Fraser Thompson

The culture of change

Fraser Thompson is director, Singapore, Alphabeta strategy x economics 

It’s easy to get lost in change.

Whilst the changes taking place are immense, a set of simple yet powerful questions are useful to test your readiness to manage this new environment: Can you confidently name three to five economic events that pose the biggest risks or opportunities to your business? Are they different than a few years ago? Are you clear about the first-, second-, and even third-order impacts these forces could have on your business? Does your management team have an action plan to respond to these events and to shore up any vulnerability before it occurs? Have you identified leading indicators to monitor and agreed on trigger points at which you will reassess your strategy? Do you have the skills (and culture) in your organisation to navigate this changing landscape? Since the start of the 21st century, the world has been changing radically with Asia-Pacific at the heart of the transformation.

All at once, emerging economies are rapidly industrialising, populations are aging, new technologies are coming into use, and a growing web of interconnectedness is transforming geopolitics, the competitive landscape, and sustainability concerns.

None of these disruptions, on its own, is a surprise.

The unique challenge is that they are happening at the same time – and on a huge scale, creating effects that are scarcely possible to anticipate.

The ‘rules of the game’ have changed fundamentally, and business and government leaders will need to reset their intuition or risk being left behind.

The major consumer markets of tomorrow will look very different from today, but this will create both opportunities and risks for consumer-facing companies.


Murat Kansu

Disruptive technology

Murat Kansu, MD of Microsoft Turkey, on embracing disruptive technology

A disruptive technology is one that shakes up an established technology and destabilises an entire industry, creating a new way of doing things.

At Microsoft we’ve often taken advantage of such technologies as they allow you to spread into new areas by being different and by being innovative.

Think of the personal computer.

It completely and irreversibly changed the way we work and communicate.

The Windows operating system, employing that combination of compatibility and user-friendly interface was absolutely instrumental in the rapid development of the PC industry.

Email has transformed the world, as has mobile computing, which disrupted the traditional way of working by allowing people to work wherever they are and whenever they want.

Most recently cloud computing has been hugely disruptive, displacing traditional resources that were in a home or business.

That kind of disruption puts pressure on companies such as Microsoft, but we always aim to take advantage of new technologies as early as possible.

Our industry does not respect tradition, it only respects innovation.

It has to be in Microsoft’s DNA to actualise the impossible and to embrace every new and disruptive technology.

To be successful in this disruptive age you must be proactive and take advantage of technology.

It’s all about innovation.

Establish a corporate culture based around innovation, provoke new ideas and encourage that way of thinking, creating an environment where people can bring their ideas to life.

We started with Bill Gates’ vision of a computer for each person and for each home. We have achieved that and now we are transforming ourselves to create more disruptive shifts in the industry.


Shane Owenby

Disruptive innovation

Shane Owenby on why being ‘uberised’ should be on your radar

I love disruption, whether it is geoeconomic disruption (like the financial crisis) or start-ups looking to disrupt established verticals.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) provides enterprises, start-ups and governments with access to computer capacity, storage and networking (or cloud computing) via a pay-as-you-go model that fuels innovation and industry disruption without the need to have large amounts of capital.

Just look at Spotify or Airbnb, who run on AWS and are completely disrupting the markets they operate in.

I regularly warn large enterprises about being ‘Uber-ised’ or ‘Airbnb-ised’.

Those types of companies are completely disrupting big enterprises and making them seriously question whether they have the DNA and the muscle to remain competitive.

AWS is often approached by large established corporations asking us how they can bring best practices of innovation into their organisations.

Many of these conversations revolve back to the amount of disruption they are facing from existing competitors, new start-ups or changing marketing conditions.

Old school companies that think they can carry on doing what you’re doing for a long time are mistaken.

Every industry and every enterprise is ripe for disruption.

I don’t think, for example, the world’s largest hotel chains thought they were going to be usurped by someone renting out rooms in people’s private homes but it’s happened.

And it’s exactly the same for Uber and taxi licenses, or the way that Whatsapp has transformed telecoms.

