IBM CEO Study: CEOs are re-balancing operational control with organisational openness

CEOs embark on a new era of leadership as they embrace a more connected culture

Select a topic or year

Sydney, Australia - 23 May 2012: A new IBM (NYSE: IBM) study of more than 1,700 Chief Executive Officers from 64 countries and 18 industries worldwide reveals that CEOs are changing the nature of work by adding a powerful dose of openness, transparency and employee empowerment to the command-and-control ethos that has characterised the modern corporation for more than a century.

The advantages of the fast-moving trend are clear. According to the IBM study, companies that outperform their peers are 30 percent more likely to identify openness as a key influence on their organisation.  Outperformers are embracing new models of working that tap into the collective intelligence of an organisation and its networks to devise new ideas and solutions for increased profitability and growth.


To forge closer connections with customers, partners and a new generation of employees in the future, CEOs will shift their focus from using e-mail and the phone as primary communication vehicles to using social networks as a new path for direct engagement. Today, only 16 percent of CEOs are using social media platforms to connect with individuals, but that number is poised to spike to 57 percent within the next three to five years. While social media is the least utilised of all customer interaction methods today, it stands to become the number two organisational engagement method within the next five years, a close second to face-to-face interactions.

“What we’ve learnt from the post GFC era is that predicting the timing, location and direction of the next economic swing is virtually impossible.  So instead, CEOs are now harnessing opportunities they can influence to create value. According to the Study, those drivers involve fostering deeper connections with employees, customers and partners to gain insight into strategies which benefit the bottom line,” said Sarah Adam-Gedge, Managing Partner, IBM Global Business Services A/NZ.

“Increasingly technology seems to be at the heart of enabling these connections. The Study shows that organisations that outperform their peers are 68 percent more focused on combining technology with the business to drive innovation and growth. CEOs believe that technology trends are the most influential external factor for organisations – a radical change over the last decade,” said Adam-Gedge.

The Study found that a majority (71 percent) of global CEOs regard technology as the number-one factor to impact an organisation’s future over the next three years – considered to be a bigger change agent than shifting economic and market conditions.

Given the data explosion most organisations are facing, CEOs recognise the need for more sophisticated business analytics to mine the data being tracked online, on mobile phones and social media sites. The ability to drive value from data is strongly correlated with performance.  Outperforming organisations are twice as good at accessing and drawing insights from data. 

CEOs in Australia & New Zealand

While CEOs in Australia & New Zealand  (A/NZ)are generally aligned with their global counterparts on the above findings there are also notable areas of differentiation particularly on issues of people skills and flexibility.

CEOs globally cite collaboration (75 percent) and communication (67 percent) as the top two key personal characteristics for success, while CEOs in A/NZ prefer flexibility (86 percent) as the most important personal characteristic for success.

While globally technology tops the list of external forces impacting organisations over the next 3-5 years, in A/NZ, technology is overshadowed by people skills, which comes out top, reflecting the tight local labour and skills market.

About the IBM 2012 Global CEO Study 

This study is the fifth edition of IBM’s biennial Global CEO Study series. To better understand the challenges and goals of today’s CEOs, IBM consultants met face-to-face with the largest-known sample of these executives. Between September 2011 and January 2012, 1,709 CEOs and senior public sector leaders were interviewed worldwide to better understand their future plans and challenges in an increasingly connected economy.

For access to the full study findings and case studies, please visit:

For access to the full study findings and a digital library of IBM thought leadership on your tablet or smart phone, please visit or

To join the conversation about smarter leadership, please visit:

Related XML feeds
Topics XML feeds
Services and solutions