Gus Balbontin’s passion for innovation and technology was infectious at Indue’s Leadership Forum this year. With vast experience in technology and business, he talked about what it takes to survive during times of disruption.
Napster, Bitcoin, Twitter, Blogger, Ebay and Instagram are just some of the companies that have changed the way the world works over the past decade. Disruption means all industries need to be well equipped to transform, not least the financial services sector.
Here are Gus’ top 5 lessons for dealing with disruption.
1. Business problem versus the customer problem
Think about what you are in the business of. What is the reason you exist? What is your customer’s problem that you are solving? Former camera giant Kodak lost sight of this when film photography was disrupted by digital technology. Gus believes they forgot that their reason for being was to capture happy moments and share them.
2. Lead with a clear vision and a vague plan
Leaders need to learn to hear ‘I don’t know’ or ‘we have failed’. Don’t forget that your goal should not be to replicate the past with new technologies but to invent the future. Big companies need to think and operate like a start-up. This means being nimble and responsive, and if you fail, recovering quickly.
3. Courage and resilience
Gus stressed the importance of focusing on resilience and recovery, not on accuracy and avoiding failure. When you are inventing the future, you will need to take risks. Don’t be afraid to stand up for something.
4. Ask forgiveness not permission
It is often necessary to push back against the expected hard numbers and ROI predictions of mature businesses. Gus often told fellow executives that he didn’t know how much money a new platform or strategy would make, but it was critical to take advantage of and experiment with new technologies.
5. Don’t force innovation
You don’t need creativity, you need resilience. Everyone has the ability to be innovative. It’s not about whether you are right or left brained. Engage in ‘guerrilla warfare innovation’ – light fires and let them spread.
At Indue, we believe creative thinking is about customising solutions to our clients’ problems. Continuous innovation – no matter how subtle or seemingly incremental – unveils and harnesses often hidden opportunities. Oftentimes, it’s not the game-changer that’s needed. It’s the adjustment, the new way of looking at an old problem, the fresh approach that makes all the difference. Taking elements of what currently exists, but making something new and fit-for-purpose, adds significant value.