Companies need to start expecting disruption rather than wondering when or where it’s going to happen.

Shane Owenby is Managing Director of Amazon Web Services, Asia Pacific


Robert Madelin

Masters of our fate

Robert Madelin 'Don’t fear disruption, think about the opportunities it provides'

Disruption is abundant in the tech sector. Just look at the way that IT has changed our approach to the world.

It’s unleashed new and radical options that mean it is seldom not disruptive in any form.

Any data-driven innovation or pure tech innovation is dissolving previously impermeable frontiers between sectors and activities in a way that many find uncomfortable. In order to deal with disruption we’re going to have to re-learn the value of infrastructure.

People assume that in this new immaterial, digital world we no longer need infrastructure and if you look at the underinvestment into infrastructure over the last 10 or 20 years it’s a tragedy.

Education and the availability of learning in order to keep up to date with the speed of disruption will be critical, and we’ll finally have to wake up to the fact that we will have to invest in the fundamentals in order to be successful.

Secondly, we’ll have to progressively understand that the untapped value of data and data-driven innovation is so big that current ideas about who owns that data and who has rights to access it will need to change radically.

It’s an ethical question that is in the interests of society.

Disruption is something that we cannot avoid.

What we lack as human beings is the ability to say “I want to understand potential changes and to master them”.

In other words we, as a society, need to get back into a mindset of being masters of our fate.

I believe that a more participative approach in society will unleash our optimism about change.

Robert Madelin is Senior Innovation Adviser at the European Commission


Jacob Kvist

Mobile disruption in South East Asia

In our region disruption centres on the rise of mobile.

Vietnam is still quite a traditional media market, as is Southeast Asia in general, but consumers have advanced.

They’re no longer spending their time around TV but on mobile technology, and no one has really cracked how we can use that as a significant marketing platform. The old model of simply buying advertising space simply doesn’t work on mobile.

So, our clients are investing in advertising and spending money on media that is becoming less effective, which is a huge disruption to the ecosystem but also a great opportunity.

There are two ways to crack that disruption.

The ‘defensive’ approach involves optimising whatever is being done on traditional media.

We’re adopting the more offensive play: investing heavily in mobile advertising and employing a lot of people focused purely on that platform.

Have we truly cracked how to engage consumers in a costeffective, mass reach way on mobile yet? The answer is no. Nobody in our industry has.

When it comes to communication consumers are now in control.

Our investments have shifted towards conversations than messaging.

The disruption has had such an impact that the entire industry is struggling to adapt due to this massive shift in power from publishers/brands to consumers.

The lines between who does what in the industry will become more blurred in the future.

You won’t necessarily have an advertising agency that comes up with an idea, then a media agency and a digital agency that execute it because it just doesn’t work with where the consumers are at.

The lines need to be redrawn.


John Vickerman

Disruption in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)

In the MENA region, disruption comes in many forms.

Technology is a significant disruptive force that has enabled us to compete digitally alongside the traditional cable and satellite delivery methods.

Growth in digital means that we can now deliver great content to customers on the move or at home, and on various connected devices.

Customers now watch TV while simultaneously interacting with social media on their iphone, tablet and other devices, which allows us to gain instant feedback and have more accurate information on the content they are watching and want to watch.

A very young population is fuelling this disruption.

In Saudi Arabia, for example, 46.9 per cent of the population is under 24, highly educated and affluent, so the adoption of new technologies is swift and consumers demand high quality content instantly.

Recent figures from Dubai School of Government reveal that the MENA region has approximately 125 million Internet users, of which 53 million use social media every day.

A separate study records that 80 per cent of Internet users in the region spend more than one hour every day on social media.

It adds up to tremendous interconnectivity and the rapid uptake of new ideas and technologies across traditional country boundaries, which are then adapted and defined for those cultures and markets.

It’s easy to see new markets as risky or volatile, but engage with them and understand them, don’t just fly in/fly out or wait for them to stabilise – by the time they are stable in a western sense, the opportunity may be lost.

John Vickerman is Senior Vice President HR at OSN, the largest pay per view TV network in MENA

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