Soul & Science
Soul & Science

Season 1, Episode · 5 months ago

S1 Episode 7: World 50 CEO David Wilkie | The Power of Peer Communities

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

World 50 CEO David Wilkie joins the pod this week to share insights on his exclusive company, discuss the power of peer networks, and how alignment of purpose, trust, curiosity, and diversity of thought promote growth. 

As CEO of World 50, David is responsible for the strategic direction, growth and development of the company. David joined the company 17 years ago, and has been CEO of World 50 for the last 11 years.

Founded in 2004, World 50 consists of private peer communities that enable board directors, CEOs and C-level executives at globally respected organizations to discover better ideas, share valuable experiences and build relationships that make a lasting impact. The executive network has grown to incorporate G100, a peer learning, development and networking community for the world’s top-performing companies and their leaders. Working with more than 3,000 leaders globally, World 50 serves more than 1,100 companies across more than 30 countries on six continents. 

Prior to joining World 50, Wilkie held several roles at Hess Corporation, including president of Hess Microgen and vice president of marketing and business development. He earned his Master in Management from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Florida. 

Brought to you by Mekanism

I always wondered if marketing lives in the heart or in the head. Should you trust your instinct or your integers? Often the answers both, but should you lead with one more than the other? So bring your heart and your head and join us in the conversation. This week I'm joined by David Wilkie, CEO of world fifty. As CEO of world fifty, David's responsible for the Strategic Direction, growth and development of the company. David joined the company seventeen years ago and has been CEO for the last eleven. Founded in two thousand and four, world fifty consists a private peer communities that enable board directors, CEOS and sea level executives at globally respected organizations to discover better ideas, share valuable experiences and build lasting relationships to make an impact. The executive network has grown to incorporate g one hundred, a peer learning, development and networking community for the world's top performing companies in their leaders, working with more than threezero leaders. Globally, world fifty serves more than one hundred companies across more than thirty countries on six continents. Prior to joining World Fifty, Wilkey held several roles at Hesse Corporation, including President of Hesse microgen and Vice President of marketing and business development. He earned his master in management from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and his yes and electrical engineering from the University of Florida. We are pleased to have David with us. I consider him a friend and almost a mentor in a way. David, I always reach out to David whenever I have a question about business because he's seen so much action. When you think about three thou leaders globally, he's definitely learned a few things that not all of us know. So let's dive right in. Today's episode theme is the power of Peer Communities, the importance of building tight knit peer networks, which is really what world fifty is all about. So, David, let's kick it off. Did you think you would end up where you are today? What did you think, as the David and school that you would do for a career? Jason, it's great to be with you and your audience. Thank you for inviting me. You've been an inspiration to me over the years, so feeling is mutual. I'm not a person who plotted out my career moves. I was a person who just try to do the best work I could in whatever I was doing and you know, I had the good fortune, I guess, if opportunities came my way, and more often than not they were, they were good opportunities and you know, I guess I seized some of them. That sort of lent to the career journey I've been on. But no, I did not think that. I mean I I was, you know, I was on a marketing journey really and really love just being sort of in a role that was, you know,...

...customer centric and trying to be that bridge between what the company was doing and it's customers, so that I thought that would probably be my career path. I probably, you know, I felt I probably become a CMO and and go down that path, but fortune offered me a turn of directions and here I am at world fifty. You took the opportunity. You've been there seventeen years, so the opportunity obviously paid off because as a curious person, you're always you would always naturally be thinking about what's next. Yeah, you seem to have found your niche and stuck with it, because it's must be incredibly rewarding and you're almost like caught. You're running a company but your kind of constantly learning at the same time. Yeah, I mean I should be one of the best leaders in the world because I spend my time listening to and talking too many of the best leaders in the world. You know, both of us know it's not so easy to plage your eye great leaders and be one yourself. So that's an ongoing, ongoing personal journey that I'm on. But yeah, I I sort of have tow paths of curiosity. One is in my role as CEO and trying to figure out how to, you know, build a company that thrives both for our clients and equally, if not more so, for our associates. That's my one path of curiosity is how do I do that? And then the work that we do helping our clients, I get to participate in and, Jason, you and I have, you know, been in many of those programs together. So you know, you know, just learning from some of the best minds in the world on any given topic, not just business but in some cases way outside of business, and just, you know, filling notebooks with notes and ideas and stuff that stretch your mind, and you know that's just a great experience to have. If I if you, you're in a cocktail party and someone's like, Oh, you're the CEO of w fifty. What? What's Your Elevator Pitch? It's really you know, it's funny you mention this because it is hard to explain and you find yourself if you're going to go. We had this internal meeting one time where we wanted to give everyone in the company an easy way to explain it. So we did a little internal contest and the brief was you're going to go to a wedding and you're going to have to say what world fifty is fifty times and you need an easy answer to that question so you don't spend your whole time at the wedding explaining the company and the ants. The winner was we put executives in groups so they can learn from each other really short and sweet. So that's really the nutshell of it. You know, our product is also our customers. There synonymous. So we call the members, so that the executives are members, but really they join not for us, where the facilitators. They joined to learn from each other. And if you're in you know a demanding role, which I'm sure...

