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Good morning from New York, where I’m attending Fortune’s first CEO Initiative, which I’ll tell you about below.
I’ve written repeatedly about the quest by corporations everywhere to transform themselves digitally. Michal Lev-Ram has a fascinating piece in the current issue of Fortune about Mattel’s (MAT) efforts to do just that under its digitally savvy new CEO Margo Georgiadis, who joined the toymaker by way of Google (GOOGL).
What I love about this story is that nothing about Mattel’s planned reinvention is straightforward. The company’s products are a bunch of exceedingly old brands, like Barbie and Hot Wheels. Though sales have stalled, those workhorses still perform exceedingly well for Mattel. And it’s not even clear tech toys are what’s called for. Kids and their parents tend to love the old stuff—even though Georgiadis and her colleagues get the need to go digital.
And they’re going to try. Georgiadis orchestrated the deconstruction of a Barbie Dream House to show how poor the existing internal technology was. Some of her ideas for adding to it are a bit creepy. But they might help spruce up an aged franchise.
At our China dinner last week in San Francisco, a recurring theme around innovation was that China’s size and relatively new modern infrastructure is a huge advantage. As an example, payment systems like Alipay represent a “beyond credit cards” moment that is difficult for Westerners to appreciate. McKinsey’s Jonathan Woetzel, who appeared on our dinner panel, sent me this amusing anecdote from a colleague of his: “I went to Bangkok last week and bought some instant noodles from a convenient store located at a well-developed area. But they refused to take my credit card because I didn’t meet the minimum threshold. Then, magically, I saw the Alipay sign at the counter and they happily accepted my Alipay.”
This is progress.
Finally, Fortune will spend an entire day discussing, celebrating and learning how businesses can be a force for good, not merely by being charitable, but through their normal business operations. Leaders including JPMorganChase’s (JPM) Jamie Dimon, Allstate’s (ALL) Tom Wilson, PepsiCo’s (PEP) Indra Nooyi and many others will share their thoughts. We’ll conclude the day by hearing from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. There’ll be a livestream at Fortune.com, and you can view the agenda here.