A new year’s message from the CEO


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Dear friends and colleagues,
Good year! Last year at this time, for the ninth consecutive year, I warned you that the outlook for our business had never been so uncertain. My message this year is exactly the same, but more. The fog of unpredictability is once again wreaking havoc in the clear skies of planning.

We are all familiar with the term “permacrise”. We've all heard of the acronym “VUCA”, which means volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. We all understand that the fourth industrial revolution is upon us. But my belief is that these three great forces came together in an era that I call “permavucalution.”

I think there are three main permavucalutionary trends at work. One of them is artificial intelligence. This technology will accelerate the pace of change. Don't just take my word for it. The World Economic Forum thinks so too. AI is so disruptive that it may end up disrupting the disruption itself. If you're having trouble understanding this sentence, don't worry: you're not alone.

I have appointed Denise Laplange to lead our new project to rapidly improve and improve AI performance. I know Denise will feel very welcome. She and the MEADOW the team will give us a full update on their plans for our use of AI later in January. For now, though, I invite you to embrace this technology in your own work. I often use ChatGoogle Tag to say “no” to conference invitations, for example, or to give generic responses to really unimportant emails. I want you to follow my example. Let's experiment. Let's explore. Let’s tinker. Let's go eet. We have to put our arms around AI or we risk harvesting a whirlwind of chickens coming home to roost.

I know some of you are worried about what AI it could mean for your own future. I tell you: you can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. What if you don't like omelettes, what do you say? It's just ridiculous: who doesn't like omelettes? Regardless, I want to reassure you: AI is a way to make us all better at what we do. This is unlikely to be a harbinger of immediate large-scale layoffs.

The second permavolutionary trend is climate change. HAS COPOn January 28, I had the chance to speak to people who are living with the consequences of global warming. This experience was humbling and inspiring: it made me realize that we need to do more in this area. As a company, we do everything we can to reduce our own carbon footprint, but action is never enough. We also need to be part of the conversation. That’s why I’m so excited today to announce the launch of our new #whatdoyousee? marketing campaign.

When I look in the mirror, I don't just see a high-performing leader, someone who is determined to get the best out of themselves every day. I also see a father, an ex-husband, a brother, a Peloton rider, an antique car collector, and a citizen of Earth. What do you see? Please post your own thoughts (pun very much intended) on social media. You can also email me (and see how I integrate ChatGoogle Tag in my work).

The third manifestation of permavucalution is the lack of talents. By talent, I am not talking about employees in general. I'm talking about the right kind of employees: people willing to take big gambles, who go the extra mile, who see opportunities where others see only extreme dangers. I'm talking about some of you.

I mentioned how uncertain and volatile everything is. This means we have to sprint to stay still. But that's not all. To respond to constant change, we also need the agility of a mountain goat. And to spot these upcoming changes, we need a bat's radar. Now just ask yourself this question: have you ever seen a bat sprint? That tells you something about the scale of the challenge we all face.

I know this level of uncertainty can be disorienting, even frightening. But if we don't think outside the box and push the boundaries, we'll never be able to capture lightning in a bottle.

Finally, my usual plea: be humble. I coined a whole new term in this post, but I don't do it for fame or recognition as a deep thinker. I know I don't have all the answers. If I have a good idea, I don't just implement it. I first ask my direct reports if they think it's a good idea, and only when they agree that it is do I act. Have the humility to follow my example and this company will not only survive in the era of permavucalution. It will prosper.

On to 2024! Pidd stew, CEO.

Read more from Bartleby, our management and work columnist:
The return of the dying uncle from The Economist (December 20)
How to Master the Art of Delegation (December 14)
Why Monday is the most misunderstood day (December 7)

Also: How Bartleby Column got its name



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