Four Questions for 2016

Sydney Finkelstein
Jan 7, 2016 · 2 min read

Here are some of the top questions I’m thinking about as the new year begins:

1. What will the world’s best CEOs do to stay on top?

Elon Musk of SpaceX and Tesla; Tim Cook of Apple; Jack Ma of Alibaba (Chairman, not CEO); Marc Zuckerberg of Facebook; Mark Parker of Nike. These CEOs are all winners, but the history of business is littered with previously successful CEOs who have fallen from grace. Do we need to go any further than Volkswagen’s Martin Winterkorn? After years of studying CEO failure, I’d suggest savvy investors pay attention to signs of hubris. For example, watch out when CEO compensation is way out of line to what other top managers are getting at the same company.

2. What will happen to IBM and Samsung?

Giants, able to do pretty much as they please, right? Think again. IBM is in the midst of a secular decline in their business that’s been going on for two years, and may well accelerate. Samsung took over from Sony as the top global electronics brand years ago. Now the question is, will Samsung continue to follow Sony’s path, to second-tier, maybe third-tier, competitor? I hope not. But there’s a little company in Cupertino, CA that’s doing everything it can to beat up on both IBM and Samsung. And so far, at least, it’s working. Apple.

3. Who will solve the talent puzzle?

Every smart CEO I know spends more time on talent than they ever did before. And there’s a good reason for that — creating an organization that generates and regenerates talent on a continuous basis is the surest way to win, and keep winning. The problem is that despite incredible investments in time, money, and energy, leaders are scratching their heads trying to figure out how to manage talent better. Shameless plug: my new book Superbosses, available on pre-order now, provides a blueprint that explains what the world’s best talent spawners do to identify, motivate, inspire, teach, and leverage talent. Take a look.

4. What businesses are in really good shape for 2016?

Who knows? But there are a few places to look. Here are two:

  • As the world’s population grows, and wealth grows, the demand for pharmaceuticals is exploding. There are big challenges that come from pricing pressures in different parts of the world, but the major global pharma companies are well placed to produce a new round of blockbuster drugs, driven by genetic research and personalized medicine, among other things. And with an aging population, more people around the world will be lining up to get access.
  • Mobile — anything mobile — is booming. An entire generation of younger people lives on their smartphones and occasionally, tablets. The ability to deliver what ever a customer wants via mobile app has never been more important. Even “old” people (35+ years and up) are learning to rely on apps. There’s never been as much upside to mobile.
Sydney Finkelstein

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@TuckSchool @Dartmouth Professor & Director Leadership Center. Author: #SUPERBOSSES (Feb 9), Why Smart Executives Fail. 3 words: Inspire, Ideas, Impact.