Up, Up And Away – Winning in a SuperVUCA World

Friday, 7 June 2013 - Interlaken, Switzerland

Up and Away Swiss Economic Forum

Presentation Summary

Kevin Roberts talks to the Swiss Economic Forum in Switzerland, about harnessing creative leadership to win in the SuperVUCA world. The key is to shift from being world-class to world-changing.

I come from the edge of the world, in biology where new stuff comes from. Switzerland is as close to the center as I can imagine. You stand for many good things: freedom, tolerance, stability, environmentalism.

Being in the center is no protection in a VUCA world.

  • Volatile – No country is bullet-proof. We all thought Turkey was a new model of stable. Many Swiss institutions have taken a beating. Today, expect the unexpected.
  • Uncertain – Will the achievements of the past that have made Switzerland strong and safe be the ones that win in the Now?

Are conservatism, discretion and understatement going to serve you today?

  • Complex – Proudly egalitarian but with a new class of super-rich; 1% control one third of the wealth. 50% of senior managers in China are women. 14% in Switzerland.
  • Ambiguous – Neutral but heavily armed, this is a good thing right?

Slow and steady will not win this race. The job of the leader is to reframe VUCA, to get above it, and the conditions for this are in place. superVUCA!

  • Vibrant – Life is loaded with hope, fun and possibility.
  • Unreal – New ideas trump old wealth, scale and knowledge.
  • Crazy – The crazies win through. Who here is crazy? I’m crazy, and I know some of you must be.
  • Astounding – The Americans are astounding themselves – and the Middle East – with shale energy. There is an energy revolution going on which will reshape world economics. In what ways will the Swiss astound the world in 2013?

“Winning isn’t everything, but wanting to win is” – Vince Lombardi 

Growth is a human characteristic, and it boils down to winning. Individuals and teams, families and friends, companies and countries, we all want to win.

The alternatives to winning are dispiriting, destructive and ever-faster distributed. The consequences are all around Switzerland, and bubbling beneath it.

I have three ideas to give you a winning edge in a superVUCA world, three ideas to tackle three burning questions affecting us all.

Burning Q1:  How does the whole world win – the ‘have-nots’ as well as the ‘haves’?

Idea #1 – SHIFT IT UP

Business is the world’s heavy lifter, giving people jobs, self-esteem, choices, hope and fortune.

The law of life-satisfaction: No job, no joy.

Capitalism is the best of the ISMs. Margaret Thatcher said: “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”

Business is the answer, business is the engine, but we have to create a capitalism of inclusion.

What is the role of Switzerland – the land of beauty, democracy, reliability, peace and small business productivity – the #1 place to be born in the world.

Your role is to provide leadership. The world needs you to stand up and step out. Leadership starts with great purpose.

A dream is Purpose-inspired.

What is Switzerland’s dream? What is your company’s dream? What is your personal dream?

Switzerland is about being world-class, when it has to be about being world-changing. Are your banks, medicines and watches world-changing? Or maintaining the status quo?

World-changing is the role of business, and world-changing delivers winning volume, share and margins.

Switzerland needs a dream.

Burning Q2: How can we build Brand Switzerland?

Idea #2 – HEAT IT UP

Brands are dead. 

And so is marketing.

We live in the Age of Now. People live in the moment, for the moment.

This is psychological, not just technological. Life is a flow state, a continuous stream, a quest for constant small moments of instant happiness.

People search, know, decide, share and live instantaneously.









Return on Investment

Return on Involvement

Pumping Markets

Creating Movements

Winning is about inspiring movements fuelled by emotion. Negative emotions are three times more powerful than positive ones. Eliminate the negative, accentuate the positive.

Reason leads to conclusions; emotion leads to action.

Emotion needs to become Switzerland’s comfort zone.

Brands are dead, lost in a sea of sameness and parity.

This Love / Respect Axis maps the future of value. Everyone can put their own company through this, intuitively.


Low Respect. Low Love.
Wales – North Korea

High Love. Low Respect. Fads.
Brazil – Turkey

High Respect. Low Love. Brand land.
Switzerland – Belgium

High Love. High Respect. Lovemarks winning zone.
Australia – New Zealand

  • Brands are owned by companies, marketers and stockholders. Lovemarks are owned by the people who love them.
  • Brands are built on Respect. Lovemarks are created out of Respect and Love.
  • Brands build Loyalty for a Reason. Lovemarks inspire Loyalty Beyond Reason. Beyond Attribute, Benefit, Range, Price.
  • Brands aim to be Irreplaceable. Lovemarks are Irresistible.
  • Brands have performance, reputation and trust. Lovemarks add mystery, sensuality, intimacy.

Even financial institutions can be Lovemarks.

Burning Q3: What is the future of leadership?

Idea #3 – POWER IT UP

Today there is a premium on leadership.

In business, reengineering and restructuring and re-everything only add incremental growth.

What accelerates? The unreasonable power of creativity.

Creativity has unreasonable power. Creative leadership is the difference – economically, politically, socially and culturally.

Where is Switzerland’s Creative Leadership today?

Five steps to become a Creative Leader:

  • Revolution begins with language. CEO: “Chief Excitement Officer”
  • Create the environment. Responsibility, Learning, Recognition, Joy

Have lots of small ideas, continuously:

  • With your agricultural expertise, invent cheese without milk for export to Asia (huge lactose indigestibility market)
  • Establish a DJ-University for DJ talents from all over the world – since mixing and re-mixing is a long cultivated virtue of Switzerland
  • Surprise with the obvious.
  • Reframe. How do you reframe Switzerland?



















Pin stripe

Black dress

Cautious vanilla

Action thriller

Quality safe house

Magical power house

Never forget – the key burning answer is to do it together, because none of us is as strong as all of us.

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