I became a CEO in 1981, running my firm after working for a dynamic marketing communications firm in Chicago. At that time, there was a growth roadmap that the majority of all corporations followed, and their consultants all knew what they were and how to help clients with them. Examples included writing a business plan based on the one, five, and ten-year projections. Marketing plans were composed annually and reviewed semi-annually. Media programs and buys were made on an annual basis, and a very small number of people could both prepare and manage the program.
Being the CEO of either a corporation or a professional services firm required that you understood both sides of the desk and could fill in whenever anyone asked you to step up. That was then, and this is now! The entire world has changed incredibly since that time and has been made far more difficult for five reasons.
Reason 1: In those past days, the CEO could manage everything. Everyone else’s job was to figure out what the CEO wanted to do and to do it! People who carried out the primary directives were rewarded. Today, the world is so connected that the pace of change has enormously accelerated too fast for one person to keep everything together. This requires the full leadership team and staff to work together in collaboration and make decisions from a collective of insights and thinking.
Reason 2: Deep technical knowledge is required to navigate the vast social media spectrum that is available to all size organizations. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, there were three primary television channels throughout the United States: ABC, CBS, and NBC plus the local channel. In Chicago, that was Channel 9. And larger cities had a UHF channel such as WBBM-TV. That’s it! That all there was. Today, there are thousands of media outlets in a full cast of social, television, select paid channels, cable outlets, with favorites via the internet such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Movies, Disney+, Apple+, and many others. To simply conduct a market exposure program in today’s media market requires many people working together in various supporting fields such as research, product development, purchasing, and analytics to evaluate all of it. Needless to say, far more than a CEO could conceivably manage without many people to drive the program.
Reason 3: Ai has been changing the landscape of all industries and fields, making it possible to do more with less. This change has brought with it new types of products and marketing opportunities while at the same time displaced workers. The CEO of any organization can no longer ignore how Ai-empowered programs will alter or significantly change how to do business. At first, Ai was reserved for things like manufacturing plants and robotics. Then the concept of autonomous automobiles, then trucks, then ships driven by Ai was put into production. Now, every industry will predictably be impacted within the next five to ten years.
Our firm, MarketCues, has been in business for 15 years when we started as an executive management consulting firm. Today, we use our own Ai-driven software, SmartPlan360™, for organizational assessment and development. Our program allows us to accomplish in three or four weeks what used to take us three of four months, and we can provide an improved deliverable for a fraction of the cost.
Ai dramatically changed our firm, our consulting, and how we think about organizational strategy. I even wrote a book about it, RETHINK, that discussed an inside look at smart organizational strategy. No one is immune to change. As Steve Blank said, “There is no way that one person is smarter than the collective intelligence of your customers, partners, and regulators.”