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Putting data at core with human insight will help achieve real growth, says Institute for Real Growth

IRG, an initiative by WPP and Kantar, with its study aims to help CEOs, CMOs and other senior business leaders to drive more effective growth strategies. BestMediaInfo.com speaks to Marc de Swaan Arons, Co-Founder of the Institute for Real Growth, to understand how exactly a global cross-industry initiative will help organisations achieve real growth

As competition becomes more intense, the market gets more complex and the economy faces headwinds, it is a challenge for corporates to find sustainable growth. To help organisations focus on sustained, long-term real growth by equipping leaders with best practice approaches to their strategy, structure, capability and leadership, WPP and Kantar has launched a global cross-industry initiative — Institute for Real Growth (IRG) — in India. The IRG with its study aims to help CEOs, CMOs and other senior business leaders to drive more effective growth strategies.

Marc de Swaan Arons

“Over the last 15 years, marketing has lost a little bit of its reputation. So when you see a lot of CMOs being replaced by CGOs, you have to ask yourself, is there a difference between the two. The analysis tells us that marketing has been distracted by the shiny toys of digital. With digital trends coming into categories, beating the traditional category roles, marketers are being flat footed, because they have been over exposed on communication and activation,” said Marc de Swaan Arons, Co-Founder of the Institute for Real Growth in an interaction with BestMediaInfo.com.

Arons discussed how it has become pertinent for organisations to adopt open culture and to engage with partner ecosystems. Talking about the study’s findings, he explained how technology or human brain alone cannot help an organisation to grow. A right mix of both is required.   

The study in its Indian perspective tried to understand the factors that drive growth. The study revealed that given the talent crunch, lack in transparency within corporates is holding back the growth, among other challenges. 

The study identifies seven building blocks of real growth to help senior business leaders identify the focus areas for driving more effective growth strategy, structure and capability.

The IRG study that differentiated growth over-performers from under-performers was undertaken by the institute across 73 countries. The findings from India are based on an online quantitative study run among 600 business professionals based in big metros, preceded by in-depth vision interviews with over 30 CEOs of various companies to understand their view point on growth and ways to drive it.

But what actually is real growth that the study is helping organisations to achieve?

“When you say real growth, the question is what is fake growth? It is short-term growth where there are profits but actually it didn't lead to revenue growth.  We wanted to learn from over-performed companies how for three years they have managed to grow the top line beyond their competition, and what growth is, according to them. What different do they do from under-performers. We looked at their growth relative to their own competitors. And thus categorised them as over- and under-performers,” said Arons.

Key findings pertaining to India from the global growth study:

  • The growth drivers that define an over-performing company globally remain alike even in India.
  • Growth by its definition being subjective in India varies from industry to industry. While it is revenue increase for some, it is driving better customer experience for some. Some define growth as bringing in higher automation while some companies measure their success from the growth they provide to people.
  • In India, the over-performing companies are the most employee-friendly. They always put their employees first, followed by customer satisfaction and then revenue.
  • Given that they believe people and not technology/processes are the key to success, they are very well-connected both internally and with their external partners

Commenting on how organisations should move towards more open culture, Arons said, India has been behind the curve in terms of traditional hierarchies, and unwritten rules, and great ideas not being discussed. Companies should be humble and realise that they as an individual level, but also at the corporate level, don't have all the answers. So it's going to take collaboration, it's going to take human connections. It is a fundamental leadership belief that we will be better by connecting with others.  It is inherent in small, aggressively growing companies. He added that it is the challenge for a leader to shake up that system and particularly to lead by example in that sense.  

Other findings:

  • Over performing companies put data and analytics at the core of all strategic decisions and are clearly more long-term focussed than their peers.
  • Keen to adopt new business models. They believe that incremental growth can only come from new or unconventional business models.

The report had mentioned that an over-performer has a longer vision and can best assess the market. Under-performers focus more on their market share and on winning share from competitors. Would AI or technology help the under-performers assess the overall market?

“What we see that the over-performers look at the market in a holistic way, and AI as an analysis tool. To unlock the power of the data, they put human insights. So the winning organisations are actually doing two things. They are bringing human insights along with technology.  They're bringing human creativity to technology to create better solutions. Technology combined with creativity is something that once people understand; they can start to drive solutions that are actually more like experiences. Data is not expensive affair anymore, everyone has it,” said Arons.

With the emerging ‘trend’ of scrapping CMO role when growth targets aren’t met and companies experimenting with new economy approach of consolidating insights, strategy, marketing, innovation and sales roles into a CGO, Arons said, “It's symptomatic that if an organisation is not getting the growth ideas, strategies and the executions from the CMO, they will move away from the CMO. And what I'm telling CMOs, if you don't want to be replaced by a CGO, you better act like a CGO now. I think there is a huge opportunity for CMOs not just to get back and do their whole job, but to step up, as you actually drive growth leadership and get back in the driver's seat of assessing.”

Apart from this, the IRG program comprises a series of workshops that provide close collaboration with peers, the latest in-depth research, world-class case studies, expert speaker insight and individual coaching, personalised to each attendee’s leadership and organisational business growth needs. The Institute for Real Growth is a not-for-profit and independent institute co-founded by WPP, Kantar, Google, Facebook, Spencer Stuart, LinkedIn, Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford, and the New York University School of Professional Studies.

Click here to view report.


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