A Formula for Kickstarting Behavioral Change and Creating Lasting Organizational Habits   

Unlock the secrets to organizational change with Behavior Kickstarters. Learn how rapid experiments can catalyze cultural shifts and drive impactful transformation.  

We’ve all been there. We start the year with the best of intentions, convinced that this time will be different. However, as life’s demands and our ingrained habits exert their influence, our resolve weakens. Despite multiple attempts to restart, within a few months, we find ourselves reverting to familiar patterns.  

And it’s no different in the workplace – in fact it’s much harder. Beyond the demands of their job, employees must also fight against the pull of the organizational system. A pull that is so strong that eventually most change efforts are pulled back to ‘the way things are done around here’ and ultimately fail. An IMD global study of 500 executives found that only 50% of attempts to change employee behavior are successful. So, in short, change in a busy, complex organization is hard. 

So how do you overcome these powerful forces to successfully change behavior and build new habits? 

We believe that change happens through doing, not talking. Moving from words to action. You can’t just click your fingers and suddenly become more innovative, creative and collaborative. Humans don’t work like that. You must poke a stick into the organizational system and be intentional about creating change.  

The first step in this magical process is to start really, really small. 

Behavior Kickstarters Formula 

Behavior Kickstarters are rapid experiments designed to activate new behaviors and catalyze cultural shifts. Using a mix of behavioral science and experimentation techniques, our Behavior Kickstarters create a safe space for people to experiment with, and ultimately adopt new behaviors and build new habits. They establish the right conditions for people to try, fail, learn and grow. 

While people are wonderfully different and unique, human behavior has followed consistent patterns since the dawn of time. Not only are we programmed to follow the path of least resistance, but our endorphins also encourage us to seek out the things that are satisfying. And we’re social beings, where the pull of the crowd can have a significant impact on our behavior and decisions. In other words, we only change our behavior when it is easy, feels good or when people we admire are doing it.  

Our Behavior Kickstarter formula ensures the right ingredients are present for driving behavior change.  

  • Trigger – Make it obviousSomething that signals the need to start, gets your attention and shows the need to take action. 
  • Motivation – Make it attractive – Create an image in the mind of the user that makes them want to change. 
  • Ability – Make it easyThe easier a behavior is to do, the more likely it is to be done.  
  • Reward – Make it satisfyingIf it feels good and has a satisfying ending, we’re more likely to repeat it in the future and form a habit. 

While this formula helps us change in the immediate term, we also need to consider how we form new habits to embed the change. This is where experimentation comes in.  

Unlocking Organizational Change Through Experimentation  

Experimentation isn’t reserved for labs or innovation teams – it can be a powerful mechanism to drive sustained organizational change. Teams can use it to become more adaptive and to create a safe environment that allows people to try new behaviors and fail, and to apply learnings from their failures to change their approach and try again. Supporting this idea, our Catalysts research, How to Build an Adaptable Organization that Thrives During Uncertainty, identified ‘lowering the cost of experimentation’ as one of the five ways to build an adaptive organization. 

The concept of experimentation is deeply ingrained in all of us. We just don’t apply it in an organizational context. Dave Snowden, founder and chief scientific officer of Cognitive Edge, sums it up beautifully, “The engine of all life on this planet has always changed in the same way. We try things, notice positive and negative patterns, amplify what’s working, minimize what isn’t.” Yet, despite being ingrained in us, the number of people who use experimentation is comparatively small. People seem to struggle to apply it to their day-to-day lives, meaning its potential is often left untapped. Michael Schrage, author of The Innovators Dilemma, uses a wonderful model for driving its adoption whilst solving real business challenges. Teams of five, each generate and test a solution to solve one of five challenges, over five weeks. The winning idea receives financial backing to be taken forward. Along with generating great ideas to solve real problems, this approach creates a fun, engaging way to understand the power of experimentation. 

Like Schrage’s method, putting experimentation into practice with our Behavior Kickstarters is simple. We recommend a timeframe  (~2-4 weeks) and at the end of that period, we reflect on how it went, what went well and whether we achieved the desired outcomes – using this data to define what could we do differently next time. Then, if needed, we make changes to the Kickstarter and go again!  

A Kickstarter can take many forms. Ideally, it will be designed so it fits seamlessly into the employee’s day-to-day world – as part of existing meetings or a regular routine, like a morning cup of coffee, for example.  

  • Trying to make your teams feel recognized? Thank You Thursday: Every Thursday, send a short thank you note, acknowledging the efforts of an individual or team for that week (for something big or small). 
  • Trying to increase psychological safety? Poke Holes in This: Before sharing an idea, ask the team ‘Please poke holes in this’, opening yourself up to helpful feedback and encouraging vulnerability. 
  • Trying to increase collaboration? Don’t Rush Into it: At the start of your weekly meeting,  spend five minutes with everyone sharing what they did over the weekend, building relationships outside of just work commitments. 

Prophet’s research tells us that, by targeting the “Soul” of the organization, we can activate and accelerate key transformation levers, such as ‘Developing meaningful mechanisms to enable employees to adapt.’ We mentioned earlier that beating the organizational system is difficult and most organizations don’t have these change mechanisms in place. Behavior Kickstarters do exactly that, equipping employees with a powerful method to grow, adapt and thrive in the ever-changing world we now find ourselves in.  

The crucial part of this comes not in running the Kickstarter, but in equipping your teams with the permission and ability to constantly repeat it over time to embed the new behavior until it becomes a habit. Wendy Wood, author of Good Habits, Bad Habits estimates that we spend 50% of our time unconsciously repeating actions we’ve already taken. By intentionally repeating the Kickstarter, you train your brain by practicing new behaviors and building the pathways needed to create daily habits. For this instance, fake it until you make it – or in behavioral terms, fake it until you become it. 

The idea of ‘fake it until you become it’ is not new, in fact, it is over 2,000 years old. Aristotle believed that people could not simply know, or study, how to be virtuous. To be virtuous, they must practice virtuous actions: first by imitating others who demonstrate virtuous actions and then turning those imitated behaviors into habits by performing them every day. You practice the behavior you want and then one day you turn around and discover you’re not performing the behavior, you’re living it. 

The beauty of this transformational process is its ripple effect, fostering further change not only with individuals but also throughout the broader organization. On an individual level, the success of initiating the first Behavior Kickstarter inspires you to do it again (following our Behavior Kickstarter formula: we only change when it feels good). If you’re trying to get fit, and you feel good after your first 5km run, you might try 7km, or 10km and then maybe eventually a half marathon. At an organizational level, it can quickly become contagious. The stories of others successfully changing their behavior become the currency of change, creating a sense of envy that motivates others to do the same. Just like when we witness a good deed, like someone helping an elderly person with their shopping, we’re far more likely to carry out a good deed ourselves later that day.  

“All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision”

James Clear, Author of Atomic Habits 

To fuel a change movement across the organization,  it’s helpful to share stories of how others are running their Behavior Kickstarters to reinforce these successes with recognition and celebration. This inspires others to initiate their own Kickstarter, setting off a chain reaction that swiftly builds into a potent force for change.  

Change shouldn’t be isolated to those with ‘people’ or ‘culture’ in their title, or limited to company offsites and launches for new corporate values. The beauty of Behavior Kickstarters is that they’re accessible to everyone. Facilitating the adoption of new behaviors is a sure-fire way to accelerate change across your organization. 


Some questions for you to reflect on: How is your organization living your values? How are you living them? Are there new behaviors or ways of working that are not currently being lived? 

If you’re interested in finding ways to create a safe space, enhance collaboration, or ignite innovation and creativity, our experts are ready to help.  


A Guide to Kickstarting AI Integration in Your Product Organization 

Discover the transformative power of Generative Artificial Intelligence (Gen AI) in reshaping product development and customer experiences.

In the past year, Generative Artificial Intelligence (Gen AI), spearheaded by advanced models like ChatGPT and its counterparts, has revolutionized the customer experience landscape, democratizing intelligent technology as both an interface and an enabler. The rapid proliferation of Gen AI tools underscores a clear imperative: speed is of the essence when it comes to embracing Gen AI.  

Against this backdrop, the significance of AI in product development cannot be overstated. Organizations that leverage Gen AI as a strategic capability in delivering new products have the additional benefit of unlocking new pathways for AI transformation, growth and change. However, amidst the plethora of Gen AI applications and tools (alongside mounting stakeholder requests for AI integration), navigating this new terrain can seem daunting. Yet, the cost of delaying action outweighs the challenges of embracing AI. Its integration requires a paradigm shift, but here are a few actionable kick-starters to usher in opportunities to boost efficiency, effectiveness and innovation, while also addressing the hurdles typically encountered so that product leaders can embark on their AI journey with confidence, clarity and a purposeful approach.

