Benjamin Franklin famously said that only two things in life were certain: death and taxes. By now, we can add relentless change to that short list.
Disruption has become one of the key buzzwords in business in this first quarter of the 21st century, and for good reason. Businesses that may once have thought their revenue sources secure and grown complacent are seemingly the easiest targets for demolition. Nobody wants to be the chairman or CEO of another Kodak, and so the literature on staying agile, adapting or dying, survival of the fastest, is everywhere.
We devote this issue of The Peak to the topic of mastering disruption. In truth, books (or gigabytes of data) can and have been written on this subject, since the possibility of disruption can come from any direction, at any time. An up-and-coming start up, gathering investment, customers and exposure through some disruptive technology is coming to eat your lunch; it’s the boogeyman for CEOS and owners of major corporations. Worse, a large competitor adopts world-beating technology before you do.
Richard Lord takes the big picture view on what large companies are doing to become more adaptable and thus, responsive to major threats to business models. His story, “Surviving Extinction”, goes into how large organisations are turning to their people, specifically, empowering their people, in order to build the culture and toughness to survive an extinction level event. The good news for uncertain CEOS and chairmen seems to be, the answer lies within your existing workforce.
One strategy that some big companies have explored to deal with rapid change is by running start up accelerators in related fields, with the aim of getting on top of the latest technology. Christy Choi speaks to some of the managers of these corporate run accelerators in Hong Kong, to find out what they’ve learned, and how they’ve tried to incorporate their discoveries into their corporate structure.
In March this year, I had the pleasure of meeting State Bank of India Chairman Arundhati Bhattacharya, during a visit to Hong Kong to speak at Asia Society. Bhattacharya is the first woman to be chairman of the historic bank, and she has some pretty definite ideas about the role of women in handling change. In her view, if you want to have a change-ready organisation, start promoting women. Given that Bhattacharya is in the midst of reforming both her bank (now one of the world’s largest) and the Indian banking system, hers is a voice worth listening to.
For our cover story this issue, we spoke to the Gaw family: Goodwin, Kenneth and Christina. Together, their new family firm (really more of a sibling start up rather than a family firm as commonly understood) is taking an outsider’s approach to the property game, with each member providing their input in a kind of checks and balances system. So far, it’s led to plenty of investor interest, though the actual returns may take some time yet to come. Perhaps theirs will be the new property model for others to follow.
But the bottom line seems to be, no matter how comfortable your position is now, be ready for turbulent times ahead. In fact, the more comfortable you may think you are now, the more ripe you are for disruption.
Alphago vs Lee Sedol, 2016. The computer won.
RYAN SWIFT Associate Publisher and Chief Editor