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Winning redefined: Lessons from motorsport, business, and the natural world

It could have been the beginning of a terrible joke: a racing team chief, an inventor, and an environmentalist walk into a bar… But instead, this was the start of our Winning Redefined event series on the rooftop of a Brooklyn hotel with dramatic views of the East River. Fast-forward two weeks and we welcomed guests to London's River Thames.

What brought us together? Hard-fought stories of how industries, communities, and even businesses themselves have redefined winning.

Because the business of business is no longer just business. Leading organizations don't win by creating shareholder value alone. They win when they deliver sustainable impact for their customers. They create an environment that attracts and retains the best people. And they take care of their communities and the planet.

The numbers back this up. Our own Tech for Progress 360 study finds that executives whose businesses have a fully embedded purpose are twice as likely to say their company performance improved significantly over the previous two years as opposed to respondents with a less embedded purpose. So, if we know this shift creates a competitive edge, why aren't all companies rethinking their organizations? Because prioritizing profit alongside people and the planet is not easy.

The next lever of competitive advantage

From our work with hundreds of Fortune 500 companies, we've identified three characteristics businesses need to redefine winning:

  • A clear vision
  • A solid foundation of data and technology with a data-literate culture
  • The right partnerships and ecosystems to make an impact

Let me share how they do it.

Vision: Jennifer Babington is Envision Racing's general counsel and operations director. She is part of a team that isn't just looking to sell more cars, unlike other teams with connections to major car manufacturers. Envision Racing is on a mission to win races in the FIA Formula E World Championship and accelerate the shift to e-mobility. "We're using our platform to talk about climate change and raise awareness of the changes we need to make together," says Jenn.

To win in their Race Against Climate Change, the team must live its mission. It's not known as the greenest team on the greenest grid for nothing. Envision Racing is proudly certified carbon neutral, but getting there was a huge data challenge. It was taking the team six months to report its emissions to the Carbon Trust, but it has now automated the process of collection and analysis. "It's now happening in an infinitely faster way with significantly less human error," she says.

Data and technology: Taking on big audacious goals is all in a day's work for Mick Ebeling too. As founder and CEO of Not Impossible Labs, an organization creating the conditions for radical collaboration that leads to progress, his team changes the world with technology and story. Whether they're tackling food insecurity or building prosthetic limbs on a 3D printer for people in war-torn countries, they use tech for the sake of humanity.

"If we see something that's not right, we use tech to address it and solve the absurdity with hackers, programmers, makers, artists, and designers," he says. Through Bento, for example, Not Impossible is getting food to the people who need it through technology that more than 95% of people in the US have access to: a cellphone.

The UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and new legislation from governments around the world are pushing companies toward taking positive action but also create their own challenges to which analytics are core. When reporting on their own progress as well as what's happening in their ecosystems of suppliers and partners, a solid data management strategy reaps invaluable rewards. "Consumers don't just want a story, they want a digitally verified story of what's happening in your supply chain," says futurist Anders Sorman-Nilsson. "Winning companies have the SDGs embedded in their business models."

Partnerships and ecosystems: The River Thames is its own living breathing example of winning redefined that relies on what environmentalist and professor Chris Baines calls many unholy alliances. When collaboration between an international ports company, major commercial shipping firms, government agencies, and not-for-profit environmental groups finds a solution that generates profits and protects wildlife, you know that businesses around the world can learn from all these examples to do the same.

Steering enterprises toward higher-order goals is certainly no joke. It's only by adopting the right approach and characteristics that companies can rethink their businesses and succeed in their markets while also securing a sustainable future for their employees, communities, and environment. Now that's what we call winning redefined.

Sustainability and digital: a match made in heaven

Collaboration that protects the planet

How to redefine winning

Visit our data and analytics page