To change how an organization performs, its leaders must change how they think. This begins with shuttering the age-old notion of a world dominated by buyers and sellers. The lines separating key competitors are blurring as businesses increasingly relate to one another as a single, sustainable ecosystem. As competitive pressures mount, new partnerships and unexpected alliances are forming—intricate networks composed of employees, contractors, consultants, partners and even customers.

This is one of the issues explored in a recent Forbes Insights study, “Challenge or Be Challenged: How to Succeed in Today’s Business Environment,” sponsored by global performance consulting company Gap International. (Key findings from the survey of 400 top global executives that forms the basis for the study were addressed in a previous blog. This is the second blog in a series of three.)

For business leaders, embracing these new joint ventures is more than a mindset shift. It’s a clarion call for greater collaboration among disparate parties. The workforce of the future is not a rigid structure with hierarchical reporting relationships; it’s one aligned business with multiple factions working together to guarantee one another’s success.

In fact, more than half (52%) of business leaders say they are transforming their organizations by collaborating with third parties. Forty-nine percent cite forming alliances and partnerships, and navigating the ecosystem of partnerships and alliances, as having the biggest impact on business. And a majority (61%) are forming alliances with leaders in the field to handle issues and areas that are new. That’s in sharp contrast to the 44% that would prefer to learn new things on their own.

But for meaningful change to occur, it must begin within. Which is why business leaders should explore different approaches to leadership. This often requires leaders to shed their corporate powers for new paradigms. For instance, a growing number of organizations are replacing straight reporting lines with more flexible arrangements. In fact, more than one-third (37%) of leaders say they are transforming their business by reorganizing reporting lines.

Another way organizations are supporting new partner ecosystems and alliances is by growing their people and leadership. One of today’s most sought-after labor forces is millennials. Having surpassed baby boomers as the nation’s largest living generation—as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau—these tech-savvy twenty- somethings are challenging leaders to rethink their approach to attracting, retaining and managing talent. A staggering 61% of CEOs cite millennials as contributors to the success of their company. That’s a sizable demographic leaders must learn to satisfy.

Yet nearly half (48%) of executives today say managing millennials is a top management challenge. It’s not enough anymore to simply offer young, new hires stock options and yoga classes. Millennials, in particular, crave the opportunity to operate within a bigger context than a corporate vision or mission.

Nearly 60% of CEOs say their culture is changing due to the millennial generation. But it’s not enough to simply cater to millennials’ workplace preferences. Seventy percent of leaders cite having a unified culture as important or extremely important to achieving business goals. And yet, only 13% of executives believe their company’s current culture is an optimal fit for their business vision.

Clearly, this indicates room for improvement. Culture is the top organizational factor in enabling corporate objectives. With an empowered and appreciated workforce, free of hierarchical organizational structures, there is more opportunity for increased effectiveness.

The New Corporation: An Ecosystem Of Partnerships With A Flexible Culture
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