Steve Brown is CEO of Nelson, Canada’s largest education technology company and developer of Edwin, a digital learning ecosystem.
Technology is increasingly disrupting established industries and changing the way legacy companies deliver value to their team and customers. In a post-pandemic world, the need to integrate technological innovations is more important than ever.
Once largely referring to the internet, new technology now encompasses areas such as cloud computing, automation, and artificial intelligence (AI).
Embracing new technology is crucial for businesses to accelerate growth, increase efficiency and increase profitability. Not integrating technology into a business strategy can lead to missed opportunities.
Adapt: the way forward
The automotive industry is a perfect example of this need to adapt. Tesla led the way in integrating battery and software technology into modern vehicles, and now brands like Cadillac are following suit, with the US electric vehicle market expected to grow to $137 billion by 2028.
As the example of Tesla shows, you have to think ahead to discover new avenues of innovation. As a business leader in a technological age, you have to challenge yourself every day to do better and be better than yesterday.
As we enter 2023, many leaders are evaluating whether now is the time to integrate new technology into their businesses. The question is often: why would companies change their business model if their current model works?
The challenge: embracing change
Studies have shown that companies that fail to embrace digital technologies are at greater risk of losing customers to competitors. This is according to a study by PwC 82% of the best performing companies provide a strong digital experience. However, for industries that have been around for decades or even centuries, embracing technology can be a daunting task.
Some leaders may resist change because they lack digital skills. Other leaders may not fully understand the potential benefits technology can bring to their organization.
The key here is that the only bad idea is no idea. Take Apple for example; a computer company at its core, it now dominates other industries, including telecommunications, with its iPhone.
I believe leaders, especially those in established companies, need to look to the core of their business to look for what’s truly valuable and understand that embracing new technology is the only way to stay relevant. For Apple, the value was to connect. Technology opened the door to this potential.
The opportunity: streamline operations and increase efficiency
New technology enables companies to process large amounts of information quickly and easily. Digital transformations enable companies to be more agile and respond to potential threats or challenges. Technology can help extract data and reveal key customer behaviors so you can efficiently target your audience.
Technology can also provide businesses with viable options during labor shortages. The pandemic caused major disruption to the US workforce; in 2021 more than 47 million workers have quit their jobs.
New technologies can help you optimize schedules, reduce overtime needs, automate tasks, and increase productivity. There are tools that can replace administrative and complex tasks, making a workforce more efficient and reducing unnecessary costs.
The solution: self-destruction
So how can traditional industries that are resistant to change take advantage of these opportunities? The solution is to disrupt yourself.
I’ve seen how technology can help previously resistant companies automate processes, reach new audiences and connect with customers. In fact, I speak from experience and as the head of a company that has been around for 107 years, I know how self-disruption can provide solutions.
As a publishing house, we recognized the need to provide content for teachers and students to communicate digitally. Our own self-disruption and adaptation involved creating a digital learning ecosystem. Embracing digital transformation allowed us to be part of a global and growing market for edtech and smart classrooms that $232 billion by 2027.
The advantage of self-disruption is a speed advantage; business leaders already understand their core product and can move forward if their company creates a safe space for that self-disruption. However, if leaders don’t “imagine” properly, disruptors from outside the organization (external interferences) can move faster than from within.
“Imagineering” is about imagining success while imagining new ways of working. I’ve found that embracing discomfort is the most effective way to redesign the way a business works. Leaders need to start with dissatisfaction and ‘imagine’ new ways of success.
Four steps to overcome complacency
Established companies can overcome the hurdle of complacency in four steps.
1. Get your team involved. Ask the question, “If the business model exploded today, how would we rebuild it?” The leader must show that he is open to a rebuild and that there is no such thing as a bad idea.
2. Think tactically. Then take those new bright ideas and put pen to paper. What actions are required to enable this rebuild? Create a strategic plan with a work-back schedule detailing the steps, tasks, and timelines needed to bring the idea to life.
3. Present to the board. Once a strategic plan is established, the leader must take this self-disruption to the board. It is the board’s job to push through, review and approve a plan. A board of directors acts in the best interest of a company; they can spark additional ideas and provide the mentorship needed to make self-disruption a reality. However, it is up to the leadership to determine the strategy.
4. Take time alone. Finally, leaders must prioritize taking time alone with their thoughts during the process of self-disruption. With self-disruption, leaders look at a whiteboard of endless opportunities, and no self-disruption is successful without taking time for reflection.
New technology can be tricky to understand and introduce to a board of directors. However, the impact it can have on a company’s bottom line and core function makes it too important to ignore. Legacy companies must find routes to overcome complacency, because internal self-disruption has more impact than external interference.