Succeeding in the age of disruption

How can businesses thrive and grow amid today’s relentless pace of change? The Bloomberg Breakaway Summit, held recently in New York, gathered a broad swath of CEOs for an in-depth exploration of just that question.  Delving into policy, technology, the future of work, crisis management, capital strategy and more, the conference brought together influential executives both on stage and off.

Leaders including Deloitte CEO Cathy Engelbert, US Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross, Jr., Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan, New England Patriots owner Robert K. Kraft, Wal-Mart US eCommerce President and CEO Marc Lore and many others shared insights and experiences; Bloomberg editors including Carol MassarDavid GuraBrad Stone and Megan Murphy led discussion.


The Bloomberg Breakaway Summit convened in New York, May 2-3, 2017. Photo: Jean-Pierre Uys/Bloomberg

The event kicked off with a dinner on May 2, continuing on May 3 with a full day program that mixed one-on-one interviews, panel discussions, and significant engagement between the C-level audience and the on-stage speakers. In addition, Bloomberg Breakaway network members – a select executive group who benefit from networking and learning throughout the year – participated in hands-on workshops that addressed such topics as measuring success and the social impact of AI. The summit was presented by technology leader Hitachi,  American Airlines, and data-capture company Zebra

Highlights from the event offer a unique window into what CEOs are facing – and how they’re finding solutions:

Wal-Mart’s Marc Lore stays fluid


Bloomberg global technology editor Brad Stone interviews Wal-Mart US e-commerce CEO Marc Lore at the Bloomberg Breakaway Summit. Photo: Jean-Pierre Uys/Bloomberg

Marc Lore, US e-commerce CEO for Wal-Mart, highlighted the importance of listening to many voices and hearing what’s going on from all angles. As interviewer Brad Stone observed, Lore works without an office, a desk or even, for the most part, a laptop – relying on his phone between meetings.

The flexibility that approach offers has helped Lore become a leading innovator – arriving at Wal-Mart when it acquired, the digital retail company he founded (he also co-founded Quidsi, which was acquired by Amazon in 2011). And it allows him to envision what the retail industry might look like in the future: within five years, he told stone, there will be a computer built that can “nail 1:1 personalization in a way that’s way beyond where we are today. Think about the showroom floor expert in a specialty store – the person who knows TVs inside and out, you trust them to answer any question. Couple that with someone who knows you like your mom and dad. You’re going to get amazing recommendations.”

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Wilbur Ross on maintaining productive dialogue


Bloomberg Television and Radio anchor David Gura talks with US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. Photo: Jean-Pierre Uys/Bloomberg

Finding regularly scheduled time to think through possible solutions to ongoing challenges may seem difficult in an average work week – but it can form a constructive framework between businesses and policy-makers, according to US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. Outreach to the business community by the current administration includes regular quarterly sessions. “They generally get homework assignments between sessions, and they’re taking it very seriously,” he said. The flow of exchange includes detailed suggestions, which the government then takes as its own “homework assignment,” in order to move things forward.

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Bank of America’s Moynihan has a global outlook


Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan on stage at the Bloomberg Breakaway Summit. Photo: Jean-Pierre Uys/Bloomberg

Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan suggested that business is undeniably global – and that’s not going to change. “These companies here,” he said, indicating the audience of mid-size company execs, “all sell overseas, potentially manufacture overseas, import from overseas.” And, he added, the economy has changed as well as the way business gets done. “When the economy was 10% of the size, and the world wasn’t global, and the final demand for customers was all in America for American companies – it just doesn’t exist anymore.”  

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Deloitte CEO Cathy Engelbert envisions the workforce of the future


Deloitte CEO Cathy Engelbert shares insights at the Bloomberg Breakaway summit. Photo: Jean-Pierre Uys/Bloomberg

Bloomberg’s Carol Massar opened conversation with Deloitte CEO Cathy Engelbert with an audience poll: is your biggest problem finding, retraining or retaining workers? Their response: Finding workers, amid a rapidly changing business environment.

“I call it the disconnect with skills,” Engelbert said. “How do we match the skill sets from our universities, colleges and technical schools with what businesses are looking for?” In addition, she said, companies need to think in terms of a new ecosystem, that balances people and technology – whether that means investing or partnering.

“We all have finite capital, and we’re all trying to figure out how to invest in an exponentially changing environment, when all of our people have been taught to think linear over such a long period of time,” she said. “It’s not about the shiny new tool or technology – it’s about combining the ingenuity of your human capital, and your existing technology with those new tools and technologies,” Engelbert said, adding: “the one thing we all know is no one company can do it alone.”

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Robert Kraft on the importance of building relationships


Bloomberg Businessweek editor Megan Murphy speaks with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Photo: Jean-Pierre Uys/Bloomberg

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft told audiences that “If I’ve had any modicum of success, it’s because I’ve had good relationships and people trusted me,” adding that in the digital age, developing deep relationships may not be as easy as it once was. “With smartphones and texting, a lot of things are one way. There’s not the discussion and the empathy and the understanding people’s point of view that’s different from yours.”

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– Jen Robinson
| May 11, 2017