1. Efficiency: Service Operations and Workflow Evaluation 

Efficiency is paramount in today’s fast-paced business landscape and presents an invaluable opportunity to streamline operations. For instance, how can we let Gen AI act as our assistant, adeptly handling cumbersome or repetitive tasks, both at the individual and organizational levels? Imagine not having to write a single product description: with Gen AI at the helm, targeting and performance see significant improvements. Take inspiration from Amazon’s product management team, who seamlessly integrated Gen AI into customer support, effectively managing first/second-level queries, reducing workloads and response times. 

To harness these efficiencies, start by evaluating service operations and workflows, followed by an AI Feasibility Assessment. Prioritize tasks based on their repetitiveness, data availability, scalability and complexity. When prioritizing tasks, consider giving more relevance to those that improve customer time to value. Select one or two pilot cases where appropriate off-the-shelf Gen AI solutions are already available and conduct pilots to assess impact and feasibility. This strategic approach not only optimizes efficiency but also paves the way for transformative change in organizational workflows.  

2. Enhancing Effectiveness: Value Exchange Analysis 

How might the computing power of Gen AI revolutionize approaches to identifying new insights, elevating our creative thinking and strategic decision-making? What if you could leverage Gen AI to analyze user engagement data, uncovering valuable insights into feature improvements and prioritizing them for implementation? Take Citymapper, for instance. This international city travel planning app is used by millions of commuters daily to navigate cities with real-time information. Leveraging data science, the company identified a critical time and route in London underserved by existing transportation options. In response, they established a dedicated private bus route on weekday afternoons to address this gap. By utilizing data collected from their mobile application, they translated insights into a tangible service, enhancing customer experience.

To drive effectiveness in your organization, you should consider embarking on a Value Exchange Analysis exercise to define the value exchanged through your product offering, systems, processes, service partners and customers. Consider what each stakeholder or partner in your ecosystem gives and receives. Visualize these exchanges and explore how Gen AI can maximize value by enhancing efficiencies, reducing errors and proactively recommending new insights, or creating entirely new value propositions. Again, run an AI Feasibility Assessment but instead of focusing on “repetitiveness” focus on “value maximization” potential. Utilize concierge tests to determine the minimum service level for each feature or offering to deliver tangible value. This not only amplifies effectiveness but also fosters a culture of innovation and value creation within the organization.  

3. Driving Innovation: Future-Back Growth 

How can Gen AI drive business model innovation by reconfiguring current assets and capabilities to create entirely new value propositions? With its aptitude for lateral and creative thinking, Gen AI is poised to maximize personalization, attracting previously untapped customer segments. Consider the case of a coffee roasting company that used Gen AI to analyze its customer data alongside market trends to suggest innovative coffee blends, which resulted in boosted sales and customer loyalty. 

To enhance innovation, adopt a future-back growth approach that anticipates and responds to evolving customer expectations. Run a comprehensive trend analysis to identify emerging behaviors and signals of change, laying the groundwork for scenario planning to explore new opportunity areas. Embrace Gen AI tools at every stage, from trend research to product development, to capitalize on its predictive capabilities and ensure alignment with future market demands. By embracing Gen AI-driven innovation, organizations can position themselves as pioneers in shaping the future landscape of their industries.  


We help our clients leverage Gen AI to discover innovative ways to develop digital and connected products that create customer and business value. This not only fuels growth but equips your people with the necessary skills to design superior experiences and products. It’s essential to recognize that leveraging AI isn’t just about data and technology. Our approach to AI is at the intersection of where data and technology meet human intuition and experience. Our aim is to simplify the complexity and pave the way for a promising future. Your Gen AI adventure awaits. 


Four Imperatives for APAC Companies to Drive Human-Centric Transformations 

Our global study showed organizations in APAC often prioritize technological and revenue-driven initiatives. Here we explore how human centricity leads to successful transformations. 

Our latest commissioned global research study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Prophet explored how “human-centric” organizations use human-aligned change management principles to design transformation initiatives and align their business strategy around the human. We have found that human-centric companies are more likely to see results from their business transformation efforts. In fact, human-centric organizations are 10 times more likely to achieve revenue growth rates of 20% or more. Moreover, these organizations experience a remarkable 25% boost in employee collaboration, a significant 23% increase in shareholder value, an impressive 48% improvement in time to market, and a substantial 28% higher likelihood of pioneering groundbreaking innovations, among other remarkable statistics. 

We believe these findings underscore the profound impact of human centricity, which involves prioritizing people, culture, and empathy within the context of organizational transformation. By doing so, organizations can harness the benefits of enhanced collaboration, increased shareholder value, and sustainable change, ultimately positioning themselves for growth and resilience in today’s fiercely competitive business landscape. 

Embracing Human-Centric Transformation: The 4 Pillars of Success 

In the dynamic business landscape of the APAC region, achieving substantial growth requires consistent strategic recalibration. Our research showed that driving long-term transformational growth requires a shift in focus from operations- and revenue-driven objectives to ones that prioritize the needs and experiences of their customers and employees.  

In this article, we identified four key areas of how companies can embrace human-centric transformation through a multifaceted approach. 

1. Enhance Customer Experience (CX) by Better Capturing and Predicting Customer Needs 

Our research underscores a strong focus on high maturity and human-centric companies on understanding consumers through data and analytics and improving customer experience (CX). These transformation value drivers are among the top three priorities for close to half (44%) of the high-maturity respondents. 

However, it is a very different scenario for APAC companies – there is a predominant focus on products and services (54%) rather than a broader consideration of CX (30%).  

Hence a key opportunity for Asian businesses is to pivot their transformation drivers towards enhancing CX by harnessing the power of data analytics. 

Nevertheless, there are pioneers in China who already embed human centricity in their core business strategy. NIO, a prominent player in the electric car industry, stands out as a prime example of a holistic and human-centric approach to its business. The company takes pride in its user-first operation model, placing an unwavering focus on creating long-lasting touchpoints and pleasant experiences across the customer life cycle. One of NIO’s leading innovations is its Power Swap Station which provides users with battery swapping as an alternative to conventional charging. NIO decided to invest in establishing and operating the service on its own, instead of using a third-party provider, in order to maintain the highest customer satisfaction. “User service may show a loss in financial statements, but it can also be interpreted as an investment in customer satisfaction, which I think is the more appropriate perspective,” said Lihong Qin, President of NIO.  

2. Embracing Purposefulness as a Cornerstone of Brand and Culture for Employee and Customer Engagement 

Purpose is more than a buzzword; it is a strategic imperative. Those who embrace this approach are well-positioned for success in the human-centric era. Companies around the world are increasingly recognizing the importance of anchoring their brand identity and organizational culture around a clear purpose to engage both employees and customers effectively.  

According to our research, 56% of human-centric firms globally firmly believe that their culture enables purposefulness in everything they do (compared to 44% in APAC), which shows that those who operate with a clear purpose tend to excel in their transformation endeavors. However, many APAC companies making strides in commercial performance and technological innovation often deprioritize fostering purposefulness with a human-centric lens. Moreover, compared to global counterparts, only 50% of APAC companies strongly consider “society”, “customers” and “communities” as very important transformation initiatives, while only 37% prioritized “employees”.  

Companies in the APAC region have a significant opportunity to strengthen their approach to transformation by defining a clear purpose and applying it to everything that they do. This involves shifting the focus to not only placing a greater emphasis on consumer experience but also broadening the lens to fostering a human-centric culture both internally and externally. It is crucial to align employees with the company’s purpose by developing a clear Employee Value Proposition (EVP) and effective employee engagement programs. Additionally, companies must consider the societal implications of business actions and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) principles to create a more profound and sustainable impact. 

Sea, a Singapore-based tech company and holding company of Shopee serves as a compelling example of how purpose can be seamlessly integrated into an organization’s human-centric culture. Sea’s overarching mission is to enhance lives and build more connected communities through technology. As it grows, Sea remains committed to nurturing the growth of the broader digital ecosystem and helping achieve digital inclusion for various local stakeholders who are underserved. For example, Shopee, one of the largest global e-commerce platforms, drives e-commerce access to local communities across hard-to-serve regions while also enabling local SME entrepreneurs to succeed. From launching a variety of training programs and platforms like Shopee University and Shopee Seller Center to working with local governments to establish local e-commerce hubs, the firm actively supports local communities to accelerate their digitization journey and grow their businesses. By embracing purposefulness through business initiatives, Sea’s mission transcends boundaries, benefitting all its stakeholders which include consumers, small businesses, local communities and employees.  

