By Alan Murray and David Meyer
September 26, 2018

Good morning.

Box CEO Aaron Levie was on stage at Fortune Brainstorm Reinvent yesterday, talking about the course he’s been teaching at Stanford called The Industrialist’s Dilemma, which looks at the disruption of legacy industries. When he started the course four years ago, he “thought startups would take over every industry”—just as Uber disrupted taxis and Airbnb hotels. “But the biggest trend we are seeing now is incumbents who are better using digital to better serve their customers.” Turns out, if incumbent companies get smart about technology quickly enough, they can fend off the digital natives.

That, of course, is the point of Brainstorm Reinvent—helping traditional companies win the battle for the future. But it’s no easy task. I interviewed United Technologies CEO Greg Hayes about his efforts to reinvent the industrial conglomerate he runs. “Companies don’t innovate; people do,” he told me. “And to get them to innovate, you have to allow them to take risks.” But that’s a hard thing to do at a company that engineers industrial products. You don’t want your elevator to fail fast, or your jet engine to be a minimum viable product. Still, Hayes feels he has made progress. “The only way to succeed is to innovate every day. Push the curve. It’s ok to fail, to take a chance, as long as it is thoughtfully.”

By the way, it sounds like United Technologies won’t be a conglomerate for long. It plans to complete its $30 billion purchase of Rockwell Collins this month, doubling down on aviation. And Hayes strongly hinted the company will divest the elevator and HVAC businesses soon after that. “This is the question the board has had and many investors have had: Will these businesses be better as a part of United Technologies as a conglomerate, or better as standalone, focused business?…My view is: Focus ultimately leads to success.”

More on Brainstorm Reinvent here. Also out this morning—Fortune’s Most Powerful Women International list, with GlaxoSmithKline CEO Emma Walmsley taking top honors. Erika Fry and Claire Zillman capture the CEO in their story here, as she works to temper her company’s do-good image with a new sense of discipline and rigor.

Other news below. And take time today to read Beth Kowitt’s piece about how Walmart International CEO Judith McKenna is placing big bets on the future of retail.

Alan Murray


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