Be a phoenix. Wake-up, re-invent or fall foul of disruption

Pivot, reinvent, phoenix - whatever you call it, enterprises need to move with the times or face disruption and extinction. How do businesses stay fresh and keep relevant?

"We like having you over. It's like watching a zombie movie, getting really scared and then going back to work, as if it was all just a bad dream."

For Peter Hinssen, founder of nexxworks, author and lecturer at MIT and the London Business School (among others), this is just one of the more amusing responses he gets from one of his sessions on how to pivot and differentiate in business. Not all companies he talks to either understand what they need to do, or have the mental and physical capacity to actually change.

"Many large organisations have lots of people who understand that to stay relevant you have to constantly change but these organisations lack urgency, and that's a common problem," says Hinssen, who has just published his fifth book, The Phoenix and the Unicorn. "Those firms capable of re-inventing themselves understand the need for urgency, without panic."

So why would anyone want to re-invent, to pivot or phoenix? It surely costs money, eats up human resources and is not always guaranteed to produce results? Of course, we can point to countless business failures over the past few years, disrupted businesses that refused to change, as examples of what happens when you don't take it seriously.

Industries across the board are being forced to compete with new entrants and new consumption models, some more than others. Telecommunications, media, travel and retail have perhaps taken the brunt of digital disruption but now automotive, financial services, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, energy and agriculture are also experiencing rapid transformation. Investment in digital businesses within these sectors is growing fast - a recent Tech Nation report claimed that in 2019, Agritech, Healthtech and Cleantech received over £20bn in combined funding in the UK, US, China and France.

What is clear is that digital disruption is growing competition across all industries and that incumbent organisations are still struggling to meet the challenge, dismissing it as a hyped-up zombie movie and in many instances, burying their heads in the sand. It's someone else's problem. We're OK, we've got money in the bank.

Hinssen likens it to a weather map where thunder storms come and go with the early signs of trouble when it starts to rain. Businesses, he says, especially the more established ones, will need to constantly re-evaluate, to ride through those storms. He talks about Walmart and how CEO Doug McMillon has steered the business over the past two and half years towards being a more technology-driven organisation.

To continue reading this article register now