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Conference about innovation leadership and disruption
ESADE Alumni held a conference by Andrés Raya, co-director of ESADE’s People Leadership and Team Management Programme, about the crucial role of innovation leadership and disruption in different stages of automation.
Nikolai Kondratiev was the first person to define the different long-term economic cycles over time. The last stage described by the Russian economist is stage five: the stage of ITC and the onset of internet (1980s onwards). The idea of a subsequent phase, stage six, is not impossible although what exactly it will be like is not known. “It used to be associated with nanotechnology, biotechnology and generating energy but now it is more along the lines of artificial intelligence and digitisation, said Andrés Raya.
Although the automation of processes is partly a matter for concern, the speaker was optimistic about the chance of finding solutions for complex issues such as, for example, a dearth of resources. Developments such as artificial intelligence transform the entire industrial scenario. “By 2027, at least 30% of the activities of 60% of employees will be automated, and this will affect us all, said Raya.
One function of companies is to adapt to this new scenario by making changes to their corporate leadership and management. The speaker suggested four ways to adapt, at least two of which two must be mandatory.
1. Ability to formulate new ways of operating based on slowing down, reconfirming and adjusting the existing strategy.
2. Finding out about and perceiving changes in the environment. Conveying the information gathered to the entire company in order to trigger a response.
3. Create prototypes and try out strategies. Change the traditional negative attitude to failure and foster the idea that mistakes help people improve.
4. Implement changes highly likely to be successful.
One of the mistakes that traditional companies often make is to view the company individually and think about launching projects first and then focussing on them. Raya wondered what would happen if a new strategy clashed with corporate culture.
One must regard the company as an organisation and take advantage of the specific skills of each person in order to achieve improvements. This involves change management methods, a shift in corporate culture in order to understand the situation, build a team and create a combined strategy. “Fifty per cent of the process starts before taking action. The road taken is more important than making it or not to the finishing line. Traditional companies tend to focus too much on the sphere of action. It’s important to remember that if things are aligned well, action comes naturally, said the expert.
To achieve a well-founded organisation, at least 60% of staff must promote or facilitate the change, but some are always reluctant about the project. A variety of techniques can make them stop digging their heels in, such as storytelling (a combination of information and emotions) and gamification (a corporate strategy based on games featuring rewards and flow dynamics).
This will enable the company to change its hierarchy and train new operators to explore, seek out and manage new scenarios, and exploiters able to make this new strategy a reality.
Another change driven by the new stage of digitisation is the project management method: companies are commissioned to create prototypes, complete phases and ensure more profit than pain. “We used to start by defining the scope and then deciding how much time and money we could devote to achieving it. Now we do the opposite: we weigh up our time and money and then define the scope, said Raya.
All methods have some elements in common. These are what as known as agile projects, characterised by:
- Interaction between people: groups are set up with people from different departments who are empowered to carry out a specific project.
- Direction communication with customers rather than negotiating a contract.
- Self organisation in response to change: joint decision taking.
Companies increasingly choose network-based hierarchies as their collaborative model, in which the members of a group develop a strategic plan by pooling their knowledge and ideas. “One of the most important factors is to work on the basis of influence: first you have to give in order to receive. Generosity is a way of creating trust and becoming more influential, explained Andrés Raya.
It must be remembered that mistakes only depend on the responsibility of the person making them. Failure enables us to assess possible mistakes and solve problems in order to apply methods that help improve the process of attaining success. It is not a matter of finding a permanent solution but of overcoming everyday obstacles.
Andrés Raya wound up his talk with a metaphor. “The backwards high jump or flop was invented by Fosbury but it would never have occurred to him if no one had thought of using foam matting to break his fall beforehand. Companies must provide “foam matting in order to leap towards the new challenges of the high-tech world.