3. Empowering C-Level Transformation Leadership 

Another key finding from our research resonates clearly – human-centric transformations are most likely to thrive and yield tangible results when guided by C-level management who leads through their own actions. 79% of human-centric organizations have C-level leaders who lead their company’s transformation agenda, while only 70% of the APAC companies reported the same.  

Human-centricity goes beyond just lines of mission statement, it should be translated into tangible actions within the organization. Hence there is a need for a more direct and hands-on stewardship from C-level executives in APAC to drive crucial transformation initiatives forward. 

A striking illustration can be found in Ping An, a leading financial services company in Asia, which experienced a threefold increase in digital users over the past five years and doubled its retail customer base.  Ping An made the strategic appointment of Jessica Tan as CIO in 2013, who was later promoted to co-CEO in 2018, to play a pivotal role in architecting Ping An’s business transformation into an innovation-driven business. Tan’s leadership brought importance to innovation and a forward-thinking approach, launching various industry-leading initiatives across fintech, healthtech and AI-based offerings. Ping An has invested RMB100 billion over the past decade and committed to investing twice that over the next five years. It now ranks 7th in the Forbes Global 2000 and is the largest insurance company in Asia today.  

The Ping An example serves as a testament to the transformative potential of C-level leaders who actively lead by example, underscoring the importance of leadership in driving human-centric transformation and fostering a culture where technology and innovation thrive through collaboration across teams. 

4. Building Internal and External Trust in the Brand 

Driving near-term revenue growth by enhancing brand recognition and consumer insights is indeed important for an organization to survive in this unpredictable economy. However, the key to achieving sustainable growth is through transformation that is truly human-centric, which requires making focused and consistent investments in building both internal and external brand trust.  

Our research indicates that amid the fervor for technological progress, investments in human capital development and brand trust often find themselves on the back burner among APAC companies. In fact, 98% of human-centric companies globally are investing to maintain trust in their brand while only 85% of APAC companies are doing so. APAC companies are also investing less in their employees as compared to human-centric companies  (81% vs 98%).  

Gojek is a powerful example of the paramount importance of maintaining a steadfast commitment to social impact and brand trust, even when confronted with the challenge of plummeting share prices. Gojek’s continuous investments in initiatives designed to support financially vulnerable riders and drivers, and its commitment to sustainability goals exemplify a forward-thinking approach. For example, recognizing that many drivers prefer greater flexibility and freedom, Gojek continues to update its daily incentives scheme like its Monthly Loyalty Rewards program which allows drivers to have more stable and sustainable earnings. By showcasing such a strong commitment to the community, this approach can significantly elevate internal brand loyalty, build external trust and maintain unwavering resilience, even amidst the most turbulent economic storms.  


As the region continues to evolve, those that lead with purpose and resilience will thrive and make a lasting impact on the world of business. Shifting focus from operations- and revenue-driven objectives to ones that truly prioritize the needs and experiences of customers and employees will give organizations a higher ground. Through the above four pillars, there are opportunities to be more human-centric and achieve successful business transformation.


Redefining Growth Leadership in 2024

Senior leaders must embrace these 5 strategies to unlock growth in a shifting business landscape. 

The good news is that 2023, a very challenging year for businesses, is over. The bad news is that 2024 may feel a lot like 2023, with many of the same barriers to growth. That means senior leaders should think bigger (about go-to-market innovation and future-back strategies), bolder (about brand-led transformation and new business models) and more creatively (about driving organizational capacity for change).  

Most of the senior business leaders I know were happy to see the back of 2023. The challenging combination of macroeconomic and geopolitical uncertainty, plus relentless technological advancement, created significant barriers to growth. Heading into a new – and hopefully less turbulent – year, growth remains the focal point for senior business leaders across the industry.   

C-suites are being pressured by investors and capital markets to find new sources of revenue and new ways to increase customer loyalty. Every part of the business is charged with identifying new pathways to growth. At the same time, every dollar invested is being closely scrutinized for its impact on overall performance.  

For all the market uncertainty and competitive intensity, however, it’s worth remembering that disruption is born out of turbulent times. In that spirit, we offer five key ideas for unlocking growth in 2024 and beyond.  

Theme 1: Driving Value Through Go-to-Market Platforms 

Given customer expectations today, it’s no longer enough to have a great product or service. You must engage customers and demonstrate your relevance to their lives outside of simple, one-off transactions. Platforms have become critical because “Use journeys” have become more important than “Choose journeys,” as my colleague Ted Moser writes in his new book, Winning Through Platforms

“In the Choose journey, customers explore their needs and options, assess their final choices, and transact. In the Use journey, customers use the products and services they have accessed, then eventually decide whether to access them again – and if so, from whom.”  

Platforms are for the Use journey in the 2020s what websites were to the Choose journey in the early 2000s – the primary way companies engage with customers to deliver satisfying experiences and execute their growth strategies. They are powerful because they enable companies to carefully observe how customers use their products and explore other areas of interest. That creates momentum on the Use journey and provides data the company can use to add features, shape superior offers, and drive increased uptake. 

Platforms are known by many names – apps, super apps, hubs, portals, clouds, suites, exchanges. Whatever they’re called, the platforms convert functionality into valued customer experiences, which lead to renewed brand relevance and, ultimately, market leadership. They also signal advantage to investors and prepare a company for convergent competition.  

Platforms are no longer purely for tech giants or ambitious, well-funded start-ups. Consider how pharmaceutical companies are creating hubs and communities for specific types of patients, with content and connections to help them manage their conditions and lead healthier lives. Or how wealth managers and other financial services firms, in the face of product commoditization and converging competition, have reoriented their offerings and experiences around customers’ goals.  

Companies can no more “pass” on deploying platforms than they could “pass” on having a good website. And if they choose only one, it should be a platform.  

Theme 2: Utilizing a Future-Back Approach to Rethink Growth Strategy

Today’s markets are too volatile to leave growth to traditional cycles, which are not nearly as consistent as they used to be. In fact, growth can accelerate and amplify at any turn. That’s good news because many companies that experienced declines in the last year can’t wait for the next naturally occurring growth cycle to occur organically. Firms that aren’t prepared for the next growth cycle may miss their chance to accelerate growth. 

A future-back approach has helped many firms envision new growth trajectories. Firms that struggle to unlock growth or get leapfrogged by disruptive competitors often make the mistake of expecting patterns of past market behavior to repeat in the future. Obviously, senior leaders know markets keep moving, driven by shifting customer behaviors and evolving societal trends. That’s why companies must invest time and resources in figuring out what’s over the horizon. 

While it’s impossible to predict the future, firms can leverage deep customer insights and formalized approaches to exploration to identify probable developments and their preferred outcomes. Indeed, our recent research found that a leading barrier to increasing innovation is the lack of a long-term planning process. Asking tough questions – Why hasn’t this innovation been tried before? Are we best positioned to deliver a new type of offering? What advantages and disadvantages do we have in the market? – is as important as generating new ideas. The answers to these questions will help define the key capabilities and innovative offers necessary to lead the next growth cycle. 

Theme 3: Accelerating Business Transformation Through Powerful Branding

Unlocking breakthrough value often requires transformation in the form of rationalizing the portfolio, realigning the organization, or digitizing operations. The struggles to realize full value on transformation investments are well documented. Less appreciated is the unique power of brands to increase the odds of transformation success.  

As portfolios of products and services are redesigned and new experiences created, thoughtful branding can drive adoption and engagement, among both customers and employees. Used properly, brands can establish a new frame of reference, highlight a clear and compelling purpose, and identify the ways in which a company can uniquely deliver. Internally, branding can inspire change by giving employees the motivation to get out of their comfort zones and contribute to important transformation initiatives.  

In accelerating growth through business transformation, senior leaders must ask what role their brand can – and should – play. Understanding how brands and a company’s purpose are perceived in the market is a vital first step. In some cases, brands may need a refresh to match updated offerings. In other situations, brand equities can extend effectively into new categories. In either case, careful planning and market insights can help senior leaders find the right way to put the brand to work. 

The regional casino operator formerly known as Penn National Gaming aimed to disrupt a sector undergoing great change. Facing an inflection point in its business – thanks to technology advancements, expansion of online gaming and rapid growth via acquisitions – the company set out a bold transformation agenda to lead the gaming and entertainment industry into a new era.  

Senior leadership decided it was time to redefine the corporate identity to reflect its growth beyond casinos into omnichannel entertainment. The rebrand created stronger connections with consumers, employees, investors and partners, which led to more support for the broader transformation effort.  

Theme 4: Rethinking Business Models to Find New Ways to Make Money

In seeking new pathways for growth, many companies default to product and service extensions rather than exploring entirely new ways to generate revenue and engage customers. We think the latter approach – the development of new business models – is the better option in 2024. Why? Because that’s where the uncommon results come from.  

