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Top 10 Topics on Business Leaders’ Minds for 2024

Top 10 Topics on Business Leaders' Minds for 2024

Research Shows Growth Strategy & Innovation Strategy Lead the List

The top 10 topics on business leaders’ minds for 2024 are an interesting mix. The leaders we polled are in the Insight to Action network, from a range of industries and organizational sizes.

First and foremost, growth strategy stands out by far as the most important topic, with 73% of leaders selecting this among their top three focuses for the year.  Another very popular topic is innovation strategy, chosen by 45% of leaders. 

Following these top tier choices, there are seven second tier selections that are also important: customer segmentation (18%), AI (23%), new products (23%), pricing (23%), managing recession impact (23%), managing expenses and budgets (27%) and hybrid team effectiveness (27%).  

Putting these two tiers together, there is one clear macro theme: growth driven by new products and innovation, along with segmentation. A second macro theme includes the need to manage expenses, use AI, navigate any recession and leverage pricing.  A third area, hybrid team effectiveness, is relatively distinct, though this clearly can relate to managing expenses and budgets and to successfully driving growth.

In 2023, we saw early signs of these interests. Insight to Action clients engaged us in longer-term market strategies that leveraged segmentation and fundamental customer insights from segmentation with ethnographies. We were also called upon to help make informed pricing decisions and manage loyalty programs. 

At the third tier in the top 10, “KPIs/OKRs” and “values-driven growth” each were selected by 14% of leaders. As a result, there are 11 on the list of top 10.

1. Growth strategy

2. Innovation strategy

3. Managing expenses and budgets

3. Hybrid team effectiveness

5. Managing recession impact

5. Pricing

5. New products

5. AI

9. Customer segmentation

10. Values driven growth

10. KPIs/OKRs

Top 10 Topics on Business Leaders' Minds for 2024

Looking at how these themes compare with 2023 top topics, there are consistently popular topics, specifically, managing expenses and budgets is top tier for both years, along with concerns about the economy and recession impact and growth strategies. 

Business Leader Perspective on Top Topics

Leaders we contacted also provided great context around the drivers of their top focus for the first macro theme of growth.

Our brand is on a rapid growth path with a focus on innovation, so the top 3 topics for 2024 are: growth strategy, innovation strategy, and brand strategy. We have launched a new brand, expanding beyond Italian. With items that are at retail and Walmart.”

“Innovation strategy and new products: always a topic – what to do, how to be more successful, how to get there.”

“Growth strategy.  Folks are becoming more and more cognizant that there is a new generation of consumers (and employees) making up a greater share of their target every day, and they clearly are influenced/motivated differently than the previous ones.”

“Growth strategy- encapsulates a lot of areas…strategy/segmentation (and how much research is needed), pricing, etc.”

For many of our consumer products clients, innovation was largely halted in 2020 and 2021 to focus on supplying the most popular products.  In many cases, retailers and suppliers from a range of industries including furniture, beauty, health and home products are offering very limited choices.  One estimate is that new items made up just 2% of products in stores across categories in 2023, as contrasted with 5% in 2019.  With that context, the focus on innovation and new products for 2024 represents a movement back in the direction of more choice on the shelf.

The second macro theme around managing expenses and costs and concerns with the economy is also prominent in leaders’ minds.

“Recession impact. Then it hit me that it really isn’t a recession that has hit us at all, but rather the after-effects of inflation-driven pricing. In 2023,  food volume being purchased was trending below consumption (indicating pantry draw-down, less food waste, etc.), and everyone was worried about it. A Datassentials year-end review operator survey showed that the foodservice industry is still very concerned.”

“Cost of capital (more the domino impact of cost of capital impacting one thing, let’s say corporate real estate and rolling from there to other places, recession impact)– is it finally going to happen, since everyone is now convinced it’s not going to happen? And managing budgets and expenses as a fall out of cost of capital and recession impact.”

“People declaring that the soft landing is real, while at the same time, it seems one is reading about lots of layoffs at big/different places — not just the high-tech layoffs of early 2023.”

“My current view of the landscape is we’ve had: COVID, COVID fatigue, people overcompensating that COVID is over, e.g., heavy focus on travel and experiences, YOLO, etc.”

While not as frequently selected, there is engagement around AI, OKRs/KPIs and hybrid team effectiveness as these leader comments illustrate.

“KPIs/OKRs – showing the value of activity (this is bleeding from more crossover B2B/B2C and managing spend; ties to managing expenses and budget as well as innovation- how to fund).”

“AI is first, second, third of the top 3 topics.”

“Hybrid team effectiveness is very important, since that’s how most workplaces are operating.”

