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CDX Innovation Leadership

CDX Virtual Summit Underscores Vast Digital Business Transformation post Covid-19

The inaugural CDX Virtual Summit in late April brought together leading innovation executives and digital transformation leaders from companies including Clorox, Walgreens Boots Alliance, Lyft, BCG Digital Ventures, Comcast NBCUniversal, Alliance Bernstein, Ogilvy, and KITE. Here are some highlights:

Boston Consulting Group Digital Ventures 

We kicked off the day with Behdad Shahsavari, the US Head of Boston Consulting Group Digital Ventures – a 1,000 person operation that focuses on innovative product development with “one leg in the corporate world and one leg in the entrepreneurial world,” as Shahsavari told us. He discussed how his global teams have adapted quickly to the new work environment and have already built innovative new products, including a contact and tracing app for the Australian government’s COVID response that was downloaded by 10% of all Australians in its first 24 hours. 

The conversation shifted to the future work,  and Shahsavari mentioned a recent conversation with a large tech CEO, who estimated that “40% of their engineers will not come back into work.” Shahsavari also mentioned he has seen clear productivity gains within his own engineering teams since they started working remotely. He challenged executives to focus on innovating their operating models and talent strategy. “It’s absolutely going to be a buyer’s market for talent,” he said, “and the smart firms are going to be re-thinking their human capital strategy.”

Open Innovation Roundtable:

Our second session was hosted by Mark Silva of KITE, a software and services platform that brings together established businesses with entrepreneurs for mutual benefit.  The discussion included top innovation executives from Clorox, Alliance Bernstein, and Comcast NBCUniversal. 

Navin Kunde, Head of Open Innovation at Clorox, discussed how that company had a pre-existing company-wide pandemic emergency plan that had resulted from a supply chain emergency preparedness exercise. That made a huge difference it its abiliity to respond rapidly to increased demand for its cleaning and disinfecting products during the crisis. Now he says the crisis will test leadership in all companies, because “there will be come a point where the human need for connectivity and trust building will need to be reestablished.” Danielle Cohn, who runs the LIFT Labs incubator at Comcast NBCUniversal, said the crisis wasn’t slowing her group down.“We are busier than ever,” she said. “We don’t want to give up on some of the bigger dreams even if it’s the new normal.”

Koley Corte, head of business transformation at financial services firm Alliance Bernstein, emphasized the firm’s clear focus on return on- nvestment .She said it has“a laser-like focus on driving business outcome…and to drive drive growth and diversification in our revenue stream including new customers, new channels and new services and products.” 

A Conversation with Raj Kapoor, Chief Strategy Officer, Lyft

Our third session featured Raj Kapoor, Lyft’s global chief strategy officer and head of its autonomous driving unit. Raj started by telling us a scary story about contracting COVID early on, and how he channeled his frustrations, especially with testing, into recruiting healthtech partners and launching a global digital registry and volunteer platform called WorldWithoutCovid.org. 

Kapoor said “this entire pandemic has highlighted how important a sense of urgency is, and if your culture and your DNA is mission-driven, it’s actually a lot easier to get going.” At Lyft, he explained, the messaging from its leadership was unequivocal:  “It was crystal clear from our founders. This is important. Drop what you’re doing. Take care of our community, there were no minced words.” But he also said e that a “bottom-up” approach has been critical.

The CDO Roundtable: Ogilvy and Walgreens Boots

We concluded the several-hour virtual event with a conversation between Ritesh Patel, chief digital officer for health at advertising giant Ogilvy and Gunjan Bhow, global chief digital officer at Walgreens Boots Alliance – a Fortune 50 company with over 10,000 retail outlets globally.

Bhow talked about how his past experiences at Disney helped him learn how to focus on the customer. He sees his role at one of the largest global retailers to be a “champion of the customer.” Many were fascinated when he explained that the Covid-19 crisis has accelerated customers’ gravitation towards “digital-first.” “The journeys are becoming digital,” he emphasized. ”It’s no longer a nice-to-have or a secondary thing. It is the only way our customer starts their journey.” Ogilvy’s Patel added that for all companies, there needs to be “a general awareness (that) we have to move fast…and perfect is the enemy of the now.”

Bhow wrapped up the conversation with some thoughts that summed up the entire day. How has the consumer changed? How must organizations respond?  “The customer journey has been completely disrupted,” he said, ”and aligning our organization on that journey will inform how we organize, what we prioritize, and where we invest.”

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