Identifying new business models requires a deep understanding of the value chain – where and how is money being made today, where the biggest pain and friction points exist for customers and which assets can deliver more value. These insights point the way to value-added services that will resonate with customers, versus mere product wraparounds.  

A major US consumer products retailer not only remained relevant but delivered strong growth by expanding from basic tech support capabilities into a subscription-based total tech support for home entertainment and productivity, building on the strength of its expert service capability Customers love getting direction on the best system for their needs and investors love the margins of the higher-end services. 

Subscriptions have been the most prominent examples of new business models in the past decade. Consider how The New York Times’ expansion of its gaming offers has led to significant user growth for one of the oldest media brands around. Indeed, some observers joke that it’s basically a gaming business that does news on the side.  

Another example – acquisitions: The build, buy or partner question certainly applies to new business model development. Every firm should consider a wide range of options.  

Theme 5: Building a Business Reinvention Capability to Always Be One Step Ahead

Whatever lingering goodwill brands created during COVID is long gone. The loyalty bump from that era has been lost to rising prices, increasing competition and changing behaviors. Current market realities have placed a premium on the ability of companies to drive change effectively, repeatedly and in line with big-picture business objectives like growth.  

Because they know change and disruption are inevitable, companies must learn to disrupt themselves ­– building new offerings and experiences in line with changing customer needs, tearing down to refocus and then reinventing again.  

The legendary toymaker LEGO underwent a stunning transformation to become the “Apple of Toys.” Facing bankruptcy, new leadership formalized its approach to innovation while remaining focused on its core product – the humble brick. The company encouraged customers (both kids and adults) to share feedback and ideas for innovation. Its adoption of “full-spectrum innovation” transcended individual product lines and revealed potential new markets. And it overhauled the culture of its design teams to promote profitable innovation. Even in the age of immersive video games and pet robots, LEGO has delivered impressive results, in terms of both bottom-line metrics and customer engagement, even passion. 

In a turbulent, hyper-competitive environment, this capacity for reinvention needs to become a core competency, as well as a cultural attribute. Establishing a business reinvention capability, distinct from the commercial business, will help cultivate a disruptive mindset and the specific processes and skills necessary to drive reinvention. Those capabilities include methodologies for reviewing portfolios and allocating assets, market scanning and sizing, and innovation labs with strong processes and clear criteria for advancing ideas and experiments through product development.

Self-disruption is never easy but it’s necessary for market leadership. To get ahead, most businesses need to step up their game in terms of reinvention.  


Disruption remains the only constant for senior business leaders, the one factor they can rely on year over year. And 2024 will offer plenty of it. Organizations that view market threats and disruption as an invitation to reinvent themselves will have a distinct advantage in establishing the mindset and capabilities they need to win. The journey starts with rethinking what’s possible, refining strategies and establishing platforms as a foundation for long-term growth. Organizations can advance by reinforcing their brands and retooling key operations, at which point the process of reinvention naturally begins again.


Unlocking Digital Transformation Success in the Middle East: A Human-Centric Approach

Human-centered transformations are crucial globally, but in the Middle East they take on a distinctly different imperative, shifting from technology to empowering people.  

Digital transformation has come a long way from being a buzzword to becoming a fundamental for business success. But, digital transformation goes beyond technology; it’s an ongoing process where human issues and change management are just as central to a successful transformation process as the tech. And today, organizations are starting to understand that change comes from using technology to achieve human goals. They recognize that such change helps them to be more targeted in servicing customers, creating experiences and becoming more efficient, profitable and sustainable.  

While human-centered transformations are essential all over the world, they take on a distinctly different imperative in the Middle East. The relationship-based culture requires a very human approach – business here is all about the way people connect. 

The region has one of the world’s youngest populations, with about 60% under 25, which means most employees are digital natives. They run their lives using mobile technology and expect the companies they work for to do the same. They are more at ease with artificial intelligence and want all the entities in their lives, from government and employers to shopping and entertainment, to be convenient, automated and personalized. 

There’s no ignoring the need to be digital. It is simply expected in every aspect of life. Yet technology is only one part of the solution. It frees up and increases the demand for organizations to provide a human experience. This is becoming more important every day: Yes, there are plenty of tasks tech can do better than people, from booking airline tickets to delivering groceries. But when it’s time for people to interact with each other, whether with colleagues or customers, those interactions take on outsized importance.  

In the Middle East, this transition to a more human-centered business should foster the growth of the region’s relationship-driven culture by directing employees’ attention more toward the human elements of business. Organizations should allow their employees to use technology to help their customers and stakeholders achieve their goals.  

And this is the crucial distinction: recognizing that humans drive the change in business – not technology. 

Starting a Human-Centered Transformation 

For the last five years, Prophet’s global research has explored how companies can leap from outdated ideas of digital transformation to human-centered change. We’ve found that sustainable change, the kind that leads to uncommon growth, works best by comparing every organization to the makeup of a human being. Every enterprise has DNA, a mind, body and soul. We call it the Human Centered Transformation Model.

These transformation efforts are powered by purpose, values, brand and strategy, which we consider an organization’s ‘DNA’. All enterprises need a clear and compelling ‘why’. That ‘why’ is the North Star, illuminating every effort, so every part of the organization pulls in the same direction. This purpose must be meaningful, a shared ambition that can unite and inspire people to embrace change for a better future.  

Each organization also has a ‘mind’, including the talent, skills and capabilities to take it forward. The ‘body’ includes the organization’s shape, such as governance, processes and systems. And finally, each enterprise has a ‘soul’, the behaviors, beliefs and stories that motivate its people. These soul-based elements are especially important in the Middle East. They include symbols, rituals and a mindset that help ignite change and are deeply meaningful to younger workers.  

Leveraging the Middle East’s Unique Advantages and Addressing its Challenges 

Our research has identified the critical levers – fundamentals and accelerators – that can drive change. These are global findings. Yet there are some specific conditions in the Middle East that support rapid digital transformation and help bring people on the journey of change. 

First, there is speed, urgency and ambition. The race to achieve the national 2030 vision, even as it expands toward 2040, is an amazing driver for change. People who run enterprises feel this vital purpose and are eager to achieve it. Employees are even more impatient.  

Next, there’s a regional thirst for excellence, prestige and creativity, inspired by ambitious projects, whether it’s Dubai’s “20-minute city” goals, Saudi Arabia’s $500 billion bet on NEOM, or Egypt’s audacious plans for a new capital. These ambitious endeavors are not only shaping the future but also instilling a sense of collective national pride, fuelling the appetite for achievement and making people eager to join the journey towards a digital future.

The region also faces barriers. Similar to companies globally, some entities react reflexively in ways that are inconsistent or misaligned with their declared strategy, making it more challenging to coordinate and drive change. 

Organizations are maturing and evolving all the time. Yet, even in flux, it’s essential to connect the dots strategically. Every change should arise from the enterprise’s DNA, relating continuous improvement to a broader agenda. This clear purpose is the North Star, helping companies see how that purpose translates into every employee and customer experience. 

The region also faces workforce challenges due to the transient nature of talent, where professionals frequently change roles and locations. This dynamic environment contributes to fluctuations in productivity, as teams experience continuous turnover, impacting stability. This is why strategies that focus on talent retention, skill development and creating a workplace culture that aligns with the diverse expectations of the workforce are imperative.  

These unique advantages and challenges make taking a human-centered approach even more important, ensuring it is tailored to your organization’s characteristics and strengths.

Studying transformation success stories and digital leaders in the West can be tempting. But that’s a mistake. Only Google can be Google. While it’s fine to be inspired by what others have done, organizations in the Middle East (and everywhere else) must remain authentic to their core identity. They should be driven by and centered around the unique group of individuals within their organization and guided by the strategic purpose they aim to achieve.  

Cookie-cutter methods won’t create the far-reaching, long-lasting transformation required in modern marketplaces. But there are specific steps companies can take to begin this human-centered change in ways that build on what they do best, helping them create more robust, more agile organizations that better serve all stakeholders. 

The Power of Leadership Excellence 

Start by defining what good leadership looks like. Leadership values need to stem from the organization’s unique DNA. And while an enlightened CEO is required to initiate the transformation journey, the passion for the mission needs to be nurtured in leaders at all levels. Organizations in the Middle East need leaders who can work with many cultures and nationalities. They require the ability to co-create a dialogue about what the enterprise wants to achieve with this transformation, deciding how best to prepare employees for the changes ahead. 

