Welcome to throw forward Thursday. My name is Graeme Codrington, and we’re going to jump into the future, especially the future of the top floor of the headquarters of your business, the top floor where all those senior executives sit. Sometime in the future we’re going to walk into the senior executive C suite and we’re going to find a lot of different titles. 20 years ago, there were three main titles that people used chief Executive officer, and then you typically had the Chief Operations Officer and the Chief Financial officer. Over the last 20 years, we’ve added extra executives, people focusing on technology and information and HR and so on.

But over the next 20 years, I think there are four key areas of business that need their own executive, that need their own C suite officer to focus attention.

  • The first is the future of our people.
  • The second is our customers.
  • The third is the growth of our business, especially the complexity of multinational growth and working in larger ecosystems.
  • And the fourth area is innovation.

These are key pillars. They are key focus areas of the strategy of most businesses. And businesses realise if they don’t get those four areas right, the business will fail. So if they are that important, then surely we need some dedicated senior executives on the job and we can’t just allocate it to the operations officer or the CEO.

So the first of those was the future of our people.And so we might have titles like chief future of work officer, who looks at how to deal with full time versus freelance work, how to deal with automation, how to deal with hybrid workplaces.

The different ways in which people work and the way that we contract them to work is absolutely essential in most organisations. And we probably need somebody operating at that senior executive level to manage it. It might be a chief workplace or a chief workforce officer who looks at employee engagement, or a chief people officer, which is something that quite a few companies already have. I’ve seen a suggestion that maybe the best title in this space is chief happiness Officer.

Maybe that’s pushing things a little bit too far for some companies. But I like the idea that the focus of this chief officer is not just on being on the top floor, away from the people. And that’s not what I think the future of the executive suite is. I think they should get out of their Ivory tower, come into the open plan office, sit on the bottom floor, be a lot more accessible to everybody.

But maybe this focus on our people should be more focused on the outcome that we want, which is engagement.And maybe happiness is the way to describe that, rather than focus more on the inputs and the processes and systems. And I think that that’s part of the future of the C suite as well.

The second area I suggested was the focus on customers. And here I think we’ll see titles like Chief Data Officer. This is different from information.The Chief Information Officer might be the right person to manage data pools and work with machine learning and predictive data analytics.

But data analytics is so important that it probably deserves its own CDO. (Chief Data Officer). But I think we also need to go further than that again to look at what are the outputs of having good information, good data, good data analytics. And so you might want to have the Chief User Experience Officer.

We already have great examples of this, although they didn’t have that title. Marissa Mayer, who was Google’s 20th employee and worked for many years to manage the front page of Google, that little strip where you go in and just has the Google title, and then that little strip, what do you want to search for? That was basically her whole job. She was smarter than just looking after a blank page. She was, for example, one of the team that brought AdWords to Google all about the user experience, which included design.

And that’s my second example, Johnny, I’m sure. Johnny. I was also one of the early employees at Apple, and most people don’t know his name, but he was basically responsible for the entire look and feel of Apple products, a lot more than just the design of the icons and the colours of the logos, although that was part of it. But the entire user experience. And his view was, if you need a manual you haven’t finished designing yet, it should all be intensely intuitive, entirely easy to use.And we’ve got to get that right in every industry to take examples. But this is in everything from transportation to banking.

The third area that I was talking about was the ecosystem in which you work and the complexity of that ecosystem. Maybe you want a Chief Ecosystem Officer. A Chief Globalisation Officer might be a little bit too niche.Obviously, Chief Compliance Officers have already started to make their way into the executive suite, because understanding the complexities of the multinational world we live in is essential.

And so somebody that can help you to cross boundaries and barriers, break down silos, deal with your partnerships and your alliances and the platforms that you’re on. The Chief Ecosystem Officer.

And then the final piece was innovation. Innovation is so important.

I don’t have a client that doesn’t have the word innovation somewhere in their strategy, document their vision, statement, their goals and objectives. So why don’t we have a Chief Innovation Officer to make sure that innovation flows through the system?

Maybe you want something like a Chief Change Officer, a Chief Transformation Officer, although that has the diversity and inclusion angle. And now we’re back to step one again with our people. And maybe we do need a Chief Diversity Officer who is the Chief Innovation Officer, who engages with the Chief Transformation Officer.

And so now the list goes on and on. I’m not just suggesting that we create titles for the sake of it, but I am suggesting that the C suite of the future looks very different and that the future of work demands new skill sets, new leadership approaches, new structures and systems. So hopefully we’ll see sometime in the future a new way of dealing with executive senior leadership as well.

My name is Graeme Codrinton and this is what I do. I think about the future.

I help people to jump into the future and imagine what the world looks like. Especially the future world of work.

Thanks for joining me in this Throw forward Thursday. I hope to see you again next week. I’ll see you then.


Graeme Codrington, is an internationally recognized futurist, specializing in the future of work. He helps organizations understand the forces that will shape our lives in the next ten years, and how we can respond in order to confidently stay ahead of change. Chat to us about booking Graeme to help you Re-Imagine and upgrade your thinking to identify the emerging opportunities in your industry.

For the past two decades, Graeme has worked with some of the world’s most recognized brands, travelling to over 80 countries in total, and speaking to around 100,000 people every year. He is the author of 5 best-selling books, and on faculty at 5 top global business schools.

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