The theme of this year’s World Business Forum (WBF) was ‘humanification’ – the concept of focusing on people within an organisation – with 11 speakers providing insights on the topic over the two-day event (30–31 May).

This included keynotes from British author Sir Ken Robinson; former President and CEO of The Ford Motor Company Allan Mulally; technology futurist and CEO of Market Clarity Shara Evans; and President and CEO of Cirque du Soleil Daniel Lamarre.

Here are 5 interesting things we learned at WBF in Sydney this year:

  1. We are all creative

    Sir Ken Robinson, author of The New York Times bestseller The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything and the most watched speaker in TED Talk history, highlighted the two keys to fostering innovation: imagination and creativity.

    Ken described creativity as “putting your imagination to work” and busted the common misconception that only certain people are creative.

    “Often, if you ask people if they’re creative, what they think you’ve just asked is: are you artistic? Do you play an instrument? Do you dance? Do you write poetry? Have you published any novels?,” he said.

    “My point is… you can be creative at anything. One myth is that you can only be creative at certain things. The truth is you can be creative at anything.

    “Everybody is creative. It just depends on how you think of it and how you cultivate the talents that are involved.”

  2. Leaders must create an inclusive environment

    Allan Mulally has been praised for his role in turning Ford around from facing bankruptcy in the mid 2000s. In his presentation at WBF, he highlighted that the most important thing business leaders should do is to create an environment where everyone feels included.

    Alan joined Ford in 2006 and by the time he left in 2014, employee engagement was 91% positive – one of the highest scores in the world. It is something Alan is most proud of from his time with Ford.

    “I talked to all the employees… and they really believed it was because of these working together principles and practises,” he said. “That they were part of the team; they knew everything about it; they were treated with such respect and that everything was shared with them, even the things that weren’t going well.”

  3. Saying no to good ideas is sometimes necessary

    Chris McChesney, co-author of The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals, emphasised the importance of having a strong focus when it comes to executing a business strategy. This means having to say no to several other good ideas.

    “There will always be more good ideas than there is capacity to execute,” Chris said.

    Chris quoted Apple CEO Tim Cook, who often highlights the role that focus has played in generating success for the tech giant. “We are the most focused company that I know of or have read of or have any knowledge of,” Tim says.

    “We say no to good ideas every day. We say no to great ideas in order to keep the amount of things we focus on very small in number so that we can put enormous energy behind the ones we do choose.”

  4. Hyperloops are coming

    Technology futurist and founder and CEO of Market Clarity Shara Evans revealed technologies that we will be seeing in the not-too-distant future, such as hyperloops.

    Hyperloops involve an autonomous vehicle inside a depressurised tube that can transport people or cargo at cruising speeds of 760km per hour, with a top speed of 1,300km per hour.

    Shara Evans
    Technology futurist and CEO of Market Clarity, Shara Evans, discusses the construction of hyperloops.

    Shara mentioned Richard Branson’s company Virgin Hyperloop One which has plans to put a hyperloop between London and Edinburgh – allowing users to get from A to B in just 45 minutes.

    There is also talk of putting hyperloops on the east coast of Australia, which could allow people to get from Sydney to Newcastle in 10 minutes. “That would completely change the dynamic of living in a regional area,” Shara said. “It would have a huge impact on the property market and it would have a huge impact on the regional economy.”

  5. Consider your strategy as a portfolio of bets

    Vivek Chaudhri, Melbourne Business School academic director of executive MBA programs, encouraged business leaders to be prepared for their industry landscape to change. He said this requires you to look at your strategy as a ‘portfolio of bets’ rather than one set plan.

    “We follow what everyone else in our industry is doing – certainly what everyone at the front of the industry is doing – and then we seem a little bit surprised when the disruptive threat comes along,” he said.

    “But we shouldn’t be surprised because we’ve narrowed our vision to what the leader of the pack is doing and we’ve predicated all of our actions on the belief that the landscape is going to stay fixed.”

    Instead, Vivek said leaders need to “send out scouts” in several directions to be more prepared for disruption; looking across a range of options and possibilities.

    “What I’m calling ‘strategy as a portfolio of bets’ is basically saying ‘I want to construct a portfolio of things I want to look after, not just heading in one specific direction’,” he commented.

WBF is founded by global content hub World of Business Ideas and it holds forums in cities throughout Australia, Europe, Asia and the Americas. This was the fifth time the event was held in Sydney and it will return in 2019, with keynote speakers set to include Jeff Immelt, former CEO of GE, and Sephen MR Covey, author of The Speed of Trust.

Learn how C2 is redefining the business conference before it comes to Melbourne, Australia in October 2018.