What's the foremost challenge confronting business leaders over the next decade?
If I asked twenty EMBA students at KEDGE for the foremost challenge confronting business leaders over the next decade, I imagine nineteen of them would reply with something like dealing with disruption.
They may dig deeper and also pitch specific challenges like transformative organizational reconfiguration, a truly-connected and borderless world, exponential technological change and human-machine cooperation.
The fact is, disruptive businesses are better at managing these specific challenges for super-ambitious, super-charged growth, and in doing so, have radically undermined conventional business models with their disruptive alternatives. Consequently, we find disruption everywhere in the world around us, and acknowledge it has become both an inspiration and aspiration for innovation and rewards.
Yet amongst the miraculous business growth and dreams of colonizing Planet Mars, there is, amongst other things, still lingering a Disruptive Dilemma. Our insatiable appetite for disruption in 4IR has revealed a shift pattern from conventional values to narrower commercial value creation; where the adrenaline of growth has overcome the chamomile of equability. Unwittingly, the borderless world has slipped into an unaccountable battlespace; new organization configurations may be light and agile, but also arguably light on responsibility, diversity or stability; exponential technological change has, in recent high-profile dramatic cases, facilitated manipulation of individuals’ choices and freedoms; and, human-machine cooperation appears to hint at subtracting redundant labour from the workforce.
Perhaps in our exuberant enthusiasm for progress, we discovered an elixir of sorts in disruptive innovation, where technology and automation activate unparalleled levels of agility, speed and efficiency. Granting us new capacity for perfection and accuracy. Indeed, these are the sort of problems disruption is rather well-suited to solving; and problems of efficiency and productivity can be framed nicely as algorithms. These are momentous and welcome steps forward for business performance.
Is our disruption enriching humanity?...
But, at this point it is appropriate to ask:
- is our disruption enriching humanity?
- Are we strengthening the fabric of society?
- Are we being responsible in issues like taxation, employment and social mobility?
- Are we playing fair and sticking to common rules, laws and regulations?
- Are we solving life’s social and sustainability problems with our disruption?
These are valid questions to be asked of disruption. The media frequently covers these sorts of disruptive dilemmas. It seems plainly evident to any mindful person, that business growth, innovation and celebrity are not, in themselves, sufficiently good, and we may be in danger of losing something important in our humanity, by framing ourselves merely as Homo Economicus.
I thought once everybody could speak freely and exchange information and ideas, the world is automatically going to be a better place. I was wrong about that.
So, here is a ripe challenge opposing us at KEDGE Business School!
Can we learn how:
- to be disruptive but not destructive?
- to lead and disrupt responsibility?
- to think of values and not just value in our growth ambitions?
- to be humane leaders?
- to be a better human whilst pursuing our personal and business growth ambitions?
Now, going back to the EMBA students to whom I posed the original challenge, it faces us instantly that the most important aspect of positive disruption is to commence with disrupting oneself. Transformation from self out-wards.
One of the key features of the KEDGE EMBA experience is to immerse oneself in transformation, both individual and organisational. Students learn to explore their beliefs, biases and predilections and understand in what ways these transmute into decision-making and actions when confronting challenges and opportunities. Many embark on the learning journey seeking to develop cognitive skills and knowledge on disruptive thinking and innovation – and on maximising career potential and access to future growth opportunities – yet during their journey they experience self-transformation. A renewed sense of self, in relation to work and others; an embodied business mind, empowered to interact and influence the world in meaningful and transformative ways. To lead positive change: economically and ethically.
Such transformation builds awareness, focuses efforts, and embraces learning and continuous adaption; creating a better self and a transference towards Homo Duplex.
In disruption, it is a feature of current popular thinking to assume that where we now are is new, unchartered territory, and that it is obvious how we got here, and thus we don’t challenge why we got here and where we might be going. But, we must challenge ourselves. This is, in fact, the heart of disruptive thinking.
US Billionaire investor Mark Cuban recently offered advice to the youngest women ever to be elected to US Congress, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, on how she might best be disruptive: ‘you have to change the game to change the world’. Some good advice, but to take that farther – as you’ll have already guessed – I’d start the causality one turtle lower and suggest it’s more disruptive to change yourself, first.