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Strategy and leadership for a disruptive world

Advances in technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology and biotechnology have the potential to disrupt the rules of the game for every industry.

Challengers with big dreams, new tools and a "can do" attitude are creating new sources of value, changing the face of competition and disrupting the foundations on which our industries and institutions are built.

To prepare your business for the changes ahead you need to adopt a fresh approach to strategy and leadership, and be ready to disrupt your business before someone else does it for you.

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New surfaces repel most known liquids

This article was first published on 21 January 2013.

I’ve included this article and commentary as a follow on to my post from a week or two back in relation to nano-technology.  I highlighted the importance of distinguishing between the product/service you offer and the functionality that your customers/clients are actually looking for.  As legendary Harvard Business School marketing professor Theodore Levitt put it, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!”  In my earlier post I made reference to the clothes cleaning industry to illustrate Levitt’s point.  I wrote that:

Laundry detergent manufacturers need to consider the impacts on their business of self-cleaning nano-fabrics in a world where the consumer’s real need is to have clean clothes, not to buy laundry detergent.  If you describe your business or industry in terms of your product rather than your customer’s fundamental needs you may well find your industry being rapidly redefined (new boundaries, new competitors, new value pools) by advances in nano-technololgy in coming years.

The breakthroughs outlined in this article are illustrative of the potential for technology to reshape an industry and make large elements of it redundant (in this case the fabric cleaning industry). But the basic point is true for every industry.  As a business leader or strategist you can’t afford to take a myopic view of your industry or service or to lose sight of the actual problem that your customers are trying to solve.  Not only do you set yourself up to be more vulnerable, you also run the risk of missing a range of opportunities as the world shifts from the old to the new. 

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