Five Imperatives to Shape a Better Future

I joined BCG for the same reason as many other recent college graduates — to work with a group of curious people from diverse professional, academic and personal backgrounds, to learn how to approach problems in a variety of business sectors, and to hopefully make an impact on our clients and their industries.

Every day, BCG teams help clients think about new ways to approach seemingly insurmountable problems or to seize opportunities that previously seemed out of reach. I’ve personally worked on teams that have helped clients to manage leadership transitions, to align their organization to a new strategy, to improve a complex pricing approach, and to activate employees to be agents of change in a major transformation effort.

At BCG, we also recognize that global problems (and opportunities) exist that are much bigger than those our typical clients face. The challenges that face our environment, the health and education of entire populations, and the creation of equal economic opportunities, to name a few, cut across organizations and industries to impact entire societies.

The stakes are too high for any organization, including BCG, to not take an active interest in helping to shape the future by addressing these global challenges and opportunities. I believe that these are the five imperatives for every company to consider to shape a better future:

1. Think in new boxes — — Companies need to challenge the status quo, pushing themselves and their clients to rethink what ‘business as usual’ means and how it can be improved. Challenges related to the environment, health, education, and access to economic opportunity demand this same rigor and willingness to embrace new approaches. Too often, however, stakeholders don’t approach these issues with that attitude, whether because they are perceived as being too entrenched, too complex, or too complicated to manage.

2. Move fast — — Companies need to work quickly and with a sense of urgency to deconstruct problems and identify potential solutions. The international community often takes on the attitude that we need to ‘wait’ for the right leadership with the right resources to be in place in order to make a difference. At BCG, we work with the same pace and attention to urgency on all issues, whether they are limited to one client or impact entire societies.

3. Be flat — — Companies need to enable and empower their employees, from senior leaders to entry-level employees, to have a voice and a seat at the table. Each team member needs to be expected to contribute meaningfully, challenge others’ ideas, and support their own ideas with facts and thoughtful analysis. By virtue of their global reach, humanitarian issues demand cooperation from all players across the public and private sectors. It’s essential these players collaborate without ego or pretense and enable a true competition of ideas.

4. Be global — — Teams are only as strong as they are diverse. An array of personal, professional and academic backgrounds makes teams stronger and ideas more compelling. In the same way, we need to ensure responses to humanitarian issues reflect a diversity of opinion and background, and that solutions are not developed in a vacuums.

5. Recognize the limits of our own world view — — No single institution or organization can shape the future of humanitarian aid. Governments and large, multilateral organizations have the unique ability to enact changes on massive scale. Private sector organizations are uniquely able to pilot new approaches that break with tradition, set change in motion, and incubate innovative approaches. Alone, we will never have all the solutions to complex global challenges — we have a chance of shaping the future of humanitarian issues only if we act together.

Today, as I think about these imperatives, I’m proud of BCG’s commitment to tackle global challenges and commitment to these imperatives. I’m excited to participate as a member of this year’s Social Impact Immersion Program, and I’m looking forward to sharing more of my experiences over the course of this year.

By: Sarah Burns, Consultant