The Book Club - Pivot to the Future - Omar Abbosh et al

Our first virtual book club proved a great success despite not having the benefit of the Kensington Arm’s fabulous cake to help get the conversation underway!

Pivot to the Future sets out what it takes to succeed in a world changed by technology and introduces the concept of a 'wise pivot' - a replicable strategy for harnessing disruption to survive.

Whatever business you are in, you will have to think about how you will adapt to emerging technologies and new markets to bridge the gap between what is technologically possible and how technologies are being used.

Categorising innovation across three dimensions – the old, the now and the new (similar to McKinsey’s three horizons) – the book emphasises that business owners should not to turn away from ‘the old’ without first looking at the potential to find higher levels of profitability by investing in technology, revitalising and prolonging the life of the old businesses. This was an eye-opener for Les Ashton-Smith, Managing Director of Heber, who said, ‘I’m really interested in this book because it encourages me to look at the old again, whereas previously I might have dismissed it.’

One question that came up early in the conversation was how the investment approach – largely illustrated by case studies of large global corporates with deep enough pockets for investing in new tech disruptors (e.g. Walmart) - could be applied to small businesses. Rob Sheffield, founder of Blue Green Learning, wondered how much it would resonate with a ‘one idea, one service start-up’, but then went on to acknowledge that ‘…we’re a micro, and I can see implications for us as well.’

Bill Kelly of Tri-Metric agreed and added ‘You can see how some of those ideas might prompt new thinking. Trapped value is a great phrase, but it’s about identifying the opportunity. It’s a great structure to work around when you know it is there, but spotting it is the gold.’

Rob Sheffield again: ‘It seems so fundamental – it’s one of the things I really liked about the book. It’s not a new message, but it just makes us think about value, and maybe it’s always shifting. I think sometimes we get into the habit of delivering services and have stopped thinking about value.’

But we are all faced with the need to be innovative in order to survive and thrive over the next few months, and there was general agreement about the need for innovation across all three dimensions. Sometimes, though, because business owners are immersed in running their businesses, it needs somebody on the fringes – a partner company, non-exec or Board Advisor, or an external advisor, who has vision across the business - to spot the opportunity.

Kim Jones, reflecting hgkc client experience, said, ‘Some of the businesses that we work with around innovation are much more fleet of foot – about open innovation processes, working with customers, competitors, collaborators, people in different sectors – trying things out. Their risk in doing that might be lower than a corporate that's got lots of people and resources aligned around particular innovation strategies, because they can test things out’.

Joe Constant from Property Options added: ‘We’re a small business in comparison to the examples in the book, but just looking at things differently – how could we embrace technology which we might otherwise not have considered? And is this just changing the way we think about how we conduct business?’

Phil Warren, Managing Director of Energy and Technical Services recognised many of things that he has been doing over the last few years, but found the concept of the old, the now and the new really resonated. He said, ‘With a business like ours, we are constantly pushing for that innovation. We want to be leading edge, we want to be there pushing the right things, and you do neglect some of the things that have earned your living in the past’. He went on to recognise that he needed to segment his people so that some could focus on where the revenues actually are, rather than everybody looking forward for the next new thing’.

Towards the end of the book, there is a very insightful quote from P&G CEO David Taylor: ‘As a leader, you have to create the environment that gives people the courage to step out and make a future different from the past.’ Reinforcing the need for innovation by people and new mindsets that can recognise the need for leaders focussed on running the business AND leaders focussed on business creation.

Les Ashton-Smith said: ‘I've always been a strong believer that leaders have to be chameleons because you do have to change to the circumstances. I think that's always been true and particularly so in an SME, where it is a challenge. You have to make time to be a different person.’’

As part of building his management team, Phil Warren built a team dimension profile on which his people scored themselves and each other across a range of headings to help identify the creatives, the implementers, the organisers. This helped him and his team identify their own strengths and weaknesses, and to realise that you need to organise around the old, the now and the new, ‘and to work out some KPIs and metrics so that people can get that feeling of self-worth because they know they are shifting the needle in one area of the business.’

After two hours of conversation that took in smart boilers, smart buildings and smart town centres, as well as the leadership and communication issues of transformational change, Rob Purdie of Alchemetrix summed up: ‘I found it really interesting both to get back into reading the book, but even more important, being able to have the discussion around different people's views of it. Because you often read these business books and you're in your own bubble, trying to think how can I use this? Listening to other people, lots of other stuff comes out of the woodwork as well and I've certainly found it very, valuable from that point of view.’

To be part of the conversation at Book Club, go to our Events page to find out what we’re reading next, and click on the link to register.

If you’d like to find out more about how we enable our clients to release the trapped value in their businesses get in touch today.

hgkc was born from the realisation that together our combined practical experience and knowledge can offer our clients a broader, deeper and richer experience that will deliver better results faster.