Again, there are inherent regional advantages. Organizations can create close-knit, enterprise-focused leadership teams using the power of the relationship-based culture. We see this inherently in start-ups, steering away from traditional hierarchies and driven by innovation, the emphasis is on collaborative cultures that nurture a sense of belonging and shared purpose among team members. Similarly, government entities in the region have increasingly recognized the value of cultivating strong leadership teams to enhance organizational effectiveness and establish relationship-based cultures that resonate with the diverse populations they serve. 

While transformation efforts are still in the planning stage, leaders should remind themselves how much power they have over the outcome of any transformation effort. If leadership isn’t seen as fully on board with changes, efforts will never gain traction. Companies can increase the chance of transformational success by: 

  • Framing the transformation as a positive, modern journey. Make it clear that it helps build pride and furthers national goals, using context that is meaningful and relevant to all employees. 
  • Encouraging creative thinking. As Artificial Intelligence (AI) takes over more operational and administrative tasks, organizations should emphasize the human effort shaping these technological changes. AI can only predict. It can’t think or invent. Constantly seek out new ways to encourage human insight and innovation. 
  • Embracing diversity. Effective transformation in the Middle East requires working with locals, whose motivation and sense of purpose are linked to faith and cultural heritage. But it also requires international workers and customers. Organizations need to serve many segments, tailoring and personalizing every experience.  

Build the Right Employee Value Proposition 

As leadership teams coalesce around this pivotal transformation initiative, it’s crucial to sharpen every element of talent acquisition. That starts with updating the Employee Value Proposition (EVP) – the deal you offer those who join your organization. While encompassing salary and benefits, an EVP transcends these essentials, delving into the fundamental reasons why people come to work each day. A robust EVP that vividly articulates the organization’s purpose unveils the unique, compelling and meaningful aspects of the employee experience. Beyond merely enhancing talent acquisition, this refined EVP serves as a linchpin for retention. Engaged employees, drawn to a purposeful workplace, contribute to the transformational journey, propelling the organization toward unparalleled growth.  

Given macroeconomic challenges, it’s a critical time for regional organizations to make sure these EVPs play across borders, attracting international talent. This can be time-consuming for companies not well-known in other parts of the world. And it often calls for new ways of thinking. For example, flexible schedules and work-life balance are now an expectation of many people in the West and must be addressed in recruiting efforts. 

You can’t skimp on developing an EVP. Successful transformation relies on building new capabilities. And while some of those needs will be addressed by upskilling current employees, attracting talent with new skills and background is essential. The rapid expansion of AI tools has dramatically accelerated the demand for new skills. 

Companies can’t afford to overlook local talent, either. The competition is intensifying as the Middle East region prospers and grows, especially relative to Western economies.


To meet the needs of the Middle East today and tomorrow, organizations can no longer rely on outdated ideas of digital transformation. Instead, they need to find new and better ways to use human-centered transformation, putting the right technology into the hands of the many people they serve. When enterprises put people before technology, all stakeholders benefit – employees, customers, community members and investors.  

If you’d like to discuss your digital transformation effort, our expert team can help you in placing a human-centered focus at the heart of your approach.  


Unleashing the Power of Digital Transformation in Manufacturing and Distribution

60% YOY growth in e-commerce sales. $1 billion in new revenue. 8x productivity gains.   

These are the types of results that B2B manufacturing and distribution businesses can realize if the right digital strategies are developed, and when leaders take on the necessary transformation work to bring these strategies to life. Unfortunately, many companies in the manufacturing sector are still trying to get by with outdated systems and patchwork solutions – leading to operational inefficiencies and limiting their strategic options for growth. There is hope: Those who embrace digital transformation can create new possibilities. 

In our work with a range of B2B manufacturing and distribution leaders, we’ve seen successful digital transformation enable companies to expand into new markets, unlock new avenues for growth, engage new customers and gain a tangible competitive advantage. In this article, we explore why digital growth strategies matter and how to develop the right e-commerce approach for your business. 

“We believe our industry will begin seeing more disruption from large online players and big digital marketplace players, and want to support our customers from seeing attrition as a result. We saw it as absolutely critical to digitally transform to meet rising consumer expectations and to ultimately help our customers grow their businesses.” 

Rob Saper, General Manager, Dexter Distribution Group

The Significance of a Digital Growth Strategy 

Digital growth strategies can support a range of business objectives, from increased sales and stronger customer loyalty to higher efficiency and lower costs. But the simplest reason that B2B companies need digital and e-commerce strategies is that customers expect them to have one. All customers are looking for convenience, flexibility and personalized experiences. Every company must have a digital platform that supports effortless ordering, rapid delivery and responsive service.  

When Dawn Food Products Inc. made it easier for customers to discover new products on its online self-service platform, the company saw a surge in online orders for products that customers had not previously purchased offline. The well-designed digital solution prompted customers to buy more and expand their relationships with Dawn.  

Digital platforms add value beyond purchasing by providing an outlet for content and services that cater to diverse customer needs associated with the core product set. Anheuser-Busch InBev’s BEES B2B sales platform, for example, empowers retailers and partners with customer insights, personalized product recommendations and sales trends. AB InBev now generates 63% of its revenue through B2B digital platforms, with BEES experiencing a remarkable 60% growth from 2021 to 2022. 

Digital strategies also empower companies to scale efficiently, accommodating a growing customer base without the limitations of traditional brick-and-mortar operations. Casey’s Distributing achieved an eightfold increase in productivity by transitioning from manual order processes to a SaaS-based e-commerce platform integrated with inventory management software. 

Platforms that automate manual processes and connect diverse systems reduce both error rates and costs. They make it possible to harness the power of data and analytics to generate invaluable insights that can be used to optimize pricing, marketing programs, inventory, and supply management. These platforms help companies understand where they should invest in growth and how to scale the business.  

E-commerce strategies are critical for B2B companies to extend into new market segments and compete with established players, new market entrants and potential disrupters. To engage smaller businesses with simpler needs than its larger customers, Grainger operates alongside its flagship website. The expanded product assortment has been a hit, generating $1 billion in annual revenue.  

Over time, as digital strategies evolve and capabilities mature, companies may consider refining their business models or launching entirely new value streams. The right platform allows companies to test and learn about new products and services. For instance, Schneider Electric’s  Exchange created a new marketplace of data services that foster collaboration and networking within the energy sector

A common theme for successful e-commerce strategies is data monetization. Marketplace and platform models featuring different vendors offering their products produce data and insights that customers value. They also create a market for selling advertising space. B2B businesses, especially distribution companies and others that serve as middlemen, can follow the lead of Walmart, Target, Kroger and others that have built large businesses by selling ads and customer data directly to advertisers.

Asking the Right Questions 

The journey to breakthrough results starts with asking the right questions to inform digital and e-commerce strategies: 

  • What information or tools would enrich and accelerate the customer journey? 
  • Which interactions and touchpoints can we personalize to encourage upselling? 
  • What data would be valuable for customers? What’s the best way to make it accessible and actionable?  
  • Which existing processes would benefit from automation and integration? 
  • How can e-commerce enable us to fully capture and leverage customer data?  
  • How can we expand the value exchange with the customer base? What’s the best place to start?  
  • Where can we find new revenue streams in a revamped digital ecosystem?

Seven Steps for Developing a Successful Digital Growth Strategy 

To build successful e-commerce and digital strategies, companies should consider the following key steps: 

1. Define the Vision and Goals

Envision your business aspirations and how they relate to what customers want. Determine where your e-commerce and digital strategy can deliver maximum value in meeting customer needs. Clearly identify, document and gain organizational consensus on the top areas of opportunity across the customer journey.  

2. Assess Customer Readiness for Change

Proactively engage customers to determine their preferences for digital engagement versus traditional business approaches. Communicate clearly what’s changing and how they will benefit from a more digital experience. Take advantage of the inherent stickiness of manufacturing and distribution to gradually evolve customer mindsets toward digital ecosystems and, ultimately, strengthen existing relationships. 

3. Prepare the Organization

Assess organizational structures, processes and resources to determine whether they need to be enhanced or adjusted to execute against the new digital ambitions. Engage business units and organizational capabilities that will be affected by the new strategy to ensure they understand the goals and their role in it.  

4. Prioritize Change Management Needs

Craft a change management approach that addresses fears of job security and change fatigue, especially among essential customer-facing staff. Consider refining incentives and shifting cultural attitudes to foster innovative thinking and behaviors. Invest in training and upskilling and equip the workforce with the right tools so they can thrive as their everyday work and your business operations get more digital. 

5. Create a Roadmap and Business Case

Develop a detailed plan outlining how your digital strategy will unlock value over time, with key milestones and quantifiable targets. Engage stakeholders to gain buy-in based on formal business cases and roadmaps, which is especially important for low-margin businesses unaccustomed to transformational change.  

