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Tech CEOs outline how the pandemic will change the future of work

July 29, 2020, 9:38 AM UTC

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Good morning.

A quartet of top tech CEOs–HP’s Enrique Lores, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, Accenture’s Julie Sweet and Intel’s Bob Swan–met with members of the Fortune CEO Initiative yesterday to give their view of how the pandemic will change the future of work. All agreed the changes in store are huge. “We are in a point of time which is really going to be defining for our lifetimes,” Lores said. “The most unprecedented situation–a massive experiment at scale,” agreed Nadella. “The largest behavioral change at any one time in history,” said Sweet.

Yet they cautioned it’s too early to say precisely what those changes will be. The crisis has led to an “acceleration of the future,” said Swan. “But clarity of the future? Not so clear.”

A few takeaways:

–Collaboration has to be reinvented. “We are burning up a lot of social capital built up when people were working together,” Nadella said. How to rebuild that capital while people are apart is a challenge.

–The crisis has accelerated digital transformation but training must accelerate as well. “There will be real displacement in the workplace,” said Swan, and companies have a critical role to play in “addressing the disconnect.”

–Worker well-being needs more focus. “We can’t just measure productivity in the narrowest way,” said Nadella.

–And perhaps most importantly, the nature of leadership must evolve. “As leaders, we all have changed. We all have learned how important it is to lead with empathy and build a different level of trust with our employees,” said Lores. “How we build into this digital acceleration the opportunity to be more responsible businesses is absolutely critical,” said Sweet. “The role that purpose and social responsibility is going to play (must increase) as technology plays a bigger and bigger role,” said Swan.

More from the conversation here. Other news below.

Alan Murray


Kodak pivot

Thanks to a $765 million government loan under the Defense Production Act, Kodak is moving into drug production. The former film leader is going to make a bunch of generic drugs, such as the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine, to reduce the U.S.'s dependence on countries such as China and India. President Trump: "It’s a breakthrough in bringing pharmaceutical manufacturing back to the United States." Fujifilm made a similar pivot, and health care and material solutions now makes up 43% of that company's total revenues. Fortune

Moderna vaccine

Moderna has reported positive results in tests of its candidate coronavirus vaccine on monkeys. The company said two injections of the vaccine protected against heavy exposure to the virus, in both the upper and lower airways. Now stay tuned for the results of a much larger test, involving 30,000 humans, which should start producing data towards the end of the year. Bloomberg

Conspiracy theories

Twitter temporarily limited Donald Trump Jr.'s account after the president's son retweeted a conspiracy video alleging suppression of the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19. Meanwhile, Madonna is also being slammed after she shared, then deleted, then reposted the same video on Instagram. (If you've seen mention of the "America's Frontline Doctors" video, that's the one.) Fortune

Instagram vs. TikTok

Facebook's Instagram is reportedly trying to counter the rising popularity of TikTok by offering payments–as much as hundreds of thousands of dollars–to influential TikTok users, so as to tempt them over to Instagram's competing Reels service. Reels is apparently due for unveiling next month. Wall Street Journal


Green recovery

Former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Global Center on Adaptation CEO Patrick Verkooijen have written an op-ed for Fortune in which they argue for the U.S. to adopt green stimulus measures. "America desperately needs an overhaul of its infrastructure," they write. "President Trump’s announcement in March of a vast $2 trillion stimulus package was a step in the right direction, one that drew bipartisan support. But his refusal to acknowledge the critical importance of rebuilding for greater climate resilience risks wasting this once-in-a-lifetime sum." Fortune

Big Tech defense

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will today argue at a Capitol Hill antitrust hearing that reducing the power of U.S. Big Tech firms would favor the rise of Chinese competitors that do not share American values. "China is building its own version of the Internet focused on very different ideas, and they are exporting their vision to other countries," Zuckerberg will say. Fortune

Scott donations

MacKenzie Scott, the writer and former wife of Amazon boss Jeff Bezos–she announced her name change on Twitter yesterday–has donated $1.7 billion to charitable causes over the last year. The causes include racial, LGBTQ+ and gender equity, as well as democracy, public health, and the fight against climate change. Scott intends to give away at least half of her $35 billion fortune. Fortune

Coronavirus test

Coronavirus is testing the stakeholder-capitalism business model, writes CVS Health EVP Karen S. Lynch in a piece for Fortune: "We are facing an inflection point as business leaders. The role that businesses play in society was already expanding, but COVID-19 and the movement to address racial injustice have radically accelerated that transformation. The public expects and trusts us to do something about these historic challenges, and by seizing that opportunity, I am confident our collective action can drive real change." Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.