Top Topics from Google Trends in the Past 90 Days

Using Incognito mode, we also looked at US Google Trends for the past 90 days to compare how popular these topics are among the general set of searches, which can include students and others who are not business leaders. 

In a few cases, we needed to shorten the search term to make it popular enough to have a readable base, and the updated terms are shown below. For instance, we used the term “managing expenses” rather than “managing expenses and budgets.”  We also used “values driven” rather than “values driven growth.”

For the past 90 days among this general audience, the most popular searches were for AI, pricing and new products.  These three are all in the top tier, compared with the second tier among business leaders. 

“New products” can be an everyday way of discussing innovation strategy, meaning that innovation and new products are showing up as top tier under both approaches. Additionally, growth strategy is second tier among the general audience, meaning that it continues to maintain popularity among both executives and the general audience.  The first macro theme remains of high interest.

The second macro theme is less consistent as the least popular search term, by far, was “managing recession.”  It’s interesting to see this relative lack of interest for recession given executives’ concerns from their qualitative quotes. We’ve included the data even though this would no longer make the top 10. Managing expenses, while previously in the second tier and ranking third drops down to third tier and ranking eighth.

The past 90-day search trends yield the following results, including the same topics:

  1. AI
  2. Pricing
  3. New Products
  4. KPIs
  5. Growth Strategy
  6. Customer Segmentation
  7. Hybrid Teams
  8. Managing Expenses
  9. Values Driven
  10. Innovation Strategy
  11. Managing Recession

We changed the Google Trends parameters to include worldwide searches for all time. This changes the ranking somewhat, with AI, new products and pricing, retaining the top 3 positions.  Growth strategy is number four, followed by hybrid teams, then innovation strategy, then managing expenses.  

The results for this approach are as follows:

  1. AI
  2. New Products
  3. Pricing
  4. Growth Strategy
  5. Values Driven
  6. Hybrid Team
  7. Innovation Strategy
  8. Managing Expenses
  9. Customer Segmentation
  10. KPIs
  11. Managing Recession
Top 10 Topics on Business Leaders' Minds for 2024

Based on these results, we expect to see more focus on new products and the related topic of innovation strategy and also pricing for 2024.

Vistage Speakers Help Leaders Build Expertise in Top Topic Areas

The Vistage executive peer advisory companies I work with see these topics as very important, along with growth strategy and managing expenses.  When we want to expand our knowledge or learn about practical applications, we tap into the Vistage online networks and also the expert speakers. We select speakers using both qualitative and quantitative feedback from other leaders.  As a Vistage chair, I read all reviews of speakers to assess their impact by type of group, e.g., chief executive, key executive, emerging leaders, advancing leaders, small business and by delivery method, e.g., in person, hybrid or fully remote.

In our Vistage meetings with leaders across industries, KPIs and OKRs are a recurring focus, and we also look for ways to make hybrid teams more effective.  In 2023, we had the benefit of working with Vistage speaker Peter Celeste, focusing on building a data-driven culture using KPIs.  Peter’s broad experience across firms of different sizes and industries has helped us to build KPIs that work for each organization. We’ve worked with Peter several times, and greatly value his data-driven approach. 

 In 2023, our Vistage leaders also worked with Vistage Speaker Andrew Louder to identify AI opportunity areas for each organization. One of our leaders has made this a top priority; his business has a heavy concentration in the legal industry. 

Vistage leaders are also heavily focused on defining values and growing their organization aligned with values.  The topic of values-driven growth is a high priority and pervades decision making. We’ve worked with experts on defining values, like long-term Insight to Action colleague Leslie Berger,  Peter Celeste, and Dr. Gustavo Grodnisky.

While it’s relatively easy to find experts who focus on remote team effectiveness, we are looking forward to working with Vistage Speaker Kim Svoboda in April on the topic of hybrid team effectiveness.  In the meantime, several of our Vistage companies are successfully using the virtual office from Roam to build a sense of team for hybrid and virtual groups.  This allows everyone to see who is in a meeting, in the office, out visiting a client, etc.

Learn More from Insight to Action Experts

Some recent growth and new product strategy examples in gaming that we’ve explored include the Steam Deck gaming device, Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, Baldur’s Gate 3 and 13 popular new product examples of modern board games like Dominion, Azul and Splendor .  

We’ve looked at how Boar’s Head expanded its business reach and how McDonald’s and Heinz grew through innovation to address trends towards spicy foods.   We’ve also looked at Polaroid’s recent innovation with the I-2 camera. 

For more examples of growth strategy, innovation strategy, new products or customer segmentation visit our resources pages.