6. Choose the Right Platforms and Technologies

Evaluate and select e-commerce and digital platforms that best align with your business objectives. Integrate the back-office systems and data repositories necessary to build the foundation for high-impact customer-facing solutions.  

7. Continuously Monitor and Adjust

With the roadmap and business case as the baseline, devise and track meaningful customer, financial and operational metrics to monitor the success of your digital strategy. Adapt your strategy accordingly while keeping the long-term vision in mind. Plan to iterate continuously as digital transformation is more an ongoing journey than a single destination. 


The prospect of digital transformation can seem daunting, to even the most forward-looking leaders. But robust e-commerce and digital strategies have become essential in B2B manufacturing and distribution businesses. And the lessons learned from those firms that have successfully transformed confirm the compelling returns – in the form of broader reach, increased efficiency, high-value customer insights, stronger relationships, and stronger competitive capabilities. 

Prophet has been recognized by Forrester as a notable Digital Transformation in The Digital Transformation Services Landscape, Q3 2023. Check out the report here and learn how Prophet can help drive performance gains through effective digital strategies.


Human-Centricity Accelerates Successful Business Transformation

New research reveals the power of a human-centric approach to drive transformation.

Our new global research commissioned from Forrester Consulting has found that human-centric companies are more likely to see results from their business transformation efforts. In fact, human-centric organizations are 10 times more likely to achieve revenue growth rates of 20% or more.   

Forrester surveyed over 300 organizational growth and transformation decision-makers across geographies and industries to uncover how firms are using human-centricity to design and assess the effectiveness of their transformation initiatives. Our maturity model provides a comparative analysis that illustrates how human-centric firms are outperforming their peers when it comes to delivering transformative growth.  

In comparison to less human-centric organizations, respondents from human-centric organizations are more likely to achieve or expect these benefits:

Barriers to meeting transformation goals for initiatives that are less human-centric:

This study offers resources for decision-makers looking to transform their organizations to be more resilient, improve their culture and satisfy all stakeholders while setting themselves up for future business success.

Source: A commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Prophet, July 2023.

Human-Centricity Accelerates Successful Business Transformation

*Fill in all required fields

Thank you for downloading this research.


Our report reveals that successful transformations often require partnerships to help drive organizational change. As leaders navigate the complex landscape of business transformation, relying on the expertise of external partners becomes a vital catalyst for achieving success. 


The 2023 State of Digital Transformation

Benchmarks for what digital maturity looks like in 2023 for businesses to chart a path forward in the next wave of digital transformation. 

In this year’s State of Digital Transformation report, we set out to identify the key differences between the businesses that are succeeding at digital transformation, and those that are still struggling. We surveyed over 600 executives from North America, Europe and Asia across a range of industries to highlight not only their current digital capabilities but the key investments and choices they made that got them to where they are today. By separating the responses of high performers and average performers, we identified key characteristics of companies that successfully met their transformation goals. 

This report serves as a benchmark for what digital maturity looks like in 2023 and charts a path forward for businesses that are looking to drive growth and thrive in the next wave of digital transformation initiatives. 

Key Takeaways:

  • The majority of companies (45%) chose business growth as their top goal for digital transformation, followed by innovation (45%) and efficiency (42%). 
  • Top-performing companies tracked metrics like innovation (36%) and digital literacy (32%) to measure digital transformation success, while average performers tracked business performance (42%) and efficiency (40%). 
  • Limited budgets (34%) and a resistant culture (27%) were the top obstacles to digital transformation success. 
  • Despite challenging economic times, 42% of digitally mature companies were accelerating their digital transformation efforts this year. 
  • Top-performing companies were more likely to have their digital transformation led by the CEO (33%), compared to average performers where the CIO or CTO (36%) were more likely to be in charge. 
  • The top transformation priorities for companies were upgrading technology (50%), achieving operational efficiency (34%) and getting more value from data (32%) 

The 2023 State of Digital Transformation

*Fill in all required fields

Thank you for your interest in Prophet’s research!


Building Business Resilience Through Innovation

How the most successful organizations are using innovation to build resilience and drive long-term growth in an uncertain economic climate. 

Faced with a world of growing volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA), business resilience is being tested like never before. And, continuing with business as usual becomes the biggest risk.  

Innovations’ power to boost resilience is more important than ever. Yet organizations are barely scratching the surface when it comes to innovation and missing opportunities for meaningful and sustainable revenue growth.  

So, how can business leaders chart a path for their organization to join the high-performing ranks of the truly innovative and resilient? Especially when innovation and resilience are treated like conflicting priorities, with innovation seen as a cost center and resilience as cost-cutting.

We talked to 300 senior global business leaders across 30+ industries to learn how successful organizations use innovation to drive business resilience. And we learned these types of organizations are more likely to practice a wide range of innovation techniques, have C-suite buy-in and strive for sustainable change.  

Organizations that are both innovative and resilient are two times as likely to exceed their financial targets and three times as likely to create shareholder value than their competitors.  

Download our global research report to learn:  

  • How the most financially successful organizations use innovation to build business resilience 
  • The common barriers that slow innovation in organizations 
  • The top techniques used to expand commitment to innovation through the enterprise 
  • How to use Prophet’s Human-Centered Transformation Model™ to become more innovative and resilient 

Building Business Resilience Through Innovation

*Fill in all required fields

Thank you for your interest in Prophet’s research!

Frequently Asked Questions

Business resilience is the ability to thrive in the face of new environmental challenges, often by coming up with new and innovative solutions. Survey participants agreed with our definition, but a few explicitly connected resilience to trying something new. 

Almost universally, the senior business and innovation leaders that we surveyed for our global research report, Building Business Resilience Through Innovation, said innovation means bringing a new idea, process, product business or operating model into the world.

Almost half of the innovation leaders we surveyed for our report, Building Business Resilience Through Innovation, believe innovation and resilience are correlated. Among high-performing companies, awareness rises to 60%. This connection suggests an organizational understanding that innovation isn’t just about successfully launching new products. Instead, it’s a valuable mindset that strengthens and benefits the entire organization. In the most successful companies’ innovation builds business resilience.

While this list is by no means exhaustive, Prophet’s innovation experts have identified the following 15 best practice innovation techniques, many of which have been widely used in business for decades:  

  • Focus on Customer Needs  
  • Leadership Coaching and Alignment   
  • Agile Product Development/Methodologies  
  • Tracking KPIs  
  • Dedicated Customer Research Team  
  • Dedicated Innovation Team  
  • Special Incentive Structures for New Business  
  • Scenario Planning  
  • Focus on Competitor Activity  
  • Design Thinking Methods  
  • Explicitly Balance Investment  
  • Introduction of AI/ML to Your Operations  
  • Innovation Incubation Program  
  • Rapid Prototyping and iteration  
  • Pod-Like Structures/ Decentralized Teams

At Prophet, we view all organizations as a macrocosm of the individual. Each one has a collective DNA, Body, Mind and Soul. To become a more innovative and resilient organization, leaders need to think about every aspect of this ecosystem. Our Human-Centered Transformation Model™ provides an accessible lens for unpacking complexities and highlighting and understanding specific components more easily.


Middle East Business Outlook for 2023 

These five practices will continue to drive uncommon growth in the region in the year ahead.

The Middle East is set for success and growth in 2023, even as businesses in other parts of the world face more challenges. Its importance as a hub for global trade is growing and companies are attracting more significant investments and talent. Overall, the bar is rising as the region takes a more prominent place on the global stage. 

That combination is breeding optimism and ambition throughout the GCC region. We’ve identified five opportunity areas companies should consider so that they can take part in that growth. 

1. Rebalancing Transformation Strategies, Making Them More Human and Less Digital 

Human centricity should be at the heart of any transformation efforts. Organizations should be putting people–customers, employees, investors and communities–at the heart of their strategies and evolving from the inside out.  

Digital is still essential, of course. But the goal isn’t to become more digital–it’s to become better organizations. The most progressive companies recognize the difference. The first question is no longer, “What technology should we invest in?”, it’s “What do our people need to be more productive, and how can we best support that?” And with this human-centric approach, companies are redefining what it means to be a modern enterprise. 

2. Defining Purpose Through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Lens 

Environmental, social and governance policies are growing in importance, shaping businesses worldwide. But here, the emphasis is somewhat different. Organizations in the Middle East are more focused on sustainable development goals. These 17 global SDGs, set by the United Nations to achieve by 2030, matter more than the ESG goals devised by individual companies. 

Governments are setting the vision, sometimes with breathtaking ambition. The UAE, for example, has excelled, working SDGs into its national agenda. And it’s paying especially close attention to the guidelines for developing growth and innovation. This approach reflects its national ideals and challenges many people’s perceptions of the priorities of a Middle Eastern nation. Both these focus areas are now enshrined in the SDGs as it moves toward turning commitments into action. 

