Expert View: 'Whenever You Talk About Risk, Remember To Talk About Opportunities'

We spoke to David Cope, Director of Strategy & External Affairs at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew


Ahead of his presentation at the Chief Strategy Officer Summit in London this April 25&26, we spoke to David Cope, Director of Strategy & External Affairs, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

David is responsible for Kew’s corporate strategy, planning and performance, building Kew’s external reputation and relationships across all our stakeholders, and ensuring the effective governance of Kew. David joined Kew after eight years of working in a variety of change management, strategy, analysis, performance improvement, and policy roles in central government. David trained as a biologist, so he brings his passion for science and conservation along with his developed knowledge of strategy formulation and implementation, and his understanding of the workings of the government, in order to support Kew in achieving its potential to make an even greater, positive impact in the world.

What are the main elements of a successful business strategy?

Clarity of vision and purpose, alongside a thorough understanding of your distinctive strengths (and weaknesses), in comparison to others. Great communication and an ability to engage staff and stakeholders so that everyone wants to come on your journey with you. I believe the best strategy is a simple one in a complex world.

What can companies do to adjust to the new climate of the global political and economic uncertainty?

Stop, look, and listen on a regular basis. Pay attention to how the world is changing and be prepared to be agile and change with it. When the world is changing rapidly, customers and stakeholders may improve their loyalty to a strong brand that is clearly keeping true to itself and yet, demonstrably responding and reacting to those changes in a positive manner.

Would it be right to say that risk management initiatives can kill innovation? Why?

Sometimes! There is always a balance to be struck, it is useful to be clear about what parts of the business should experiment with innovation and which parts need to be more conservative. State the risks, so you always take them consciously, and whenever you talk about risk, remember to talk about opportunities.

How do you ensure your long term plans are reactive to disruption?

Very tricky, once you’ve made a major investment it is hard to change plans. A good strategy will always balance the long term and immobile, from the shorter term and flexible. Ensuring a portfolio approach that is alive to the level of change in your sector, and being prepared to reverse out of decisions when needed is crucial. Be brave, though, if you don’t ever commit to the long term, you’ll never move forward.

What will you be discussing in your presentation at the Chief Strategy Officer Summit?

I will be telling the story of Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. We’ve existed for over 250 years, but over the past decade, many commentators have been telling us that we have lost our way and our relevance. In order to secure our future for the coming 250 years, we created a five-year strategy to turn around our financial performance, orient ourselves towards being as impactful and relevant as possible, and to bring staff, customers, and stakeholders with us on that journey.

You can hear from David and other industry leaders at the Chief Strategy Officer Summit, taking place in London this April 25&26.

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