Adaptive leadership

Adobe's recently installed A/NZ chief, Katrina Troughton, talks about the keys to modern leadership as we celebrate the CMO50

Combining curiosity and an open mindset with a healthy balance of data-driven decision making is critical in the leadership make-up of Adobe’s new vice-president and managing director, Adobe A/NZ, Katrina Troughton. As we celebrate our CMO50 for 202, this chief talks to CMO about adaptive leadership. 

You’ve recently joined Adobe as its new A/NZ chief. What’s one lesson you’ve learnt over your career on what it takes to lead a growing, adaptive organisation?

Embracing an ethos of continuous learning and staying intellectually curious has been a constant throughout my career. And I believe these are the foundations of effective leadership.

Being curious is not simply a behaviour. It’s a mindset I carry into every customer engagement, business opportunity, strategic discussion or hallway conversation with a team member. Being curious is also an imperative leadership trait through change.

The pace of disruption was evident well before the events of the past few years, which accelerated our move from a world with digital to a digital-first world. To succeed through significant times of change – including digital, social and economic shifts – we must lean in and truly embrace it. To turn up with an open mindset, know when it’s time to adapt, to experiment and sometimes fail. Throughout my career, I have thrived in curious and adaptive environments, and I am delighted Adobe and our customers also embrace these tenets.

Personalisation at scale is the holy grail for brands in this digital-first world, but we know many are still not there yet. What strategies and operating models must marketers embrace to truly scale personalisation efforts?

As the demand for personalisation escalates, the need for content does too. This raises a big question for marketing leaders on how to meet, inspire and exceed customers’ increasingly complex expectations. How do you track preferences, needs and journeys that are changing rapidly, and respond in real time? How do you mobilise content and orchestrate experiences across a multitude of existing and emerging channels? Importantly, how do you empower your teams to treat every customer with the empathy they deserve, seeing and understanding them for the unique individual they are today?

While the concept of personalisation is not new, the ability to deliver personalisation at scale must be the standard. Marketers need to deliver relevant experiences, in real time, across every channel – including online, offline and in the immersive experiences continuing to grow in prominence. And all this needs to scale to millions of customers, in milliseconds.

The only way to achieve this is by reducing data silos and using data responsibly to create value for customers. By sharing creative and compelling content rapidly to deliver personalised interactions. And by connecting teams, channels and touchpoints to prioritise empathic interactions with customers that add real value, every time.

Digital has seen the boundaries between content, commerce and campaigns blur. How does this change the way marketers should be thinking about customer journey and experience management?

Brands are faced with the need to close the gap between the customer, the channels they use, and most importantly, the experience they expect. This starts by re-imagining the entire customer journey to architect for agility.

Technology is just the first step. Without the right people and processes, digital transformation will fail. Brands need the right individuals behind the technology to fully recognise its potential, all while keeping customer trust, control and choice at the centre. Ultimately, breakthrough customer experiences require creativity, content, commerce and data at their core to be successful.

Data or gut: What’s the optimum ratio required in modern leadership?

I love this question because we clearly need a combination of both, but at what ratio? I passionately believe in the power of data-driven decision making; you can’t operate as a leader without it.

However, we have all recently experienced disruptions where informative data was scarce. The pandemic presented challenges previously not faced by any of us. How do you enable, engage and be an empathic leader to a widely distributed workforce in the office one day, then 100 per cent working from home the next? How do you support customers navigating the same challenges?

Data tells a powerful story. Yet there was no pandemic playbook, certainly not in the beginning, and all leaders had to be nimble, adjust and trust their gut. The power of trusting your instincts, anchored to a human and ethical framework, is the only way to navigate intense disruption. Before Covid, I would have said the optimum data-gut ratio was 70/30. But with the learned experiences of the past two years, I’m now putting a firm stake in both camps and saying 50/50.

Adobe is changing the world though digital experiences. We help our customers develop and deliver high-impact experiences that differentiate brands, build loyalty, and drive revenue across every screen, including smartphones, computers, tablets and TVs. Adobe content solutions are used daily by millions of companies worldwide—from publishers and broadcasters, to enterprises, marketing agencies and household-name brands. Building on our established design leadership, we enable customers not only to make great content, but to manage, measure and monetise it for maximum impact. For more information, visit

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