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European CEOs Identify 5 'Jobs to Be Done’ to Foster Enduring, Sustainable, Inclusive Growth Model

Report features insights from discussions with 27 top business leaders as part of Xynteo’s Europe Delivers program — including CEOs of AXA, Danone, EDF Energy, IKEA Group, Mastercard, Nestlé, Nokia, Schneider Electric and Tesco.

For the latest report in its ‘Europe Delivers’ series, Norwegian strategy conultancy Xynteo asked business leaders from across Europe what they felt European businesses could do to help build an inclusive, regenerative, competitive growth model. The findings are based on interviews with 27 European CEOs and business leaders, together representing a combined market cap of over €2 trillion, and a further 105 leaders from European businesses (see p.12 of the report for the full list of leaders surveyed).

In the report’s foreward, Xynteo founder and CEO Osvald Bjelland explains: “Though our market-led growth model has delivered huge gains to humanity, it has become exclusionary, degenerative and dangerous. But it needn’t be this way. From conversations with 27 CEOs, chairmen and other C-suite executives from European businesses, Xynteo has identified five ‘jobs to be done’ by business to enable progress towards an inclusive and regenerative growth model in Europe, while building competitiveness in an economic system undergoing deep change.

“Our main, and profoundly encouraging, takeaway was that these leaders accept as an almost foregone conclusion their responsibility to contribute actively to a new growth model — not least since they see this contribution as a core source of competitiveness and differentiation. We hope the ‘5 jobs to be done’ serve as a stimulus for action that businesses from all sectors can take — now.”

Jobs to be Done’ is an approach to innovation that treats customers and stakeholders not as buyers, but as executors of jobs. According to this framework — popularized by Clayton Christensen from Harvard Business School — successful companies are those that, rather than focus narrowly on innovating their existing products, are best at helping customers solve functional and emotional problems. Xynteo says it riffs off the JTBD framework because it wants to underscore what it believes is a necessary shift in business strategy: In order to maintain their license to operate, businesses need to demonstrate how they are helping society solve problems rather than creating new ones.

The 5 Jobs to Be Done:

1. Move beyond shareholder primacy

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A near-exclusive prioritization of maximising shareholder return is restricting businesses from driving inclusive, regenerative growth — a fact recently acknowledged by the Business Roundtable and its latest revision of its statement re the Purpose of a Corporation as, among other things, promoting ‘an economy that serves all.’

The European business leaders envision an evolution in how businesses create value, returning solid and reliable dividends to shareholders while benefitting society at large. Measuring this kind of value may no longer be such a challenge — the recently formed Value Balancing Alliance (VBA) is developing a metric for quantifying the true value companies provide to society.

“We have added social and environmental impact to our P&L. We have set-up an alliance ... to standardize the current models in the market,” says Wolfgang Weber, VP of Communications and Government Relations For Europe/EMEA at BASF, one of the founding companies of the VBA. “What we need now is investors to steer more companies according to this broader P&L.”

2. Lead the consumer

Our current consumption model is wasteful and degenerative by design. Transitioning to a circular economy, where functional benefits are decoupled from ownership, is a hopeful solution. Businesses need to apply the power of behavioural insights to nudge consumers towards more sustainable choices, while simultaneously radically lifting overall sustainability performance of the products and services offered to consumers, changing the consumption model itself.

“What would our customers expect us to do if they knew what we know?” Dave Lewis, now-former CEO of Tesco, asks in the report. “We can’t just rely on customers to ask us for healthier, sustainable alternatives.”

“Nearly 90 percent of people are willing to change their behavior to fight climate change, but only 3 percent of them know how — so, there’s a gap there that we can fill.” — Jesper Brodin, CEO of Ingka Group (IKEA Retail)

3. Shape the future of work

Our approach to work is becoming obsolete; we are not ready for AI, automation and widespread gig work. Vision: A dynamic workforce delivering high productivity, sufficient income security and high human development. Businesses need to help build a new model of employment, in which we have enough good work for humans while reaping the benefits of automation and AI.

“For businesses in the financial sector, the need for new systems for income security is a growth area.” — Michael Miebach, Chief Product Officer at Mastercard

4. Liberate data through trust

Mistrust of the digital economy could hold us back from using data to drive both commercial and societal value. The CEOs envision a human-centered data economy that powers better businesses and better lives. Businesses need to reverse the downward slide in trust, ensuring that data can be leveraged to unlock a new form of growth.

“We feel a lot less constrained to get data and use it through artificial intelligence to better manage the hardware we have. It’s with the customer data that we need a lot of governance.” — Francesco Starace, CEO of Enel

5. Reset the collaboration between government and business

Speaking of mistrust, we need the government-business partnership more than ever, but mistrust is undermining effective collaboration. Revitalizing that partnership, rooted in mutual appreciation of respective value and collaborative competence, is the only way forward. Businesses need to change the narrative of the relative roles of business and government to establish symbiotic partnerships that leverage their complementary assets. Collaboration between business and government is essential to enable Europe to face the rest of the world as a united and innovative power.

“I’m very positive about Europe. We know we are in an era of change and in a change of an era,” said FrieslandCampina CEO Hein Schumacher. “To me, that’s the ideal time to unlock our potential as a cooperative continent, committed to collaborating effectively for the long term.”

Xynteo closes by asking leaders inspired by the report to “get to work”: “Our call to action is that you will now take steps to transform that inspiration into tangible action.”