TPT welcomes Hans Vestberg as new advisory board chair

We are delighted to announce that Hans Vestberg, chairman and CEO of Verizon Communications, will become the chairman of The Performance Theatre’s (TPT) advisory board this year. Osvald Bjelland, who founded The Performance Theatre in 2000, caught up with Hans and Rick Haythornthwaite, who served as the TPT Chairman from 2015 to 2020, about the Theatre’s mission and relevance in our society.

Osvald Bjelland: It has been 20 years since our first humble gathering in Bergen, Norway in 2000 and I’m thrilled with what The Performance Theatre has achieved since. I am profoundly grateful to Rick Haythornthwaite, who has served as our advisory board’s chairman since 2015, for his guidance, generosity of spirit and for all the creative solutions over the years to keep us relevant and true to our mission. In his five years in this role, Rick has challenged us to listen deeply, expand our imaginations, and have the conversations that matter most.

I am also delighted to welcome Hans Vestberg, chairman and CEO of Verizon, who this year takes the reins from Rick as our next advisory board chairman. Hans joins us at a challenging time, with a global pandemic preventing our community from gathering as usual this June. At the same time, this crisis has made the need for a new social contract all the more urgent – a topic I know is close to Hans’s heart.

Rick, Hans, I had founded The Performance Theatre 20 years ago with one simple idea: that critical debate and thought-provoking conversations are of enormous value, and that the world is a poorer and more dangerous place without them. How relevant is that vision as we cross our 20th year?

Rick Haythornthwaite: TPT’s focus on thinking about new types of growth and leadership was a timely intervention, and we’re seeing the results now in our close-knit community. You were ahead of the game in recognising that change starts at the grassroots level and businesses need to work with local communities to gather information, insight and shape those into action. TPT’s vision is definitely still crucial – the challenge for us next will be to keep finding inspiring ways to connect business with society.

Hans Vestberg: I agree. It has been gratifying to see more and more forums emerge that focus on how business can better serve society. TPT remains unique thanks to its strong focus on leadership and genuine learning. What will it take to stay at the front, driving the agenda the next decade will demand? We need to keep our core members engaged while building our community. I think the question to ask is “who needs to be part of these conversations?”

Osvald Bjelland: In what specific ways can we reinvent TPT’s format for the next few years while we continue working towards our mission to inspire leadership for a new kind of growth? 

Hans Vestberg: I think the biggest question about the format is whether TPT is just a two-day annual gathering, or a community that continues to engage year-round in addition to our time together each year? This will be an extremely important decision. So far, we’ve focused on the two days we spend together, but for many reasons our community may be ready for more. I’m curious to know what others think.

Rick Haythornthwaite: What we bring together is a different mix of people, which jolts people out of their bubbles and context, both intellectually and emotionally. TPT is that annual oasis where people come to think more expansively and generously, and connect with people they would have otherwise not met. We need to continue that – bring in voices and ideas on various issues from different industries, sectors and geographies, but focus on turning them into actionable plans.

The most frequently asked question in most conversations these days – business or otherwise – is about how the world is going to be different because of the Covid-19 crisis. And we’re looking towards our leaders for those answers. The pandemic has put digital futures into focus much fasters than we anticipated. TPT’s direction has been on the right path from the beginning but we must prepare and accelerate into a different world as it emerges, and help leaders do the same.

Hans Vestberg: We have to adapt to the evolving circumstances and be ready to serve our community in new ways – including virtual. Our societies are facing big challenges but people are also working together to solve many of those challenges. Collaboration is key.

TPT was way ahead of the game when it was founded. Twenty years later, it is an exciting challenge for us to make sure we retain that exceptional learning experience that people have come to expect from TPT. I’m looking forward to the next part of our journey together.

Osvald Bjelland: Thank you both very much for your support and inspiration. There can be no doubt that the world will need a different kind of leadership to get us through the challenging days ahead. We have much to learn and much to do.

Osvald Bjelland is the founder of The Performance Theatre, and CEO of Xynteo.

Rick Haythornthwaite has been chairman of Mastercard since 2006. He is also the chairman of the Xynteo board of directors and served as chairman of the Performance Theatre advisory board from 2015 to 2020.

Hans Vestberg is chairman and CEO of Verizon, having previously been its executive vice president, and president for Global Network & Technology.