Kicking off our new business podcast series – ‘Pivot to the Future’ – I chatted with will.i.am about the power of the “pivot” and he shared his personal story that has led him to today but may not be what leads him to tomorrow.
One of the things I’ve noticed since we launched our book “Pivot to the Future” is that the idea of pivoting really appeals to people. In some cases because it’s a very visual word, so they can see themselves switching up what they do, making that physical change. In other cases because they can identify with it—it suddenly explains a history of twists and turns they’ve made already in their careers. It’s a word that perfectly sums up dramatic shifts they took during periods of disruption, sometimes taking a path which seemed to make no sense at the time but later proved to be a defining moment.
One person who represents that kind of personal reinvention is Will.i.am—musician, philanthropist and technology investor. You’ll probably know him as a member of the Black Eyed Peas, but he's one of the few people on this planet who has lived and thrived in that place where technology business, art and entertainment all collide. He’s currently joining me for a podcast series about how companies can navigate ongoing disruption and become engines of continuous reinvention and we kicked off the series by spending some time talking about his own wise pivots.
Will.i.am told me: “I pivoted a bunch of times. In my music career I pivoted, but what got me here, it's not what's going to get me to the next place.” He pivoted with the Black Eyed Peas when his record producer Jimmy Lovine suggested he add someone to the group and develop a record label. He pivoted in a ground-breaking move helping Apple launch its iPod with the first iTunes commercial, and finding the means to move his mom out of the ghetto as a result of these new ventures. He pivoted into hardware, with the Beats brand, and with his philanthropic work at schools in his old neighbourhood, and, more recently, there’s a natural pivot that stems from his involvement in pioneering, new technologies.
And above all else, he’s taken a wise pivot within himself. It’s been necessary because of the scale and scope of what he’s managing now—from someone who loved being in the detail, making the calls, being in control, to changing the nature of his role, one where he depends on others, even when he’s not in the detail and seeing all the information. It’s a different kind of relationship, one that relies on trust.
In the podcast, will.i.am asks about Accenture’s own wise pivot. I was able to explain how we changed several things, but three in particular: one is the way we did a complete rethink of our services, investing in digital and cloud and a bunch of other things. Second, we saw how we had a homogenous structure in how we did everything across a diverse set of business areas and felt it needed to change, so we invented a new business architecture. And third we acquired a lot of new businesses that took us to a new space, creating a culture of cultures, making around a hundred acquisitions in the last five years. It’s this combination of new services, a new business structure, and major investments that have helped us take our own medicine and pivot the company.
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