CEOs are partnering extensively to drive innovation. Compared to their less successful peers, outperformers are partnering for innovation more aggressively. But they are also tackling more  challenging and disruptive types of innovation. Instead of settling for simply creating new products or implementing more efficient operations, they’re more likely to be moving into other industries or even inventing entirely new ones.


Empower employees through values. For CEOs, organizational openness offers tremendous upside potential — empowered employees, free-flowing ideas, more creativity and innovation, happier customers, better results. But openness also comes with more risk. As rigid controls loosen, organizations need a strong sense of purpose and shared beliefs to guide decision making. Teams will need processes and tools that inspire collaboration on a massive scale. Perhaps most important, organizations must help employees develop traits to excel in this type of environment.

Engage customers as individuals.  The pursuit of customer knowledge is as old as business itself, but where and how those insights are found and used are radically changing. To effectively engage an individual consumer, client or citizen, organizations must weave together insights about the whole person — from sources they likely haven’t consulted in the past. They will need stronger analytics capabilities to uncover patterns and answer questions they never thought to ask. Client-facing staff and channels must be equipped to act on those insights. And since customers are increasingly mobile, organizations must be active there too, ready to engage in the context of the moment.

Amplify innovation with partnerships.  Rising complexity and escalating competition have made partnering a core innovation strategy for many organizations. But to enable sustained, fruitful innovation partnerships, organizations will need deeper, more integrated relationships. Partnering organizations will have to share collaborative environments, share data — and share control. And even when the organization is performing well, CEOs must occasionally break from the status quo and introduce new external catalysts, unexpected partners and some intentionally disruptive thinking.


Another intriguing, and encouraging, finding: technology has risen to the top of external forces that CEO’s think will impact their organizations in the short term, as illustrated by this graphic from page 13 of the study.

ceo graph.jpg

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