The Top 20 Business Transformations

Of the Last Decade

The T-20 study

Identifies the global companies that have achieved the highest-impact business transformations over the past decade

The strategic impulse to identify a higher-purpose mission that galvanizes the organization—is a common thread among the Transformation 20, a new study by Innosight of the world’s most transformative companies.

The T-20 study identified the global companies that have achieved the highest-impact business transformations over the past decade as measured by new growth, respositioning the core business, and financial performance.


Our research team screened all the firms in the S&P 500 and Global 2000 using three lenses:

  1. New growth: How successful has the company been at creating new products, services, new markets, and new business models? This includes our primary metric: the percentage of revenue outside the core that can be attributed to new growth areas.
  2. Repositioning the core: How effectively has the company adapted its traditional core business to changes or disruptions in its markets, giving its legacy business new life?
  3. Financials: Has the company posted strong financial and stock market performance, or has it turned around its business from losses or slow growth to get back on track? We looked at revenue CAGR (compound annual growth rate), profitability, and stock price CAGR during the transformation period, which was different for each firm

The 2019 Transformation Top 20 List

Up next are companies how they developed new-growth businesses outside its traditional core

Each of these companies developed new-growth businesses outside its traditional core which have become a significant share of the overall business.

However, we believe it’s the decision to infuse a higher purpose into the culture, one that guides strategic decisions and gives clarity to everyday tasks, that has propelled these companies to success.


Has largely divested its legacy lighting business to focus on healthcare technology.

AIA Group

Moved beyond insurance to become a wellness company


Refocusing the organization to help save the planet

In the early 2000s, when Douglas Baker Jr. became its CEO, Ecolab was an 80-year-old firm growing 10% annually by selling industrial cleansers and food safety services. “Our strategic plan was to sell more of what we had,” Baker says.

To grow much beyond its $3.8 billion in revenue, the company could have kept moving into adjacent markets or new geographies, but Baker felt that wasn’t bold enough.

The transformation began by talking to customers, Baker says. The same customers who were buying its core products were also voicing concerns about access to clean water.

“We broadened our vision and our purpose changed,” Baker says. “As our teams widened their awareness of global issues, our pride has been enhanced.” So has Ecolab’s market value, which has surpassed $55 billion, placing it among America’s top 100 most valuable firms.


Moved beyond a purpose of maximizing shareholder value to a mission of “serving society.”

This transformation began in 2014 with a plan called Vision 2020 that called for harnessing technologies such as AI and the Internet of Things.

However, changing the mission also called for changing the culture.

The biggest obstacle to any transformation is literally just the way we’ve always done things,” says Siemens USA CEO Barbara Humpton

Tencent Holdings

Tech for social good.

Only in subsequent years did founder and CEO Pony Ma Huateng broaden the firm’s outlook by embracing a mission of “improving the quality of human life through digital innovation.”

Since 2011, Tencent has invested heavily in new growth ranging from education and entertainment to autonomous vehicles and ride sharing to fintech and the industrial internet -- areas that together now represent 25% of its $46 revenue.

In 2019, Tencent refined its mission once again, in response to the growing global backlash against technology’s dominance in our lives, boiling it down to: tech for social good.


Performing mission impossible.
Divested its oil & natural gas businesses + began phasing out coal.

Such transformations are never easy. When the firm now known as Ørsted divested its oil and natural gas businesses and began phasing out coal, that created a giant earnings gap that urgently needed to be filled.

The company had invested in offshore wind power, but the technology was too expensive, producing energy that was more than double the price of onshore wind.

Under Poulsen, Ørsted embarked on what critics called an impossible mission: a systematic “cost-out” program to reduce the price of offshore wind while achieving scale.

The result: Previously about 80% owned by the Danish government, Ørsted’s IPO in 2016 was one the year’s largest.

The company managed to cut the cost by more than 60% while building three major new ocean-based wind farms in the U.K. and acquiring a leading company in the U.S.


A commitment to move from just distributing content digitally to become a leading producer.

In 2013, CEO Reed Hastings released an 11-page memo to employees and investors detailing a commitment to move from just distributing content digitally to become a leading producer of original content that could win Emmys and Oscars.

As the memo said, “We don’t and can’t compete on breadth with Comcast, Sky, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Sony, or Google. For us to be hugely successful we have to be a focused passion brand. Starbucks, not 7-Eleven. Southwest, not United. HBO, not Dish.”

Since unveiling that new purpose, Netflix revenue has roughly tripled, its profits have multiplied 32-fold, and its stock CAGR has increased 57% annually, versus 11% for the S&P 500.


At HBR, we believe that a well-designed index can provide useful insights, even though by definition it is a snapshot of a bigger picture. We always urge you to read the methodology carefully.

Scott D. Anthony
A senior partner of the growth strategy consulting firm Innosight and co-author of Eat, Sleep, Innovate.

Alasdair Trotter
Partner at Innosight based in California who collaborates with senior leaders on digital transformation.

Evan I. Schwartz
A writer focused on innovation and leadership, is Innosight’s former Director of Storytelling.

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