CHANGE AGENTS

The Peak (Hong Kong) - - The View From The Peak -

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

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