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Innovation event: exploring the challenge and possibilities of disruptive change


Over 100 guests joined PA Consulting Group at its annual innovation event, held this year at The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in London. The event offered the chance to explore a series of live technology demos showcasing some of PA’s most innovative products and ideas.

The panel for the debate, chaired by PA’s David Elton and streamed live via the PA website, was: 

  • Baroness Susan Greenfield CBE, British scientist, writer and broadcaster
  • Oday Abbosh, Founder and CEO Better All Round Ltd
  • John Metselaar, Director of Research and Development, Procter & Gamble
  • Dr Carsten Sørensen, Reader in Digital Innovation, London School of Economics and Political Science
  • Kam Star, Chief Play Officer Playgen and founder of Digital Shoreditch.

Watch a video of the panel debate at our 2013 innovation event

Key ideas covered in the debate included:

Thinking can be dangerous, disruption can be uncomfortable

Thinking – and especially challenging long-established ways of understanding the world – can be a dangerous business. Small wonder then that the notion of disruption and the possibility of change is approached with caution, especially in the UK. Here, many businesses prefer to see new ideas proven in the real world before backing them. Excessive caution means opportunities are missed.

Businesses must reinvent themselves to remain competitive

Businesses that fail to respond to the changing environment around them won’t survive. Of the Fortune 500 of 1955, perhaps only ten appear in the same listing today. Eastman Kodak, the firm that invented the hand-held camera, was driven to bankruptcy by its failure to adapt to the digital era. By contrast, Amazon provides a great example of how constantly rethinking its business model has allowed it to become the world’s largest online retailer.

Digital convergence creates huge potential for disruption

The stone age, the iron age and the bronze age all gave people new materials from which to create tools to shape the world. Digital is today’s new material. Its base elements – zeros and ones – make it extraordinarily malleable and, crucially, allow different forms to merge effortlessly. This digital convergence challenges many of the structures we’ve developed to protect businesses and their assets, including intellectual property. We’ve no understanding yet of where digital innovation will take us. Only one thing is certain: the journey has only just begun.

Inspirational leaders hold the key to successful change

Business leaders are often appointed as change leaders because of their position, rather than because of their personality or their passion. But making change happen – especially in a large organisation – requires both these things. Innovation rarely flourishes when cautious committees have too much influence – it often takes an inspired and inspirational individual to drive change through. 

Disruption must have a purpose and not all new ideas are good ones

Disruption isn’t an end in itself – it’s the point where we deconstruct existing structures in order to reassemble them in new ways. Not all the new forms we create will be useful or valuable, but businesses need to accept that failure is part of the process of learning and creation. In an environment where creative thinking is encouraged there will always be a mix of ideas that seem outlandish and ideas with clear commercial potential. Getting the balance right is key.

To find out more about PA's technology and innovation capabilities, contact us now.

PAnorama Innovation event ITG

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