For companies, it’s inherently more confusing than simply delineating a strategy that best suits them. So, companies are plunging in with trial-and-error gusto as each tries to find a path forward. They want to comply, of course, and successfully navigate among many shifting government mandates. But they also want to do so in ways that build on their individual purpose, controlling what is theirs to control. They face intense pressure as they make these decisions–from employees, customers, investors, NGOs and regional communities. As they realize they don’t have to align with every SDG, the most forward-thinking companies choose the goals they can best contribute to and embed those into their purpose and strategies.  

For example, we’ll see continued growth in sustainable travel and tourism, with companies carefully examining how people’s hotels, itineraries and experiences impact the entire value chain. And since the region is heavily dependent on foreign investors, there will be greater efforts to demonstrate that companies act responsibly. 

3. Investing in the Start-Up Ecosystem 

The region is on track to produce a substantial number of unicorns in the next ten years. Uber, for example, recently scooped up Careem, based in the UAE, for $3.1 billion. And companies like Kitopi, a cloud-kitchen company; Fawry, an Egyptian fin-tech company; and Swvl, a mass transit system, are all in the $1 billion valuation club. 

This start-up ecosystem’s emergence encourages larger companies to chase business innovations. They’re making strategic bets on new business models. We see companies striving for greater agility. They’re using pod-based innovation, for example, as they look for new ways to collaborate. They’re more deliberate in efforts to break down silos and optimize spending. And they’re more likely to pursue joint ventures.  

4. Creating Data-driven Experiences That are Customized for Audiences  

Digital thinking continues to be the lifeblood of business. But–as is true in C-suites around the world–leaders in the Middle East recognize that data is only valuable when used strategically.  

People in the Middle East, especially in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, are among the most connected and digitally savvy in the world. Consumers want things now. They expect a seamless brand experience. They want holistic omnichannel experiences with personalized communication at every stage of the purchasing funnel. Now that brands have access to more customer data, it’s imperative to use this to unlock the opportunities it presents–delivering very tailored, specific products and personalized messages and communications. 

That means moving beyond broader mass-marketing tactics that simply target groups like millennials and Gen Z. Yes, the youth market is intensely significant in the Middle East. But younger consumers only spend on things they care deeply about. They prize authenticity in the companies, brands and influencers they deal with.  

Prophet’s recent Gen Z research finds that younger people are increasingly determined to curate their own digital experience. They want to connect with others that share their values and are eager to balance digital interactions with those that are human. 

5. Designing an Employee Experience that Delivers Well-Being 

More traditional leaders may still roll their eyes at the expansive responsibility of providing for employee well-being. But unless they understand how holistic well-being is fast becoming a requirement for job seekers, they won’t be able to gain a hiring advantage.  

Health is now the ultimate headline. People have had the chance to re-evaluate what’s important and possible in their lives. They’re fed up with outdated norms like the 9-5 schedule. They’re more open about burnout, chronic stress and fatigue. Employees are less willing to sacrifice their physical, mental and social health for their job.  

In the UAE, the government has set the way forward with a shorter working week–at 4.5 days–to help employees achieve a healthier work/life balance. Such steps allow organizations to re-energize employees, so they can become more productive and innovative. And it also helps retain talent long term. Enterprises are beginning to understand that it is their people that make companies what they are–and it’s essential to take better care of those workers. 

Employee experience design is a rapidly growing discipline. It’s how organizations can maximize their advantage in the war for talent and take advantage of seismic shifts in working patterns. When employee experience becomes a central pillar in a company’s people strategy, aligning with brands, business strategy and customer experience is easier.  


The Middle East has distinct competitive advantages, positioning it for growth in the foreseeable future. Relatively insulated from current global challenges and replete with an influx of talent, businesses here can–and should–be optimistic. They’re looking for new ways to increase revenues and find uncommon growth, outperforming other regions. 


Financial Services Trends We’ll Be Watching in 2023 

There are many reasons why 2023 can – and very much should – be the year of relentless relevance in financial services.

It’s that time of year again, when we stick our necks out to envision what’s coming for financial services in 2023. You don’t have to be clairvoyant to know that there will be more disruption and plenty of innovation. The tightening economic landscape means that banks, insurers and wealth and asset managers will need to prioritize investments that deliver results in the near term, even as they look to establish strong foundations for long-term transformation and ongoing innovation.  

1. Resilience Through Relevance Becomes the Priority  

Yes, customers are likely to be more careful with their spending in 2023. But, no, customer experience will not become less important. Financial services firms should “buy the dip” by continuing to fund innovation programs.  

Market experience and research from Harvard Business Review tell us that firms that retain their focus on and continue to invest in innovation (especially in those areas of relatively low opportunity cost) during times of economic uncertainty significantly outperform their peers in sales and profit growth. And many well-known brands and market leaders have fully reinvented themselves during downturns, by focusing relentlessly on resilience and retaining their relevance.  

For large financial services firms, they must overcome the common tendency to solve their own internal business problems rather than solving authentic customer problems, as broad and evolving as those can be. Showing empathy and aligning with customer values can help brands stay relevant and differentiate during tough times. That means defining the corporate purpose in terms that are meaningful to customers, a topic we cover in more detail here. Such clarity is especially important in embedded finance and other areas of disruption, where established brands must define their role.  

2. Mega-Growth Comes from Sub-Categories  

When it comes to reaching new segments, many financial services companies are finding success with tailored offers that can create separation from the primary brand and the competition. As Prophet Vice Chairman David Aaker has written in his book, “Instead of promoting the superiority of a brand, create a subcategory with new or markedly superior customer experiences or brand relationships to create barriers to competitors.”  

Sub-categories are promising because they allow incumbent brands to go into new places. And there are many potential opportunities:  

  • Banks offering credit and other services tailored to small business categories
  • Insurers launching digital policies for millennials and Gen Z 
  • Wealth managers focusing on simpler income protection products and decumulation strategies  

There has been considerable market action along these lines in recent years: Some sub-category explorations and extensions have been successful in gaining traction, while others have delivered sub-optimal results, while also producing ample learnings that can be applied to future endeavors.  

We’ll give David Aaker the last word here: “Subcategory-driven growth has exploded in the digital era because of technological advances and the fast, inexpensive market access made possible by e-commerce and digital communication.” That trend will surely continue in 2023 and beyond.  

3. Brands Will Define Their Roles in the Embedded Finance Value Chain  

Critical mass may still be a few years off, but the days of nearly all finance being delivered as-a-service are getting close. Embedded finance is on the same trajectory that made “digital marketing” just “marketing” and “mobile phones” just “phones”. 

According to recent research, the U.S. embedded finance industry is expected to grow at a CAGR of 23.5% from 2022 through 2029, reaching $212 billion by 2029. Plaid expects a 10x jump in embedded finance revenue from 2020 to 2025. We expect the growth of embedded finance to be nearly recession-proof.  

At the center of this growth is the shift from standalone products to solutions delivered at the point of need. After all, customers don’t want a credit card or an insurance policy, but rather an integrated payments experience that streamlines purchasing and provides protections for important purchases. We believe that a primary way to differentiate in the embedded finance space is to start with the customer and design products and experiences around their needs and relevant to their financial journey. 

The next 12 months will see plenty of milestones. Investment advice is everywhere and easily hopping over industry boundaries. Consider how DriveWealth is offering advice for health savings accounts (HSAs).  

The tipping point for mass adoption of embedded finance is clearly getting closer and we very well may reach it in 2023. Financial services organizations that start with deep insights into the needs of customers’ financial journeys and that engage successfully in ecosystems will be best positioned to win the innovation game in the embedded era.  

4. Holistic Wellness Matters as Much to Your Employees as Your Customers   

For many financial services institutions, customers are your employees. A weakening macroeconomic environment will only intensify the need for greater wellness – including physical, mental and financial wellness. There’s a risk that employers may cut programs because of cost pressures in a recessionary environment; that would be a mistake in our view. While wellness may seem a consumer hot topic du jour, financial firms should recognize that wellness equates to confidence and security, which is what consumers are looking for when they buy financial services products.      

We expect to see more financial services firms expand their content, education and advisory offerings (via both in-person and Robo channels) for the simple reason that more people need such services. That’s true at every level of the market; from high-net-worth families that want multi-generational wealth distribution strategies to younger consumers just starting their careers and seeking higher degrees of financial literacy and basic tools for budgeting, savings and investing. To realize the benefits, banks, insurers and others will need to master their activation strategies.  

