Disruption calls for a new perspective

Wednesday, July 29, 2015 - 17:11

Guest post by AIM Education & Training CEO, Daniel Musson

Commentary around the future of the Australian economy often outlines core trends that are positioned as a threat: digital disruption, globalisation, and demographic change.

But in themselves, these trends are neutral. They are neither positive nor negative. It’s our perspective and how we choose to respond that creates a sinking feeling and a defensive response. The alternative response is to get very focused, very determined and work out what we do well and how to win.

That’s the conclusion I took from our latest Beyond the Boardroom series, covered in The Australian today, which featured Myer CEO Richard Umbers, Dealsdirect.com.au co-founder and National Online Retailers Association executive chairman, Paul Greenberg, and Deloitte Consulting managing partner,  Robert Hillard.

Richard Umbers – who has his hands very full reinvigorating the 115-year old Myer – took time to outline his balancing act as he seeks to preserve what works at Myer while changing what doesn’t.

That’s not a new challenge for business owners. But digital disruption has sped up the cycle of change to such a degree it requires a new level of skill, including agility, right across the organisation – from the Board and CEO through to the front-line. That demands not just training, but the right training, at the right time, in the right place.

The consistent message through these events, including last month’s breakfast with nbn CEO Bill Morrow, has been that you won’t win by staying the same. So why the fear about changing?

Again, it comes back to perspective. A business can view digital disruption as a threat to its market share. Or, as Richard Umbers outlined, businesses can use it as an opportunity get closer to customers. In retail, what we are seeing through technology, he argues, is an ability for retailers to know and respond to their customers in a highly personalised way - like in the days of the corner store  - as opposed to the generic marketing and customer interaction that defined the latter part of the 20th century.

These days, a personalised approach requires use of customer data but as Paul Greenberg argued, customers are comfortable doing this where they believe they are getting relevance in return.

Where perspective really kicks in is how we see Australia. Are we a country under attack from mysterious overseas forces? Or are we a country – as Deloitte’s Robert Hillard noted - with a highly concentrated population, a highly educated workforce, innovative businesses and an economy that’s strongly integrated?

 From my perspective, the latter is a much more constructive way to look at things.