April 2, 2018

Strengthening leaders in the age of disruption

The world is constantly changing. That is the reality that business leaders in the past, today and in the future will face. We see businesses constantly having to adapt, and failure to keep up with change can result in drastic consequences.

As business leaders, we all know that change is inevitable. And with technology advancing at such a rapid pace, it is no wonder that the world is evolving as quickly as it is.

Change requires a lot of effort, beginning within ourselves, and eventually in our actions. It takes a spark from an individual that eventually passes on to ignite a group, community, region, and eventually burn brightly on a global level. Like time, change is constant, whether an individual wants to change or not.

As the late Stephen Hawking said: “There was never a start and will be no end, but just change — a constant transition of one ‘universe’ giving way to another through glitches in space-time.”

The facts of change and the effects it has on the world and businesses are well-known. But even if businesses want to push for change, they can sometimes still get left behind.

So, how do businesses even begin to change in this fast-paced world?

The answer is to strengthen our leaders to build a strong learning ecosystem, adapt through change, and constantly innovate in this disruptive age.

First, building a learning ecosystem begins with business leaders applying the right mindset, a form of blended learning for their people with the use of technology, a strong and positive learning environment within the organisation, and also a learning community for your organisation, both internally and externally.

All of the elements of a learning ecosystem are crucial as it also promotes the second and most important way to strengthen our leaders — innovation. This point was driven home last Wednesday when we at SEAC held our official opening. We had the privilege of having Assoc Prof Dr Somchet Thinapong, chairman of the National Innovation Agency (NIA), as our guest speaker.

Dr Somchet spoke about innovation and turning creativity into value reality, and his emphasis on leadership and innovation related closely to the idea of strengthening leaders in the age of disruption. Leaders create innovation. But leaders are also the ones who inspire their people to constantly innovate.

Dr Somchet told us about the Innovation Value Creation model, where the innovation process itself begins with inspiration, builds up to imagination, ideation, integration, and finally insight. The model and the process behind it are somewhat similar to the Design Thinking model developed by Stanford d.school.

When it comes to innovation, there is always a process. Innovation is not a one-stop destination. It is a never-ending journey towards understanding, discovering and developing ideas to create solutions.

Although the process of innovation may seem to have a linear approach, in reality it is far from linear. It is possible from time to time to take steps back and start from the beginning if needed. But that does not mean there is no progress in innovation. On the contrary, it is still a progression in which you are now able to redefine and polish certain parts of the process in order to come up with better solutions and outcomes.

Additionally, Dr Somchet mentioned the importance of mindset to innovation. This is definitely true, not just in the innovation process itself, but throughout the whole business journey, especially in our fast-changing world.

Furthermore, he said: “Technology makes enability, innovation makes possibilities, and man with technology and innovation makes value reality.” Simply, through the use of technology and constant innovation, people will be able to create value in other people’s lives.

In sum, the fast-changing world is putting a lot of pressure on business leaders to not only constantly change themselves, but also their people and businesses. From building up a strong learning ecosystem to promoting innovation, leaders of today must strengthen themselves in order to keep up with changes in the age of disruption.

Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC (formerly APMGroup) Southeast Asia’s leading executive, leadership and innovation capability development centre. She can be reached by email at arinya_t@seasiacenter.com or www.linkedin.com/in/arinya-talerngsri-53b81aa

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