The benefit of having some of the world's top CEOs, startup founders, heads of foundations, and government leaders all in one room is that you get a live brain trust to find out what many of them are thinking.
At the Clinton Global Initiative, which implements solutions to some of the world's most pressing social problems, some of these individuals shared their thoughts on how to remain an effective leader of any organization.
Here's a sentiment that many founders can relate to: "The last thing we want to do is get in a rut where we do the same things over and over again," says former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Indeed, as only the ninth CEO of IBM in its 103-year history, Ginni Rometty has had to steer the company through rapidly changing fields, including cloud-based and cognitive computing. According to Clinton, these are the three rules that Rometty has shared with other leaders to help guide them down a constant road to reinvention:
1. Don't protect the past.
2. Never be defined by your product.
3. Always transform yourself.
"This idea about making progress every day is one thing you have to do," says Rometty. "Growth and comfort never coexist."
Celebrate your employees' mistakes
Some organizations have launched a "goof of the month" award, or a similar tongue-in-cheek prize, that acknowledges a product or service mistake. This kind of approach helps foster an environment that's more conducive to brainstorming innovative solutions to market problems, says Alexander Grashow, a business adaptation expert.
Analyze your results
In which geographies are your products or services most successful, and why? And which features have proven to be the most popular?
Answering questions like these requires understanding your organization's past actions--and tracking pertinent data points. While it sounds tedious, the exercise can help inform an organization's future success. "Many people will say I'm drowning in information," acknowledges Rometty. "What is different about this moment in time is you do have to make it digestible, actionable."
This kind of analysis also uncovers important patterns of success, for both for-profit and social enterprises. At CGI--which has overseen more than 3,000 commitments toward social progress made by businesses, foundations, NGOs, and other organizations--more than 90 percent of new projects now involve partnerships. That's up from 65 percent in 2005.
"All the partnerships which include at least one NGO and at least one corporation are the most likely to succeed and have the highest rate of beating their stated goal when they began," says Bill Clinton. "The partnerships, I think, are very important."
Benefit from others' failures
For years, startups and businesses in the information and communication technologies sector in Iceland struggled to find talented mathematicians, scientists, and engineers. The problem? Many of them had been hired away by local banks.
But when some of Iceland's banks failed in 2008, the country's government stepped back and didn't bail them out--creating a hiring environment that was ripe for high-tech ventures. "Once the financial sector collapsed through failure, there was a multitude of technological, innovative companies that could move forward in a very successful way," said lafur Ragnar Grmsson, Iceland's president.
Since then, Iceland's unemployment rate has fallen while its annual economic growth has rebounded.