Leading in the Age of Disruption: Who is Trying to Eat Your Lunch?

Photo: KPMG

Nearly two-thirds of the U.S. CEOs say that the next three years will be more critical for their industries than the past 50. They see disruption as both a threat and an opportunity, according to KPMG's CEO Outlook.

With this survey as the backdrop, I recently moderated a (San Francisco) Bay Area Council panel with Proterra CEO Ryan Popple, TriNet CEO and President Burton Goldfield and former BRE Properties CEO Connie Moore to discuss their views on the survey's key findings.

Here's a summary of several insights from the discussion that are valuable for any organization.

Ryan Popple
Know your customers. Ask them why they bought your product and what you need to do to gain more of their business. Know your opponent. If you don't know who is going to eat your lunch, then you should do market research. For large companies looking to collaborate with startups - do no harm. Protect startups from large company politics. Having a partner in a large organization, means the startup can lose a champion quickly. Change and innovation is happening faster than expected. We are starting to break through predictions that we once thought optimistic.

Burton Goldfield
Innovation is critical and takes the right culture. Innovation starts with the people who have primary data bringing their ideas to the table. You can innovate while still growing. Don't put off innovating to fix infrastructure first. Innovation and growth go hand in hand. Companies that don't innovate, will die. Focus on growth and innovation at the same time as building and strengthening your infrastructure. Those who stop innovation to focus on fixing problems first, become niche players.

Connie Moore
The tone-at-the-top sets the foundation for innovation. It's the CEO's job to think about innovation. How do we get to "no" quickly? Accepting and allowing failure is important. Try, fail, and move on. CEO's have to acknowledge that they can't know everything. Consider collaborating or partnering. Allow your organization to thrive. Ask "how can I enhance what we each do best?" Boards have a role. They need to think about innovation and transformation all the time. This should be one of their priorities. To focus the strategy, a board should think like a disruptor.