...most of your listeners are in companies, where there's a lot at stake and you're trying to make decisions and the consequences of those decisions can be or can have high, you know, high gravity, either for you or if your company, if your team, or if your clients. You know, we just believe the best way to sort of get ideas and vet your ideas is through conversations with people who have the same stakes but in a different company, seeing the world differently than you do. Brings diversity of thought to your decisions, so that that's, in a nutshow what it's all about. I think I've been a member, maybe maybe approaching a decade actually, I think. Think that's righteous, which been a while. So I remember when I first I was so, so excited about it and I had to show I'd explain it to my cfo so they could pay the membership dues. HMM, and I sent a website that had nothing, on it, yeah, except it was it was exclusive by nature, on purpose. Yeah, and then subsequently I asked someone for some member lists and paperwork and stuff like that. Right, but how do you, and I even even thinking about like Oh, David would be great on this podcast, but I'll probably say no because you know, it's under the radar. Why do you think the exclusive nature and and sort of under the radar profile does for or your brand? I think there's two perspectives on it. The first is in this you know, kind of goes to your opening introduction on, you know, building the power of a community. Trust is an imperative in having a high quality community. You have to have trust and trust has to be a two way street. So if, Jason, you've got something you're looking for ideas on, you have to trust that you know that I'm going to give you. Have to have trust to me to share deeply what your challenge is, because I could use it to you know, I could use it against you in the market place if you shared something you're really trying to work on to so you got to trust me and then likewise, I have to trust you because I might have this amazing idea that I really kind of don't want to share, and so I have to have the reciprocal trust. So for us, for will fifty and our clients, our clients, need to have a high degree of trust and most of that trust or a lot of that trust has built on privacy or confidentiality or candor chadamouse rules or all those different versions of that language. And so for us, you know, we don't splash our clients on our website. We don't, you know, proclaim a lot about what we do because we believe the our members want it to be all about creating that privacy. So that's that's, I think, you know, kind of a point. First Point. The second point is, you know, there were times when we thought about having this amazing being kind of web experience for our members...

...and the gentleman who runs our membership development, so the person who vets new members and gets new members on boarded and our community always know I don't want the website to change and I always thought, well, your job would be so much easier if if people had it on the web and they could understand it and maybe wouldn't have as many questions for you and so forth. Because now, because you know the truth of it is, the the fact that it's kind of hard to understand or it seems a little bit under the radar makes people more curious about it. They lean into they like, I've never heard about this. I want to learn. And it comes back to again the curiosity word, which is, if you paint the whole picture of it, you know, maybe you've lost an opportunity to have a good conversation with somebody who would have, you know, employed their own curiosity to learn more. So it's lent itself in an unexpected way, if you will, in that regard. And do you have okay, so I got your part of its protecting members. That exclusively nature, and then the curiosity, because people are like wow, what is this, and do you all? Does that also apply to if you have a summit and you you want to have a guest speaker come, there's that is that apply to the amazing and I don't know you can name some of the best speakers you've had, but it's always a US of who you guys get for your summits. How do you how do you get them? And to say yes, I'm going to come speak to this group. So many times, and I mentioned, you know, sometimes way outside of business. Many Times the folks were asking to come participate in those conversations and it's very much to spark a conversation, not to present to the communities, you know, but to lead those conversations or be part of those conversations. Are people who aren't really accustomed to doing that kind of thing. They're not really quote unquote speakers. Sometimes they don't understand at all why we've asked them to do it. They tell us, no, I don't do public speaking, I don't do that sort of thing, and we say no, no, we're we're asking you a different thing. We're asking you to jump into a room with, you know, fifty executives who have these kinds of roles and have a conversation on this subject that you just happen to be one of the smartest persons in the world on. In our format, is just going to be conversation. You're not you don't bring any slides or anything. You just were just going to talk and you can ask questions of them. They're going to ask questions you. We just want to have a conversation around this topic and what that is permitted us to do is get people to come into those kinds of, you know, conversations that just never would otherwise. Few years ago, we kept hearing from our from our members, this, you know try. They wanted to make faster decisions and a colleague of mine happened on the idea of trauma teams and then took it one...