Financial services firms keying on wellness would do well to understand the complex linkages between mental health and financial wellness. For instance, financial stress is the number-one driver of poor mental health among employees, according to research from MetLife. Because dynamic relationships between different types of wellness play out for both customers and employees, the group insurance and employee benefits space is seeing more innovation, much of it focused on driving well-being. For example, the Morgan Stanley at Work program offers holistic features for both financial security and empowerment.  

5. Human Capital and Strong Cultures Deliver Even More Competitive Advantage    

Post-COVID, more companies have rediscovered the power of their people (okay, maybe not Twitter). It’s more than companies having to compete for scarce talent. Rather, those firms that embrace cultures of learning, creativity and flexibility typically realize better results in terms of customer-centric innovation. And it’s not a matter of choosing to invest in tech or people, but rather getting the right people in place to boost returns on your tech investments.  For all of these reasons, 2023 will not be the time to cut back on learning, development and upskilling/reskilling programs. These initiatives help strengthen cultures and create a more resilient workforce, just what financial services firms will need to thrive in the near term.  

Whether and to what extent inflation or a recession impact the job market remains to be seen. But it’s possible that wage increases may rise faster than price increases. And financial services firms have an opportunity to hire more tech-savvy talent after widespread Silicon Valley layoffs; this is another opportunity to “buy the dip.”  

But even if there is more talent available, banks and others must ensure their cultures are attractive to the right type of talent. Typically, that means emphasizing collaboration and taking a human-centric approach. Our research into the Collaborative Advantage shows that higher levels of teamwork enrich individuals, building new skills that increase engagement and job satisfaction – what financial services firms need to complete in a dynamic market landscape today. 

6. Balancing ESG Expectations With Reality  

While the bright spotlight on environmental, social and governance (ESG) matters will not dim significantly in the coming year, attention will shift toward closer brand scrutiny, both in terms of greenwashing and the authenticity of their ESG claims. More companies – including the “big 6” banks that have aligned to the Paris Agreement – will be evaluated in terms of how well they are “walking the walk” relative to their commitments. That scrutiny will come not just from regulators but the full range of stakeholders, including employees, investors, and clients and customers, who will not react well to big gaps between brand perceptions and actual ESG performance.  

Tensions and contradictions will be called out. For instance, many of the firms marketing green products and aiming for inclusion in ESG funds and indexes also continue to underwrite fossil fuel infrastructure. No wonder some banks are considering leaving industry alliances.  

Financial services firms should be thoughtful in understanding their ESG efforts from a broader range of perspectives. Certainly, there will be more focus on the “S” or social dimension “People well-being” is one potential lens for evaluating commitments and monitoring progress. For instance, the employee experience can be viewed in terms of its social impacts, as can loan portfolios’ inclusion of minority-owned businesses.  

Financial services firms should not shy away from articulating their value relative to ESG, but they must be careful about mere virtue signaling. They should also look to get beyond compliance focus, though of course, lawyers are going to restrict what can be said about green offerings. Further, firms will need to become experts in ESG data and reporting, not least because more detailed disclosures are coming soon.   


Anchoring on what matters most to your stakeholders, especially your customers, will provide a tangible edge in a tough market in 2023. From sub-category extensions and embedded finance to employee wellness and ESG, there are many reasons why 2023 can be – and very much should be – the year of relentless relevance in financial services.   

Contact our financial services team today. We’d love to talk about what transformation can look like at your organization in 2023. 


Five Healthcare Trends To Watch in 2023

Healthcare leaders can drive change in 2023 by thinking boldly and targeting investments in the following trending healthcare spaces.

Looking ahead to 2023 in healthcare, the big macroeconomic clouds on the horizon make for a less than cheery outlook. The combination of an economic downturn and higher costs will be a dominant theme for the entire healthcare industry and a huge challenge for organizations across hospitals, health systems and device makers, pharmaceuticals, and life sciences companies, as well as players in technology. 

Still, taking the glass-half-full view, we see many opportunities for leaders across the business to drive operational discipline and innovation by focusing on investments that matter most in driving better outcomes for all stakeholders. As we point out in our transformation playbook, changemakers that push beyond the many common barriers to innovation can achieve a great deal. Yes, the economic pressures will be greater. But 2023 will see plenty more disruption – and thus plenty of growth opportunities – as our annual list of healthcare trends below makes clear.  

1. Holistic Wellness Solutions Continue to Influence the Market  

Successful one-off wellness apps and small niche solutions are adopted by large employers and payers to enhance benefits programs and give people more options to live healthier lives. As consumers adopt wearable data trackers in support of that goal, they will increasingly choose to work with healthcare organizations that are committed to holistic wellness.  

 It’s not about the gadgetry, but rather driving good outcomes, particularly relative to social determinants of health (SDoH) and patients’ lived experiences. The start-ups and tech firms with the most attractive and powerful solutions will achieve rapid scale by going the B2B2C route. We think the biggest winners will emerge in in-home diagnostics, preventative health opportunities (e.g., perimenopausal women and metabolism and nutrition) and mental health, which will be of interest to large employers, as well as individuals. Apps and widgets that empower individuals with their own data, plus timely prompts and attractive incentives, will crack the code on growth.  

2. Venture Capital Focuses on the Best and Brightest  

While we expect to see a few big winners among tech players, most firms will face a tighter funding landscape and more intense due diligence. Venture capital, which has been flowing freely and voluminously for years, will become less available as investors scrutinize business models more closely and back only the best and brightest.  

 We suspect the firms that attract funding will be those that focus on narrowly defined patient cohorts already engaged in self-monitoring behaviors and where innovation can move the needle on cost control or value delivery. Those that can collect real-world data from outside the four corners of traditional clinical environments, and integrate seamlessly into core systems, will be specially well positioned to attract funding and potential partners. Chronic disease management, patient engagement and population health solutions will also be priorities because there is clear clinical and financial upside in all these areas.  

3. The Workforce Shortage Worsens as a Full-Blown Crisis  

With continuing burnout among healthcare workers, large provider organizations face issues with care quality and deteriorating patient experiences. The supply-demand fundamentals are inescapable: There are simply not enough doctors, nurses and paraprofessionals – not to mention data scientists, business analysts and experience designers – to fill all the vacancies. 

However, there are multiple potential solutions to resolving talent shortfalls. Workforce optimization and workflow efficiency are necessary, so too automation and more advanced technology in everything from reading x-rays to identifying payment fraud. More support for patient self-monitoring, continued expansion of telehealth and in-home care will also help alleviate chronic talent shortages. There’s also a large cohort of tech-savvy talent looking for jobs with a higher mission after layoffs from Silicon Valley giants.  

4. Value-Based Care Models Become Innovation Labs  

The inevitable momentum toward value-based continues. More than 40% of U.S. healthcare reimbursement now has some value-based component, a proportion that will only rise in 2023 and beyond. Though pockets of resistance remain, more provider organizations will advance and mature their Value-Based Care capabilities. And they’ll do so on several fronts. More sustained preventative outreach efforts to underserved, high-risk and high-cost populations for routine screenings will continue producing strong results. Shared-incentive contracting will be more attractive for capital-intensive equipment, such as MRI machines and CT scanners.  

Sophisticated technology usage will be a hallmark of VBC winners. Consider how the burden on the workforce could be reduced with digital apps and AI-enabled patient engagements leveraging HIPAA-compliant natural language processing on existing voice platforms (e.g., Alexa). Such applications also free clinicians to operate at the top of their licenses. The next year will see many pilots of creative concepts in the space.  

The tightening economic backdrop, alongside rising consumer expectations, more powerful technology and the prevalence of chronic conditions, will fuel further adoption of VBC models. Large employers wanting to know what they are getting from higher rates will be yet another prompt for innovation.  

5. Consolidation Increases as Non-Traditional Players Press on  

Challenging macroeconomic conditions will drive more consolidation and spark aggressive plays from tech platforms and large retailers. In this sense, 2023 will look a lot like recent years. Retailers and other non-traditional players are cracking the code on healthcare, faster than healthcare players are cracking the code on consumerism.  Amazon, Walmart and other large players will continue experimenting on their own, buying up promising ventures and looking for partners that can further their huge ambitions.  

And their ambitions won’t shrink just because the economy does. If you already thought these companies were relentless competitors when the economy was good, then you can expect them to press their advantages even more forcefully in pursuit of ever greater market share as cost and capital pressures rise for others.  


The healthcare industry has seen plenty of change during the last few years. The next year will continue that trend. And as challenging as the economic conditions will be, healthcare leaders can drive change for the better by thinking boldly and targeting investments in the most promising areas of opportunity.  

Contact our healthcare team today. We’d love to talk about the transformation opportunities at your organization. 

Your network connection is offline.