Disruption: What We Learned by Surveying 280 Australian Business Leaders

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2 in 6 are ahead of the curve, 1 in 6 are lagging behind, and 3 in 6 are playing a “wait and see” game

Resilient Futures has released its ‘Disruption Report: What Australian Business Leaders Think’ detailing the thoughts of 280+ senior executives and managers.

We wanted to know what senior business leaders make of the digital, technological, and non-technological elements driving unprecedented change in all industries. Did they see disruption as a positive force—leveraging it as a tailwind moving them swiftly forward—or was their progress hindered by the headwind of disruption? Did they even think about disruption?

So, what did we learn? Well, among other things:

We learned that 2 out of 6 leaders surveyed are currently actively leveraging disruption. They are invested in playing a “new game”, and they’re already reaping the benefits.

We learned that 1 out of 6 are still playing the “old game”, and are starting to suffer the consequences.

We learned that 3 out of 6 are playing a “wait and see” game—they want to see what the rest of the pack does before making their next move.

Beyond that, we learned that Australian business leaders do not know what they do not know. Many of them simply don’t understand enough about disruption, or their particular disruptors—and the opportunities and risks embedded within them. That makes them vulnerable.

Disruption as we see it

By and large, the survey results confirmed our own experience. We’ve been coaching organisations to understand and leverage disruption for decades and we understand how complex the issue is. “Getting” disruption—much less acting decisively to harness it—is a tall order.

But it is the order of the day. Harnessing the opportunities and mitigating the risks of disruption are the priority if organisations want to continue generating value for their customers and stakeholders for the foreseeable future.

What is the Resilient Futures view of disruption?

Notably, disruption isn’t a new phenomenon—it’s been a constant challenge since before the invention of the wheel. Any time human beings innovate in a game changing way, disruption gains momentum.

It’s just that nowadays, the cumulative and connected effects of all of these disruptions are converging to pack an exponential (read: increasingly—then dramatically—swift) punch. Change is occurring more deeply, frequently and rapidly than at any point in history.

How is this global, systemic, and interconnected change—this mass disruption—expressing itself?

Digital disruption: digital business models and technologies impacting the value propositions of existing goods and services (e.g., blockchain, Big Data, analytics).

Other technological disruption: new technologies creating new markets while disrupting/damaging others (e.g., driverless cars, micro manufacturing).

Non-technological disruption: factors—economic, social, environmental, political, etc.—transforming life and business as we know it at an exponential clip (e.g., peer-to-peer business models like Uber, climate change, global debt and dissatisfaction with the status quo).

These are the faces of disruption. But, the fact is, our survey reveals that far too many Australian business leaders aren’t proactive enough in finding and taking advantage of the opportunities that are present in these challenges.

Disruption as Australian leaders see it

If disruption is a game, we know that the Australian business leaders we surveyed are playing it one of three ways. We believe strongly that how they play it determines whether they will emerge as winners or losers.

2 in 6 will win because they play to leverage disruption. 33% of our survey respondents are aware of disruption—and they are not afraid of it. Rather, they’re embracing it by investing in their capabilities to work with disruption, innovating early to ride the tailwind of their industries’ particular disruptors.

1 in 6 will lose because they won’t stop playing the old game. 17% of our survey respondents are in a tough place and appear to be welded to stranded assets and irrelevant business models. They are yet to grasp that things are changing—and even if they understand certain aspects of disruption, they can’t see how quickly the pace will pick up in the next five years.

 3 in 6 will probably lose because they’re playing a “wait and see” game. 50% of our survey respondents appear to be taking a conservative stance—they’re observing how the pack responds before taking a step—but in actual fact, they’re taking major risks. These leaders and their organisations may be irreparably disrupted before they have a chance to innovate.

Too many leaders don’t know what they don’t know

Many Australian business leaders understand disruption as a phenomenon that is impacting their and other industries today. They are tuned into digital disruption. They are aware of unprecedented technology and business models cropping up. They see that they are living in revolutionary times.

But what most of them don’t understand is how disruption might impact them in the long-term - and how they might leverage the opportunities. To put it simply: they don’t know what they don’t know.

Too many can’t name their current and emergent disruptors. They can’t identify the opportunities and risks within those disruptors—nor do they understand that those opportunities and risks are the two sides of a single coin. Worst of all, they have limited or no capability to strategise to capture those opportunities—leveraging disruption’s tailwind—and mitigating those risks—avoiding disruption’s headwind.

As strategists and coaches who help organisations strategise with greater agility, dispensing with planning methodologies that can’t keep up with disruption, we are more motivated than ever.

We invite you to download The Disruption Report: What Australian Business Leaders Think and reflect on the findings. You may be surprised after examining your perspective on disruption in the context of your peers’.

You may also gain some insight from it to determine what your next move will be.

Whatever it is, we hope it will be a bold one.


Ready to leverage disruption or want to learn more? To get started on the pathway to making you and your organisation disruption ready, contact us here.