Defying convention on many levels
The 2013 Strategic Growth Forum, Palm Springs
By Maria Pinelli
25 November 2013
I can always count on the third week of November to absolutely inspire me. That's when I find myself in Palm Springs at the EY Strategic Growth Forum, surrounded by 2000 of the world's best entrepreneurs, market-leading CEOs, investors, venture capitalists, private equity firms and supporters of entrepreneurship.
This year, CEOs of leading global movers and shakers, like GE, Carlyle, Nike, Forbes, Intercontinental Exchange – gave us a real intellectual workout.
- I learned that no company is so big that it doesn't admire those who stay nimble, hungry and super competitive. GE's CEO Jeff Immelt also likes having a strong competitor in Samsung – which he says keeps GE on its toes. He likes to "stay paranoid and constantly on edge so that we never become complacent," a real danger for any market leader, no matter what size. And talk about the race for talent — "if you come to work for GE you're going to sit in the front seat of history," promises Immelt. Hard to beat that career track.
- David Rubenstein, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of the Carlyle Group, told us he is bullish on the strength of the US market (citing innovation and education as its bedrocks), while still recognizing that China is on track to become the world's largest market. The audience appreciated his views on the ups and downs of a successful business career: "If being chased out of town, run to the front and call it a parade" — a nice way of looking at it.
- And even the best-laid plans get a bit rattled when the White House calls. In this case, keynote speaker Bernard Tyson, CEO of Kaiser Permanente, one of the largest not-for-profit health plans in the US, was summoned to Washington for a late-breaking meeting on health care reform. I think everyone understood that when your country calls – you go – even if it does mean leaving Palm Springs. Kaiser Permanente's Executive Vice President, Group President and Regional President of Northern California Gregory Adams heroically stepped up to the plate and lead the session which resulted in a great discussion on the new health care law.
- Jeffrey C. Sprecher, Founder, Chairman and CEO of IntercontinentalExchange, which just acquired NYSE Euronext, reminded us that change is now a constant. "Assume that what you're doing is already obsolete. What is version 2.0? What's the next best thing?"
- And maybe the best thing about any business gathering, no matter how standout the speakers may be – is meeting the people to the left and right of you. As Moira Forbes, President & Publisher of ForbesWoman, told a gathering of top women leaders assembled from around the world, "Networking is working. It's gaining real experience in an unconventional way."
See you next year
I may have just left Palm Springs, but I'm already thinking about next year. As always, the Strategic Growth Forum outdoes itself every year. And in 2014, I'm also looking forward to the very first Strategic Growth Forum to be held in Shanghai, 21-23 of May.
I'll see you there!