The QUT Business School recently hosted part one of a new global webinar series, The Future Enterprise, produced in collaboration with MIT Sloan School of Management. The series features global experts sharing actionable practices and design principles that organisational leaders can apply for decisive, strategic planning of their future enterprise.
In the first webinar, The Ambitious Enterprise, James C. Rhee from MIT Sloan and Professor Michael Rosemann from QUT reframed the definition of ambition, and outlined a new mindset and strategies required for leaders to achieve enterprise goals.
1. Go beyond your comfort zone
Professor Michael Rosemann shared that ambition is about making the impossible, possible. “We have the obligation for tomorrow to capitalise what’s on our doorstep,” he emphasised. Ambition means having comfort with a stretch goal, even without having the solution for how to get there. For example, when Pfizer’s CEO Albert Bourla shared his ambition of producing a COVID vaccine in six months in March last year, he knew that substantial innovation in terms of R&D, supply chain management, clinical testing etc. was needed to ensure a successful rollout.
2. Treat ambition like a hypothesis
An ambition is not a moon-shot, but rather a hypothesis for which a leader has to have a certain level of confidence that it is achievable. Like scientists who do not test hypotheses that can obviously not be validated, ambitious leaders allocate their own and organisational resources to getting as close as possible to the articulated ambition.
3. Collaborate for a greater purpose
James C. Rhee shared that the future of business is not competition. “Those that will succeed have the integrity and trust to collaborate to solve big problems,” he explained. Ambitious leaders will focus less on market share; with a greater emphasis on admitting what they don’t know and asking for help.
Professor Rosemann emphasised that ambition isn’t about “winning no matter what.” A competitive ambition can easily become a trap, not an asset. True ambition means doing good for others first, with economic success to follow.
4. Know the heart of your brand
Ashley Stewart, one of the largest clothing brands in the US serving plus-sized Black women, was facing liquidation when Rhee joined the company to reinvent it through a systems approach. Rhee employed a collaborative approach and relentless focus on kindness and math to understand, define, and elevate the values of dignity, respect, and community at the heart of the product and the company. This led to the brand using capitalism to create vector and flow change in capital (broadly defined), opening their stores for women to register to vote and organising national movements that culminated in multi-media concerts in Brooklyn, NY.
5. Cultivate kindness
Rhee said that an ambitious leader catalyses the enterprise ethos/culture towards honesty, curiosity, and a new definition of ambition, and encourages leaders to break away from binary thinking. Instead, leaders should visualise the entire company like a symphony; every note and every instrument has a role to play. There should be no waste. Know your team’s value and treat them with kindness. Change your mindset and your team’s mindset, then challenge the status quo.
Finally, we’ll leave you with Professor Rosemann’s words,
“Vision is a final goal and ambition is a desire to get there. You should have one vision and thousands of ambitions.”