What CEOs of the Future Need to Know

Question: What does the CEO of the future need to know?

Blair Sheppard: So the Indra Nooyi just said at the Washington Economic Forum, that the CEO of the future needs to know public policy as well as they know business, needs to know health as well as they know business, and so they're the same thing. Firms need to be creating people who are multi-civilizational [sic] and multi-disciplinary.

The phrase she uses draws on a classic philosopher that says, we need to create foxes not hedgehogs. Hedgehogs are very, very deep in one domain of knowledge. Foxes know a lot about many, many things, and therefore can, in a sense, keep themselves alive in the kind of world we find ourselves in today.

Question: How can leaders thrive in economic crisis?

Blair Sheppard: You have to be engaged in two mindsets, which are mutually contradictory. The first is clean the closet, the second is reinvent your wardrobe.

Put in business terms, get rid of all those things that are no longer making money, that are no longer productive businesses, and engender innovation.

One of the things that worries me a lot that's going on in United States is that we're doing a great job of the former. We're shrinking, we're re-cutting deals, we're laying-off employees, we're doing all sorts of stuffs. But I don't see us investing in innovation. So where is the money that's going into creating new VC [venture capital]? At the same time we've got this huge stimulus package, what portion of the stimulus package is being put against innovation? I don't think it is basically; there's a little bit in energy. But mostly what we were doing is investing in things we know work.

The nation needs to behave like a company in this case, which is, we've got to trim, we've got to take the fat out. That means we're going to have all sorts of social consequences, but the same time, we've got to invent the future. Firms need to do the same things.

So the question of, should I control from the center or should I encourage collaborative innovation from the periphery, the answer is yes.


Dean of the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University Blair Sheppard cites PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi in this video on progressive thinking for the 21st-century. Hint: You need to be more like a fox and less like a hedgehog.

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