...step further and thought no, no, not trauma teams, pediatric trauma teams. Long Story Short, they came. They gave unbelievable insights into how they go about making these decisions and how they practice, how they practice in between actual, you know, episodes, so that they get better in real time when the stakes count. And so that's a good example of looking outside where you would expect. You know, you don't go fight figure out how to make faster decisions as a company by just trying to find companies who make fast decisions. I mean you could do that, but we think going further field is is more insightful, right. Yeah, you get way more insight thinking about it differently than somebody that's in your industry and your business. Your you and your team have grown world fifty quite a bit in the past eleven years. Do you have like rules that you go by that that you found, as you know, by trial and error, the best ways to do that? Yeah, and no. I'll give you one of my favorites. So one of the things I like to do whenever I'm meeting leaders for the first time is to ask them the question like what's Your Management Hack? But what's your leadership hack? Everybody has a great answer to that question. In fact, probably the mistake I've made is not carrying a notebook around than just logging only the answers to those questions. But one time a CEO gaming. The answer said micromanage, and I said and he looked at me and I because you could say I was looking at him uite puzzled, because I know, I know, everyone tells you don't micromanage, but micro manches terribly goes. Well. Here's the real truth of it is eighty percent of your business, of any business, has to be good, but twenty percent of it has to be unbelievably good. It has to be the part that differentiates you from everyone else in the market place. Your job is CEO, is to know what that twenty percent is and then to micromanagement. He said, don't not really micromanage it, but that's where you need to spend your time and energies on that twenty percent. That makes a big difference. And so for me I've really thought about that and you know, in in world fifty it's the product experience or the member experience. So I spend a disproportionate amount of my time on the experience that you, Jason is, as a member over the years, have experienced. I viewed that is the most critical part of what we do. So I think for any business, whether you're in the community business like we are, any other businesses, like know the twenty percent, it drives the most value and most differentiation for your work or for your company, and devote a disproportionate amount of your energy there. I love that one. How do you keep it fresh? Like, how do you always keep it fresh and not have it be like wow, that's summit was similar to the last one and I didn't get a lot from it. So, yeah, you how do you keep totally you've totally you totally have the insight and...

...which is why I spend so much for my time on the on the experiences, as I was just saying. But you've nailed it on the keep it fresh. Years ago we did we had a third party do interviews of members and that was like the number one thing and we got, you know, some of them were quoted, which I re quote it many times. You know, I thought it'd be a you know, I'd be a member for a few years and then you'd kind of get you know, you would start to feel the same and then I would you know, then I depart. But I've stayed a member for year after year after year because they keep it fresh, they keep changing it, you know, we so for us we have this term make vas has break vases. So you build something and you can enjoy it for a moment and then you take that base, you smash it on the ground and you start over with the new base. And so we just don't rest on our laurels. We just can't repeat stuff. You always have to look for the new idea. We have this term stay ahead. We like to tell our clients were in the business of helping them stay ahead. The only way we can help them stay ahead as if we are at so we have to be ahead of them, helping them look around corners, using that curiosity that I described. And then, you know, every time we build a beautiful Ming Vas, we celebrate it and we smash it on the floor and we go build another one. You've done a good job explaining the soul. What do you think the science or the Dad a part is we are big on the data. So we have a term that we like to use, artisanal a scale. So we want your experience, Jason, to feel handcrafted, like it's built just for you, and in many respects it is. You know, you've got, you know, someone on on the world fifty team who's always thinking about your interests and will handcraft the the membership to you. But to do that for threezero members, you have to have systems. So we, you know, we capture a lot of a lot of data on what our members care about and what topics are interested in and things of that nature, and we're always looking to use that to their benefit. So if they're interested in a certain topic, we want to be able to direct them to places they can get ideas for insights on that. Or many times, and you know this is part of being a member, is will connect you with other executives who are working on something that's, you know, like what you're working on. Maybe there's six months ahead of you and they've just broken through the ice a little further than you and they can share those experiences and in provide a shortcutter to that means we have to know who those executives are. So the I think the short answer to your question is just knowledge, just having knowledge. You know that's you know it. Knowledge gives you power and a customer service business and you see it in all the best brands that we frequent in our own lives. When they know you and they can handcraft it to your preferences, you enjoy the experience much better. How how do you think communities are going to change in the future?...

