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How To Handle Digital Disruption in 2014

Almost time to crack open the champagne. Almost time to think about New Year’s resolutions too.

But in our business lives, what should those resolutions be? Especially if your business is about knowledge or information, where your world is almost certain to change.

In this video, MoneyBeat asked three of the world’s leading business and management thinkers–as ranked by The Thinkers 50– what goals we ought to be targeting in the New Year.

All agreed that leaders need to prepare for a significant shift in the way they work and think.

Rita McGrath, associate professor of management at the Columbia Business School, and winner of the “strategy” award, said that ideas in strategy have focused for years on sustainable competitive advantage but they no longer work for many sectors of the economy. She said that organizations have a problem confronting this, and cited Kodak, which who had relied on “nostalgia as strategy.”

Nilofer Merchant, an author and winner of the “future thinker” award, put it another way: “ So, the size of your enterprise, the scale, your access to capital–all those things that gave you an edge to new entrants, no longer exists. That’s all extremely scary because that means that your job is no longer about managing the present but inventing the future…all the time.”

But it’s not all bad news, leaders can respond to these challenges. Ms. McGrath suggested: “The first challenge for leaders is to be willing to be open to the idea that your advantage might not last.”

She also suggested that bosses must embrace the new: “You need to have a very firm grip on your firm’s portfolio and on your resource allocation process because if you let powerful business leaders control your resources you’ll never fund new things.”

Asked if firms should be hiring more women, Herminia Ibarra, professor of organizational behavior at Insead and winner of the “leadership” award, said that at the entry level, women are already hired at an equal rate to their male counterparts in many sectors. However, training and investment in women happens in the early years but not afterwards. Consequently, women drop out in their droves by the time they reach middle management and are non-existent at the top level: “What I would suggest is to focus on retaining them and promoting them.”

And if you think it’s too late to become a top management thought-leader, think again.

When Harvard Business School’s Clayton Christensen was announced as the top thinker in the ranking, he recounted that he was age 40 with five children when he embarked on his doctorate.

He attributed his successful career down to having to explain to his 12 year-old son what he was doing at university each day.


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