If you bring together founders of the digital companies that are reshaping the world economy and the corporate aristocracy that has dominated commerce for decades, will they have anything to talk about? Turns out they’re ravenous to learn from one another, as we discovered at the recent Fortune Global Forum in San Francisco. The established companies must learn to be revolutionary, and the successful disrupters must learn how to keep winning for the long haul.
Leaders of the corporate old guard included J.P. Morgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon (JPM), Siemens’s Joe Kaeser, IBM’s Ginni Rometty (IBM), Wells Fargo’s John Stumpf (WFC), and many others. Among the Silicon Valley stars were Alphabet CEO Larry Page (GOOG), venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, and Yahoo chief Marissa Mayer (YHOO).
One powerful lesson that emerged is that even in the age of digital disruption, human capital is the most critical asset—and the most difficult to manage well—for all the leaders. The forum’s agenda is at FortuneConferences.com, and you can watch sessions at the Fortune magazine YouTube channel.
Best advice about disruption
Fifty percent of our business has changed in the last 10 years. The key to surviving is having an ownership culture… You have to get to people’s pride.
—Joe Kaeser, CEO, Siemens
Only a baby with a wet diaper likes change. Everyone else resists change.
—Mike Ullman, executive chairman, J.C. Penney (JCP)
Best demystification of a CEO’s role
Good executives confuse themselves when they convince themselves that they do things… Set a vision, listen to the team, and then get out of the way.
—Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, on why listening to employees is her most important job
Best pep talk
Don’t be so damned depressed. We have all become risk experts and are afraid of our own shadow at this point. Move on. The world is going to be fine.
—Jamie Dimon, CEO of J.P. Morgan Chase, arguing that CEOs remain too cautious in the wake of the financial crisis
Best description of startup culture
Burn the ships on the beach! Having to succeed is a great motivator vs. not wanting to fail.
—Geoff Yang, partner at Redpoint Ventures, on why startups have an edge over larger companies
We’re incredibly confident in the data that we’ve submitted to the [FDA].
—Elizabeth Holmes, founder and CEO of Theranos, responding to mounting criticism of her company’s blood-testing technology
Best call to arms
We’ve got to be more ambitious. We’ve got to do things that matter more to people. We’ve got to do fewer things that are zero-sum games, more things that really cause a lot of benefit.”
—Alphabet CEO Larry Page, on how a company’s sense of purpose can improve employee morale
A version of this article appears in the December 1, 2015 issue of Fortune with the headline “Where Disrupters Meet Aristocrats.”