02/10/2015 09:49 am ET Updated Apr 11, 2015

Growth, Creative Destruction, and Relationships Continue to Challenge CEOs in 2015

The recent CES Expo generated so much excitement about how technology is dramatically enhancing our lives that CEOs could be forgiven for thinking that their mission in 2015 will be entirely focused on innovating wearables and gadgets for the Internet of Things. I submit that the challenges facing CEOs in 2015 require a more strategic focus on three key areas:

1. Profitable Growth - with US GDP growth estimated to be between 2-5%, I see many CEOs projecting growth, even while their core business is declining. Where is their strategy to support those projections? A month into 2015 and I'm anticipating that many CEOs will face the challenges of uncovering net new, profitable, and recurring growth opportunities. This outcome will force them to think and lead very differently; what they may have done in the past is simply no longer relevant. But growth for sake of growth doesn't make sense; the speed, slope and profitability of that growth are all important attributes, requiring the CEO and the organization to balance lagging indicators (last quarter's results) with leading ones (market engagement, influence, and sentiment, just to name a few).

2. Creative Destruction - Five minutes walking around the CES 2015 show would tell any CEO that regardless of their company size, industry, or current market position, their business model is now or soon will be under attack. Creative destruction challenge seldom comes from the direction you expect. It's not your known competitors, but rather the innovative thinkers and creative doers without the baggage of enterprise legacy who are cooking up the next innovation that will threaten your status quo. Unless CEOs develop an ecosystem to better understand and anticipate their customer needs (vs. wants), they'll struggle to remain relevant. Forget strategic planning for a 3 to 5 year horizon; if organizational agility, adaptive innovation, board involvement and support for innovation are foreign concepts to the CEO, the end is near!

3. Strategic Relationships - In a challenging market environment, strategic relationships within the organization as well as external to it are more valuable than ever. Beyond personal and functional relationships, strategic relationships will help elevate CEOs thinking and influence their capacity to engage and motivate, their fundamental ability to lead. The CEO's reputation capital creates a distinct competitive edge. Astute CEOs are intentional in the relationships they choose to invest. CEOs need to prioritize strategic relationships for the coming year. Which have become stagnant, and should they receive more priority, or be accepted as no longer relevant? Which should receive continued investment to maintain their value? And which should be elevated: Who to a higher level of attention and priority? For return on impact, strategic relationships are in my opinion an organization's greatest off-balance-sheet asset. And should be treated as such.

Growth can only be achieved through mergers and acquisition or innovation; strategic relationships are the asset that makes growth from either strategy more easily achieved.

Nour Takeaways

  1. CEOs must think and lead differently to achieve projected growth in a still-sluggish economy.
  2. Creative destruction sweeps away the old, and will attack nearly every industry and market in 2015. CEOs must drive ecosystem innovation, not merely new products or services.
  3. Strategic relationships elevate CEOs' thinking and hone their organization's competitive edge. CEOs must be astute about the relationships they choose to invest in 2015.


David Nour is an enterprise growth strategist and the thought leader on Relationship Economics® --the quantifiable value of business relationships. In a global economy that is becoming increasingly disconnected, The Nour Group, Inc. has attracted consulting engagements from over 100 marquee organizations in driving unprecedented growth through unique return on their strategic relationships. Nour has pioneered the phenomenon that relationships are the greatest off balance sheet asset any organizations possesses, large and small, public and private. He is the author of several books including the best selling Relationship Economics-- Revised (Wiley), ConnectAbility (McGraw-Hill), The Entrepreneur's Guide to Raising Capital (Praeger) and Return on Impact--Leadership Strategies for the age of Connected Relationships (ASAE). Learn more at