HMM, when we talk about Peer Communities, I think you have to a lot of it. But do you, you know, always thinking like one step ahead? How do you think of the future? Might might change communities? I think a big influence on the future of communities is Amazon and the reviews on Amazon. So if you're buying a vacuum cleaner or a new electronic gadget for your home or, you know, gas can for your boat and you're on Amazon, you're reading the reviews and you're reading through those reviews to try to get, you know, insights on that, on that product that you're about to purchase, I think that that is going to can increasingly permeate the business world. I love that. I love because it ties into sort of how I wanted to wrap it up, which was there's there's events and there's large communities and there's learning that you can get a lot of different places, but tighter knit peer networks. That's different and and that is a it's just a it's a different connection. It's more intimate, it seems like that. That's why you guys have done so well, I think, and I think that is sort of the future of of networking. In a way, is done much more intimately than at large scale, and I think it's similar to, you know, the rise of influencers and marketing and Amazon reviews, and it's really that mere to peer, those five friends giving you advice is worth a lot more weight in gold than, you know, finding your information elsewhere. It is. It's that's the thing is you're going to have a small groups of people you're can rely on and different groups for different things. You know, the folks I call on for vacation advice are going to be very different than folks I call on, you know, for some purchase, you know big corporate purchase decision that I'm making. But See, I'm still using the same the same mechanism. It all comes down to that. Where we started off the conversation, which is who do you trust? Whose advice you know, who's battle tested on the kind of, you know, advice you're looking for, and that's that's always going to give you the best insights. That's awesome. All right. So I have a couple questions for David, David the person, not David the CEO. What are some of your books or movies that made you who you are today? It's a good question. I'll cite one of my favorite authors. I guess she's a little bit of a role model because I just think the world of her, and also her book is tours current Goodwin team of rivals, which is one of the best business books ever written. And it's not a business book. It's a you know, story of Lincoln's presidency, in particularly how he built his...

...cabinet among using his, you know, his people who were his rivals in the political landscape, even including people would run against him as president, and it basically all came down to, you know, the making better decisions. You know, and we you in today's Day, you want you know this. This notion of the value of diversity is really what you're chasing, is cognitive diversity. Mean, there's lots of other reasons for inclusion and diversity, but in a business decision making sense, you want diversity of thought and diversity of perspective for making better decisions, and Lincoln was, you know, was the one of the best. It is as a president, of gathering that input from people who thought very differently than him and using it to make some of the biggest decisions in the United States history. So if you haven't read it, go read team of rivals. And Doris is one of the most beautiful persons in the world. It's also I love that. I wish we it's interesting how far we've come from diversity of thought in the political landscape today. Yeah, do you have a favorite quote that you are a mantra or something that you always think about? You gave us the vases one for the business. Do you have a personal sort of mantra or quote that you always go back to? I've got a favorite word, all right, seems the word, and the word is essence, and a mentor of mine gave me a definition of it. May Not be the webster definition of it, but this is the definition I use. So for essence, that without which that which is is not and if you think about it for a moment. It's only way to describe essence is that if I remove it, you now recognize it by its absence. So what is Jason's essence? What's the essence of mechanism? What's the essence of you know anything, you don't really know it until you examine that thing without it and then you like, oh, that's the essence. The essence of pure communities, which I think we all learned here, is really they're built on trust, curiosity, alignment of purpose, focusing on the member, experience and then break. Build a vase and then break it. Always keep it fresh, because it's very hard to build these communities and it's even harder to keep these communities going. So, yeah, very great learning here. Jason. You have a part time job with US helping facilitate our conversations after this interview and be careful. Great, we're going to ask you to do next. Thank you, you know. Thank you to your audience for listening. Thank you for the invitation. You know, I'm a big fan of you. I think the work mechanism does is, you know, really the difference maker in the world. So congrats, Julian.

Some like your success. Well, thank you, and this was great and I'm glad we could learn a little bit about the elusive world fifty. This was great conversation, so thanks for being on, thanks so much for listening to so in science and we'll see you next week. So in sciences a mechanism podcast produced by the amazing Frank Risco, Ryan Tillotson, Tyler Nielsen, Emma Swanson and Sophie Moround, with the music by Kyle Mary. I'm your host, Jason Harris.

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