This November, Nina Powell joined Xynteo as senior partner and will drive our work within our Planet-Positive Growth and Leadership and Culture studios.
Nina brings over 25 years of experience, working at ?What If!, most recently as Managing Director and European Innovation Portfolio lead following the company’s acquisition by Accenture.
She has worked across industries including energy, natural resources, FMCG, financial services, healthcare, travel and media, and set up the ?What If! US business, building and scaling it to the same size as the UK business. Returning back to the UK, she started working with senior leaders to help them create both the business models, teams and cultures needed to support their growth ambitions. She worked with a range of businesses and global brands on purposeful, sustainable and scalable impact, which led to her specialism in commercial growth and human change, helping clients pioneer new growth in emerging spaces.
“I’m passionate about decarbonising our world and believe that any future innovation has to be inherently sustainable. To do that we must take a systems approach, which is in the DNA of how Xynteo operates”, shared Nina. “I see very few businesses better placed to help clients innovate in these new ways, which is why I am thrilled to have joined Xynteo.”
As she joined our London office, we sat down with her to learn about how she views innovation as a driver for good growth, her take on COP27 and what reinventing growth really means to her.
You bring over 25 years of experience in innovation. How do you think we can use the power of innovation to meet the global challenges we’re facing, such as the climate crisis?
Innovation is of course critical to how we solve the crisis. Technology, new business models and human behavioural change are all needed. Not just the solutions themselves, but the means to scale and derive value from them.
How we innovate though, needs to change in a number of ways. Not just in the products and new business models, but also within organisations themselves. The challenges the world is facing cannot be solved within normal industry or market dynamics. Companies need to collaborate within and across industries. This demands value being shared across value chains and requires new forms of leadership to create permeable organisations and new business models that prioritise ecosystem outcomes. This is one of the many reasons I’m so excited to join Xynteo.
Collaboration and systems thinking is at the heart of what we do; bringing clients from across industries and value chains to tackle systemic challenges. Be that plastics circularity, decarbonising the construction sector, incubating new collaborative ventures or helping leaders create sustainable partnerships.
COP27 just wrapped up. What was the main takeaway that will inspire or motivate you as we move into a new year?
Whilst there is clearly a long way to go, one of the wins from this year’s COP was the establishment of the Loss and Damage fund. It’s a clear recognition of the need for inclusive growth; developed countries cannot operate in isolation of their wider impact and developing nations must not pay the price for others economic development nor be hindered from their own sustainable development. However, yet again we’re lacking specificity. On whom this is coming from, when and how much. In other areas such as fossil fuel emissions, there was a lack of progress and it re-emphasises the need to focus on implementation.
We need to do the hard work to move from pledges and promises to tangible action and detailed plans. This demands we not only invent new solutions but find the means to incubate and scale them, across markets and geographies. It demands investment in human behavioural change. Finding meaningful ways to enable citizens to adopt new habits that benefit themselves and the planet. Projects spun out of Xynteo’s Vikaasa partnership, such as Waste no More is a great example of this.
What does reinventing growth mean to you?
For me, it’s about growth being purposeful, scalable and sustainable. It’s about creating growth that delivers more than profit, is of a scale to deliver positive impact in the world and not only doesn’t harm but actively benefits people and planet.
It isn’t just because it’s the right thing to do but also because it makes sounds commercial sense. Increasingly consumers and employees alike won’t accept businesses and brands that aren’t aligned to these shared values, driving new customer and consumer needs and creating new business opportunities. There are also new emergent markets to be established that provide new opportunities for sustainable growth - better kinds of growth.
Can you tell us about the journey that led you to Xynteo?
My entire career has been in innovation, but 25 years ago it was a nascent industry and it wasn’t something you really did as a career - in fact, my time at ?What If! was meant to be a summer job whilst I got a proper job in advertising! Fast forward 25 years and not only have I had the most amazing experiences with ?What If!, but the innovation industry itself has matured. Clients have developed very strong internal capabilities and now we are tasked with helping them tackle their biggest challenges.
When ?What If! became part of Accenture I was able to deepen my work in the energy transition, looking at things like how to enable the growth of e-mobility for example. I was also working in emerging new places that demanded cross industry collaboration and saw how hard it is for organisations to come together and tackle bigger, cross-sector challenges.
When it was time to make my next move, I wanted to work somewhere that truly delivered positive impact for clients and the world. The combination of Xynteo’s unique ability to convene senior leaders and businesses around the big questions we face today, and its focus on people and planet-positive growth made it the perfect next place.
What has motivated and inspired you in your life?
I’ve been privileged to work with some amazing clients on some incredible challenges and love helping create future-fit businesses, full of inspired people who believe in the potential of both themselves and their business to have positive impact in the world.
I’ve also been fortunate to travel widely, and I love spending time outdoors. Be that walking my dog in the woods, camping in the desert or hiking in the Himalayas, I love being connected to our environment. This is a big driver for me. I’ve been lucky enough to experience incredible places, visit remote communities and see wild animals in their natural habitats – and also increasingly the impact our actions have on those places and ecosystems. This is why I am so passionate about decarbonisation and planet-positive growth.
At the same time, I believe it’s important that people get to experience these things so they can appreciate the need to protect them. So, finding new ways to travel without harm and to deliver positive community impact through things like sustainable aviation fuels, sustainable tourism and community-based business models is fundamental. We need to reinvent growth.
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