Nearly every day, business leaders are warned that unstoppable waves of disruption will soon descend upon their organizations. Thanks to technology and digitization, before they know it their employees will be replaced by robots and their business models will be rendered obsolete.
In this tale, disruption is an outside force — something happening to us. But what if we reject that view? What if we recognize disruption for what it is — a consequence of growing technological capabilities and digital innovations yielding dramatic improvements in the human condition — and decide to make it work for us? What if we determine the direction of travel?
The idea that disruption is potentially bad, rather than an opportunity to shape a world more in line with our values, echoes something else business leaders have been hearing for decades: that they can either do good or do well.
Their performance, they’re told, will be measured by what they return to shareholders in the short-term, not the value they create for society over the long term. They can either make money or make a difference — but they can’t do both.
Like a lot of the choices society presents us with, that supposed profit/purpose trade-off is flat-out false. So is the notion of technological determinism that says the tech genie is out of the bottle and we all adapt or perish. When deeply limiting beliefs like this persist, it sets artificial barriers on what human beings can accomplish for and with each other.
These challenges drove hundreds of corporate executives, startup CEOs, and market influencers from around the world to Amsterdam to put their heads together at EY’s Innovation Realized ’18.
As we saw at Innovation Realized and heard from bestselling Sapiens author, Yuval Noah Harari, future-fit organizations are rejecting false constraints and working with a sense of urgency and sense of purpose to shape the direction of disruption. They’re not innovating for the sake of innovating. They’re doing so to build a better, more sustainable, world. And voila – that is what is unleashing their innovation and powering growth.
EY Beacon Institute urges companies large and small to cast aside false “either-or” choices in favor of an aggressive “yes, and” approach that delivers for the bottom line and for society.
Using your organization’s unique strengths and leveraging the increasing abundance of information and digital capabilities is a great formula for doing some good for the world and the bottom line.
For a starting point, consider the world’s 17 global goals (Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs). This business plan for the world is a big opportunity for businesses who match their capabilities to the world’s needs. They’re a chance for firms to collaborate with new partners — and a potential $12 trillion business opportunity, according to a report from the Business & Sustainable Development Commission.
Plenty of businesses are already building innovative cultures and unleashing growth by harnessing their existing core competencies to be purpose-driven. Take a look at some of the CEOs and other senior executives who are linking profit and purpose: