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US and China optimism

US and China optimism

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This year's CEO Outlook paints a resounding picture of high expectations and optimism from US CEOs. Perhaps we might want to look past the headlines; at least CEOs in the United States seem to.

While the number one threat to growth in the 2018 CEO Outlook is `return to territorialism' (55 percent of CEOs globally say so), it drops to the fifth threat to growth when asking just CEOs in the US. American based CEOs are more worried about operational, cyber, interest rate, and talent risks. All of which, with the right investment and focus, can be brought under control.

Optimism divergence: US and China

It's easy to think the world is focused on China at the moment. What stands out to me, is not whether or not current administrations in both countries are making the right moves, but that CEOs in the two countries have dramatically different outlooks on growth opportunities.

Only 9 percent of US CEOs think that growth over the next 3 years will be harder earned than ever before. That's a dramatic difference from 48 percent which is the view of CEOs in China.

Eighty-six percent of US CEOs agreed that “Rather than waiting to be disrupted by competitors, my organization is actively disrupting the sector in which we operate” compared to only 29 percentof CEOs in China.

US businesses are also increasingly confident in their ability to link their growth strategy with a wider societal purpose. Sixty percent of US CEOs feel confident in their ability to link strategy with purpose while just 1 percent of CEOs in China think the same.

Pursuit of growth in emerging markets

Despite recent slowdown, growth continues to focus on emerging markets. Seventy percent of CEOs are making their biggest priority for geographical expansion in emerging markets. That number jumps to 81 percent when asking CEOs of US based companies and 65 percent from those based in China.

Building confidence

While the easy thing to do is wait for clarity, the hard thing to do is remain focused on leading into a future regardless of what it holds. Four ways to feel confident and positive you're making the right decisions:

  1. Diverse perspectives. Surround yourself with diverse information and perspectives. Don't fall into the trap of surrounding yourself with views that only align with your own.
  2. Forecast and monitor. As the Boy Scouts taught me, always be prepared. Trusting ones experience is important, but use real data to inform decisions based on real world experience. Sixty-seven percent of CEOs globally say they have overlooked the insights provided by data and analytics because it contradicted their own experience or intuition.
  3. Stress test. Simulate all sorts of scenarios - from best case to worst case. This will help highlight vulnerabilities so you can focus on improving your position.
  4. Invest in the inevitable. Regardless of how geopolitics play out, no regret investments such as skills, technology, and diversity should be prioritized as they need to happen no matter what.
US and China optimism chart