NEW YORK: A majority of brand owners are seeking to build companies combining transparency, a clear purpose and a collaborative mindset, a study has shown.

IBM, the business services firm, polled 1,709 chief executives from 18 industries, and found 65% wanted to shape their organisation so it reflected laudable "ethics and values".

A further 63% emphasised fostering a collaborative environment and thus enhance innovation, and 58% stated a preference for pursuing an admirable "mission".

Two related aspects of the change agenda were to gain a better understanding of individual customer needs and reacting more quickly to evolving market trends, both flagged up by 72% of interviewees.

Elsewhere, 53% of CEOs were attempting to forge external partnerships to augment their R&D output, a total that reached 59% among the "outperformers" boasting the best figures on a range of business metrics.

"Innovating together with your partners is a win-win for both," Peter Voser, CEO of, Shell said. "We not only deal with energy, we also need to focus on challenges such as water and food as they're all interlinked. That's why driving innovation together, also across industries, is extremely important."

The firms leading their peer group were also 30% more likely to name "openness", often defined as using social media to engage customers, staff and partners, as a key influence on corporate strategy.

"One of the most compelling findings is how in tune CEOs are about the implications and impact of social media," said Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president, IBM Global Business Services.

Similarly, IBM reported that the ability to derive insights from data is "strongly correlated" with achieving the best results, shown by the fact "outperformers" are 84% better at doing so than the norm.

More broadly, 71% of the sample agreed new technology would have the greatest impact on their company in the next three years, and 51% planned to leverage innovative tools to boost in-house collaboration.

"I believe you must unify all your channels," said Luiza Helena Trajano, CEO of Magazine Luiza, the Brazilian retailer. "We do not have one organisation for physical stores and another for virtual. We believe the customer wants to buy when she wants and through the channel she wants."

Among the most important skills that employees could possess, according to contributors, were collaboration on 75% and communication on 67%. Creativity and flexibility also both yielded 61%.

Data sourced from IBM; additional content by Warc staff