Fresh Copy: How Ursula Burns Reinvented Xerox

Ursula Burns wants to remake her firm into the company American business can’t live without. But can Xerox succeed in a world without Xeroxing?

After eight meetings with the President of the United States, Ursula Burns still wonders what the button is for. "These meetings are all very choreographed, very much according to protocol," she says. "That usually isn't my thing, protocol." She is telling me about her latest encounter, a hastily called meeting at the White House this past August, during the height of the debt-ceiling debates, to discuss methods for spurring the economy. She and seven other CEOs, among them the heads of American Express, Johnson & Johnson, U.S. Steel, and Wells Fargo, were placed like pegs in a tightly designed game board, sitting in front of tent cards with their names in a formal script, waiting for the President to arrive. At the President's place sat a folio of notes and a small box with a red button. Burns, who had been seated in a position of honor to Obama's right, was to be the last to speak. As she waited, she considered whether the button could be the executive branch equivalent of The Gong Show gong. She thought to herself: Maybe he pushes it if he doesn't like what we say.

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