Macroeconomic Insights and CSO Career Paths: Outthinker Networks’ Strategy Roundtable in New York


On June 12, 20 chief strategy officers (CSOs) and innovation executives convened for a roundtable in New York City. The event, hosted by Heidrick & Struggles in the iconic One Vanderbilt building, brought together peers leading strategy and innovation across organizations and industries.

One Vanderbilt, a sleek and stunning skyscraper in the heart of Manhattan, provided a fitting backdrop for the gathering. With its modern architecture and panoramic views of the city skyline, the building embodies the spirit of innovation and forward-thinking that permeated the roundtable discussions.

Macroeconomic Insights for Strategic Advantage with Pierre Yared 


The day kicked off with a conversation on leveraging macroeconomic insights for strategic advantage, led by Pierre Yared, MUTB Professor of International Business and Vice Dean for Executive Education at Columbia Business School. Yared prompted members by asking, “If you had a crystal ball to tell you the future of the global macroeconomy, what would you ask? And how would the answer change your employer’s strategy?”

The resulting discussion landed on three major macroeconomic trends and risks that present significant challenges and opportunities for companies. They are:

  1. Talent: The rise of AI and remote work is changing talent strategies, with some companies putting less emphasis on hiring entry-level technologists and more on hiring experienced, senior talent. Companies will need to adapt to a world where people prefer freelancing and remote work.
    • Strategic question: What is the implication for the future of senior talent without the pipeline of junior talent?  
  2. Interest rates and inflation: Long-term interest rates are expected to remain high, and more volatile inflation is challenging long-term planning. Wage inflation is a global issue, and businesses will need to increase productivity per worker to keep up.
    • CSO observation: There is a correlation between higher interest rates and mergers and acquisitions (M&A). Deals get slowed down significantly when interest rates soar. 
  3. Deglobalization and trade: Trade as a percentage of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has stalled. Rising tariffs, industrial policies, and geopolitical risks are driving this change. Companies are focusing on supply chain resilience and efficiency, putting a higher premium on short supply chains. We’re likely to see countries in blocs trading with each other.
    • CSO observation: Supply chains are now about plug-and-play. How quickly can we replace a part if something goes wrong? 

In addition to Yared’s research and insights on macroeconomic trends, members added their experiences and perspectives on how organizations can strategically respond.


CSO Career Pathways with Heidrick & Struggles

Following the macroeconomic trends discussion, Heidrick & Struggles’ Elmer Velasquez (Managing Partner, Global Strategic Accounts/Partner, Global Technology & Services Practice) and Sandra Pinnavaia (Partner & Global Head, On-Demand Talent Strategy & Innovation) shared fascinating insights from their tracking study of 100 CSO executive placements over the last 10 years. The analysis focused on identifying the most pivotal competencies organizations look for, the profile patterns in selected executives, and the subsequent pathways for CSOs.


Key findings revealed that these were the five most in-demand competencies in a CSO:

  1. Industry knowledge (was required for 56% of the roles, but the other 44% were open to or looking for talent outside the industry)
  2. Stakeholder management
  3. Team leadership
  4. Enterprise strategy and planning experience
  5. Management consulting experience (about one-third of CSOs studied were former strategy consultants)

From a diversity lens, about 30% of the CSOs were ethnically diverse and 20% were women executives. At Outthinker Networks, we proactively advocate for greater diversity and women representation into this leadership role (we had more than 20% women executives in attendance that day in New York, in fact!). For recommendations on increasing diversity on your strategy teams, listen to our podcast episode on how to recruit and build a diverse strategy team.

Overall, the data showed that the CSO role can be a transition to other business leadership roles with about half of strategy officers moving on to other positions such as Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Head of Sales and Marketing, or Chief Innovation Officer.


Pinnavaia discussed the rising global trend of “on-demand talent,” or freelance executives. She revealed that, currently, 45% of American workers are freelancers, with high-end professionals as the fastest-growing segment.

This presents an opportunity for companies to supplement their teams and be more dynamic in navigating the challenges of a rapidly changing business landscape. It also opens options to strategy and innovation leaders navigating career transitions.

Strategy and Innovation Challenge Forums 

The roundtable concluded with a rapid-fire round of members sharing their most pressing strategy and innovation challenges, and peers providing their perspectives and recommendations. Topics included leading through influence, branding oneself as a CSO who can execute and operate, and fostering innovation in a short-term focused environment.


Connecting and Collaborating for Strategic Success 

Throughout the day, participants shared experiences and advice for their peers in overcoming common challenges. Yared’s, Velasquez’s, and Pinnavaia’s insights kept members on top of developing trends in macroeconomics, geopolitics, talent, and the future role of the strategy officer. As their organizations navigate a rapidly evolving world, Outthinker Networks members tap into a community of peer experts for networking, growth, and strategic success.

Our next in-person event will take place on September 24, 2024, in Dallas, Texas hosted by Sidley Austin. Click here for more information on becoming a member.

Header image courtesy of NYC Tourism

Outthinker Networks is a global peer group of heads of strategy, innovation, and transformation at $1B+ companies who are determined to move their organizations to the next level. Members engage in curated learning, practical conversations, and networking opportunities to be more successful in performing their roles, solving their top challenges, and keeping their organizations ahead of the pace of disruption.


Kaihan Krippendorff
Kaihan KrippendorffFounder & CEO - Outthinker Networks
Read More
Cori Dombroski
Cori DombroskiContent Director - Outthinker Networks
Read More