Leading Through Disruption: the new paradigm required to handle global tectonic shifts

“The failure of global institutions in the 21st century is that they are still designed for the 20th century; and the 20th century institutions, post-World War II were designed for a certain type of geopolitical model. All those things are different now, and these institutions are not being reshaped to suit the advent of digital technology.”

Andrew Liveris, 21 March 2024

From the concept of a G-Zero world, the retreat of globalisation and future of democracy, to sliding door moments that can’t be ignored, our guest speaker, global executive Andrew Liveris provided much food for thought in Rowland’s latest Corporate Affairs webinar. Additionally, as Chair of the 2032 Organising Committee, he touched on the opportunities – and hurdles – awaiting Brisbane as it prepares to host the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Short on time? We’ve summarised the key discussion points below.

Rising from humble beginnings to global leadership

  • As former Chair and CEO of Dow Chemical Company, Andrew propelled the company to unprecedented success, achieving a peak market capitalisation exceeding $US135 billion. His transformative strategies reshaped business dynamics, earning him recognition as an advisor to US Presidents and esteemed positions including Board Member of IBM and Advisory Board Member of Salesforce. He currently serves as President of the Brisbane Organising Committee for the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games, where he is committed to shaping the future of global events.
  • Through life, there are often pivotal moments that shape one’s trajectory. For Andrew, one such moment came with the passing of his father. Yet, through the guidance of his uncle and encouragement to aim high and pursue higher education, Andrew was led towards a path of intellectual growth, eventually culminating in a suggestion to pursue engineering.
  • Yet, during his academic journey, a professor advised against pursuing a Ph.D. and instead encouraged him to explore the world. Such advice led Andrew to a career with Dow, where he discovered a passion for interpersonal relationships, mentoring, and a reshaped career trajectory towards marketing as a focus point where he is today.
  • As Yogi Berra famously said, “If you see a fork in the road, take it.” Each decision, whether intentional or serendipitous, has led Andrew to where he is today, serving as a testament to the importance of seizing opportunities and embracing change.

Disrupting traditional education for modern industry

  • The global debate surrounding the mismatch between traditional education systems and the needs of modern industry is a pressing issue. To keep pace with the rapidly evolving landscape, there is a need to disrupt the existing educational paradigms.
  • Andrew says the future demands a more dynamic and adaptable approach to education, one that emphasises practical skills, critical thinking, and innovation. By fostering collaboration between academia and industry, we can bridge the gap and equip students with the tools they need to thrive in the digital age.

Setting priorities as a leader

  • Leading a massive global organisation requires careful prioritisation and time management. Each day presents a new set of challenges, but Andrew adheres to a structured approach to ensure he addresses the most critical issues.
  • He categorises his priorities into three distinct buckets: personal, professional, and social. By allocating time to each aspect of his life, he strives to maintain a healthy balance and fulfil his responsibilities effectively.
  • In his professional role, Andrew prioritises customer engagement, stakeholder relationships, and employee development. He firmly believes in leading from the front, spending ample time on the frontline to gain firsthand insights into the needs of both employees and customers.

Big picture challenges

  • As we navigate the complexities of the modern world, several challenges weigh heavily on Andrew’s mind. Climate change, economic inequality, and geopolitical instability being at the forefront.
  • The promise of globalisation has fallen short, with widening disparities between the rich and poor. To address these systemic challenges, there is a need to rethink our approach to governance, business, and social responsibility.

Role of business in climate change

  • In his book, “Leading Through Disruption”, Andrew emphasises the critical role of businesses in tackling climate change. According to Andrew, government institutions have proven inadequate in addressing this threat, necessitating proactive measures from the private sector.
  • Businesses must embrace sustainability initiatives, forge public-private partnerships, and advocate for policy changes that prioritise environmental conservation. By integrating sustainability into their core strategies, companies can drive positive change and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Navigating a G-Zero world

  • The concept of a G-Zero world, devoid of effective leadership and direction, presents significant challenges for global cooperation. In the absence of strong governmental leadership, the onus falls on the private sector to drive innovation and address pressing issues.
  • Institutions designed for the 20th century are ill-equipped to navigate the complexities of the digital age. It is imperative that businesses adopt inclusive capitalism, prioritise long-term sustainability, and advocate for bold policy reforms.

Future of democracy and free speech

  • In an era marked by social media scrutiny and political polarisation, the state of democracy and free speech is increasingly precarious. As an advocate for open dialogue and critical thinking, Andrew is concerned about the erosion of fundamental freedoms in the face of online censorship and public backlash

Road to the 2032 Games

  • As Chair of the Brisbane 2032 Organising Committee, Andrew is aware of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Infrastructure development, public support, and athlete preparation are just a few of the key areas that demand attention.
  • Despite the hurdles, Andrew remains optimistic about the transformative potential of the Games. Beyond the realm of sports, the 2032 Olympics present a unique opportunity to showcase our city, state, and country on the global stage.
  • While the road ahead may be challenging, Andrew believes by working together and embracing innovation, we can overcome adversity and build a brighter future for generations to come.