Digital disruptions, a younger workforce and target audience, technology and cultural changes are only some of the things that pose enormous risks (and opportunities) to companies. Future focused businesses, however, have a growth mindset, are creativity and flexible, and they are ready to meet the changing needs of the industry.

Disruption as an avenue for growth
Disruption isn’t necessarily something that happens overnight – it can take years and even decades before an industry is changed. Disruption can be a powerful avenue for growth and according to MITSloan Management Review, in every industry changed by disruption, the net effect has been total market growth. For MITSloan, the keys to successfully navigating a growth path during times of disruption are as follows:
1. Recognise that established players in the market have time to adapt if they are able to look beyond their current customer base.
2. Find new customers that emerge from the disruption. There isn’t a magical formula for this, but insights into other markets, managerial intuition and serendipity can all play a part.
3. Create a business model that is dictated by your customer’s new needs and your new customer base.

The D-word doesn’t have to spell doom
While new technologies can create economic displacement, there are also many opportunities for new economic sectors to emerge. Michael Leong, director of HOPE Technik, says that disruption involves redefining how tasks are done and engineering new creations.

“Disruption is a process of tackling the norm with scalable and beneficial solutions. The concept of disruption has in fact been prevalent throughout time. Innovations such as the electric light bulb and airplanes were once considered disruptive technological advancements but have since become today’s norms. However, there is greater emphasis placed on disruption today, as technology has advanced to an unprecedented stage amid a global economy that is experiencing slower growth, creating a business environment where competition is stiffer than before,” says Michael.

Titus Yong, vice president of business sales at Singtel, says that having a forward-looking mindset is only one side of the coin.

“Having a sound and forward-looking strategy to deal with disruption is one side of the coin; rapid and effective execution of that strategy is the other. We must ensure that both strategy and execution work seamlessly to achieve our desired outcomes. The key to successfully riding the disruption wave is having adequate talents who are equipped with the right skills,” says Titus.

Titus’ point of view is echoed by the World Economic Forum’s 2016 “Future Workforce Strategy” report that shows that the skills that matter in today’s workforce will mostly be irrelevant in the future. The report defines ‘disruption’ as a change to an industry in radically unpredictable ways, such as the horse to the combustion engine, mail to the internet, or handwritten copying to printing. Companies that think they are “in danger” of being disrupted show a fundamental lack of understanding about what disruption actually is. One of the key takeaways from the report, however, is that companies that focus on constantly equipping their workforce to learn and upskill themselves will be most agile in dealing with disruption, or lead the disruption themselves.

Lifelong learning is embedded in forward-thinking businesses
It is both urgent and crucial for companies to make lifelong learning a core part of their working cultures. The results of learning and development programmes are often relatively intangible and hard to measure, and these are also the first programmes to be cut during tough economic times. Focusing on education is the best defence against disruption and a future where customer demands, markets, skillsets and job roles are in constant flux.

Thanks and acknowledgement are given to www.sloanreview.mit.edu, www.businesstimes.com.sg, www.reports.weforum.org and blog.pathship.com for some of the information contained in this article.

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