You may be familiar with Zurich’s advertising line: ‘Because change happenz’. It’s much more than an external brand image. The company has itself gone through a major transformation under the leadership of Jim Schiro. Change is definitely happening within Zurich.

Having engineered the financial turn around of the corporation over the last four years, the leadership of Zurich Financial Services considered that it was time to balance the creation of a culture of ‘operational excellence’ with a focus on profitable growth. Despite record results it was widely acknowledged that the organization had become much fitter and that there would be capacity for generating profitable growth organically.

To get the ball rolling Zurich decided to assemble 430 of their top people at the Disney resort in Orlando for a leadership meeting called ‘Profitable Growth – Powered By You’.

It was to be the first time that the leadership team had been extended beyond 120 or so. This was symbolic of a new era in itself. The focus of the leadership meeting was exclusively on understanding what profitable growth meant, what conditions are necessary for it to flourish and what leaders like the assembled group need to do to encourage those, typically below them, to ‘put their heads above the parapet’.

Delegates found themselves in a giant market mall in which 40 plus internal exemplars of profitable growth told and illustrated their stories. Business division chiefs were charged with listening to their manager’s views about which of the examples present could be transferred to their own divisions. This represented another core theme of the leadership meeting which was to get delegates to plagiarize their colleague’s idea; to grow organically by respecting internal ideas.

The massive space at the Orlando Disney resort in the USA was festooned with a giant floor to ceiling wall of 500 nascent growth ideas which had been sought from the bottom up within the organization. Again the idea was to demonstrate that profitable growth ideas often emanate from way down in the organization

Delegates were also constantly reminded about the need to balance the pursuit of profitable growth with the parallel requirement of operational transformation and having to deal with the ambiguity of the two strategies.

Post conference the focus was tracking and sharing the ideas and initiatives ‘borrowed’ by business divisions in order to demonstrate the continued value of transferring ideas from one part of the business to another.