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January 20, 2016updated 31 Aug 2016 9:54am

‘Speed is the new currency of business’: HPE and Salesforce CEOs demand risky innovation at Davos 2016

News: Meg Whitman reflects on how four years at the top of HPE taught her to push boundaries.

By Alexander Sword

The importance of speed in innovation was the key theme at a Davos panel today, as Meg Whitman of HPE and Marc Benioff of Salesforce challenged organisations to take risks in adapting their organisations.

"My view is that the future belongs to the fast," Whitman said at the World Economic Forum panel, ‘The Digital Transformation of Industries’.

"We do have a unique position because we’ve had to digitally transform a 75 year old company while at the same time we are one of the partners that people choose to help them digitally transform."

She was speaking alongside Benioff, Jean-Pascal Tricoire, Bernard J. Tyson, Klaus Kleinfeld and Rich Lesser, CEOs of Salesforce, Schneider Electric, Kaiser Permanente, Alco and Boston Consulting Group respectively. The panel event dealt with innovation in the medicine and energy industries, as well as the technology industry itself.

The four-year CEO of HP explained that her experience at HP had taught her that a decisive, risk-taking attitude was the best way to pursue change.

"[Taking charge of HP] was an entirely new environment for me," Whitman said. "I was very worried about breaking the company."

Whitman notes that before she took over several CEOs had taken the helm and left it in quick succession.

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"Would I be the one that drove the car over the edge?" she said.

However, she claims to have underestimated the capacity for change within the organisation, and said that the industry as a whole should "push until you start to see a few things crack at the edge."

She said that companies needed a "multi-year plan" to carry this out.

"My advice to CEOs is hold your business accountable for a plan and then execute the plan. You can change it as you go along as new technologies rise.

"If you don’t have a destination, any road will take you there."

She also said: "You do not get what you do not inspect. You’ve got to set your organisation up in a way that the results, processes and milestones get inspected early."

Benioff, Salesforce CEO, echoed her views on speed, saying: "Speed is the new currency of business. The most dangerous place to make a decision is in the office.

"We have these incredible devices and this is what makes everything move faster."

Benioff additionally noted the importance of trust, saying that successful companies "are connected in a whole new way and they are connected to their customers in a whole new way.

"I guarantee that each and every one of these stories begins with the transformation of trust," he said, citing how technological change was transforming "the types of access, the types of information, the level of privacy we are talking about."

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