Recently, I went on the road to talk to C-level executives in Mexico to discuss how to face the disruption that is coming for many, if not all, businesses. At Intel, we call the swirling maelstrom of business, technological, and cultural shifts the Vortex of Change. A key theme was around the constancy of differentiation – what it looks like, how I do it, with whom, and how to monetize it. This is clearly easy to say but much harder to do, as it forces those having the conversation out of their comfort zone. The legacy that made a business successful in the past might hold it back in the future!
Focusing on the People
Intel is a manufacturing and technology company — naturally, customers would expect us to talk about the technology we produce. I think there was some surprise when the focus of many of my discussions explored how company culture needs reinvention to meet the disruptive forces of change. I included observations and examples showing:
- How to grow business rather than focusing on cost efficiencies.
- The necessity of executive alignment and one voice on necessary changes.
- The importance of skills and career development.
- How changing work practices are disrupting business.
- Innovation driven by incentives.
- Shared accountability and collaboration.
One executive told me: “We don’t get anything like this from our vendors. We like the analyst views, but they are often too academic, and we don’t have time to wait for the academic to become real. When can you come back?”
A Singular View of the Future
Many Mexican companies are facing intensified competition from new avenues – changes in regulation, changes in market forces, new entrants, and others. Whether you’re an Oil and Gas conglomerate wrestling with a deregulated environment, or a leading academic institution trying to figure out which skills and curricula are relevant for the marketplace, competition is everywhere. We don’t know what the new skills are in the world of communications. Success now means more than providing “the pipe.”
I’m often asked, “Where do I start?” As simple as it sounds, it starts with having a singular view of what the business will look like in the future. Not the growth curve, but the actual business. This is a key starting point for any form of transformation. If you don’t have it, your strategy ends up being fragmented, and the path to success is hindered. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of my conversations spent time on this one topic, and it usually forms the entry point to the executive workshops I sometimes run with business leaders.
Looking to the Future
For those of you who might not know, startup growth in Mexico is off the charts, and this was a good reminder that the spirit of innovation is alive, well, and accelerating in this part of the world. No better example of this was when I went to visit The Disruptive Business Academy. It is run by an organization called Startup Mexico, and they identify and selectively host at their very cool renovated warehouse some of the best and most innovative startups in the country. The excellent and engaging group the team had assembled had a lot of questions, underscoring both the thirst to transform and change, but also the reality that change like this isn’t easy — especially when you move beyond talking. Here were some common questions:
- “How do I address the need for change in culture?”
- “What skills will I need going forward?”
- “Who owns the digital strategy?”
- “How do I measure success?”
- “When can you come back and do a workshop?”
- “Where do I start?”
- “How can we work more strategically on this with Intel?”
Engaging with the audience and brainstorming ways to deal with the constancy of change was fulfilling and exciting, and it offered many exciting avenues for the future. The one defining theme was this — people want to avoid facing backward and discover new avenues for future growth and development — a common denominator that joins all of us together and presents opportunities for innovation and collaboration moving forward.
Creating Opportunities for Collaboration
During my trip, I had the pleasure of meeting with a major Mexican communication company and a prestigious private university. I was inspired by the groundswell of both industry and academic innovation as well as the conscious steps they had both taken to challenge the approaches that have made them leaders in their respective segments.
The communications organization recognized the disruption that the Vortex of Change is creating and has really done an excellent job in developing and delivering a set of immersive and elegantly integrated experiences for a broad variety of consumer and industry customers — knowing well that the “customer” will pay more for an experience than they would for a product or capability. As companies increasingly look at this type of approach, it’s important to consider what you’re really good at and can do yourself. At the same time, you also have to consider what collaboration and shared revenue models you might need to look at if you are to truly satisfy the experiential needs of the customers you both have today and want to win in the future.
Senior leadership at the university is focusing on how to approach the next wave of education needs — moving their lectures, labs, and workshops to focus on subject matter based around market shifts in the coming decades versus the professions of the past. Both provided good food for thought! I look forward to coming back soon to continue our work with some of these leaders and further plot our respective paths through the Vortex of Change.