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From the Editor

The Disruptive Issue II, Winter 2019

Karen ChristensenWHILE IT MIGHT SEEM IMPOSSIBLE, consider this: Most experts agree that the speed of change that we are experiencing today is actually the slowest it will be in our lifetime. Obviously, organizations of all shapes and sizes are feeling the effects. And yet, in a recent EY study, only 50 per cent of global CEOs said they feel prepared to take advantage of disruptive change.

The good news is that disruption is not some mysterious, random or unpredictable event. By taking steps to understand how it is currently affecting an industry — and how it might affect it in the future — companies can avoid the fates of Kodak, Blockbuster and so many others.

Our first issue on disruptive innovation was published in fall 2016, and not surprisingly, much has changed since then. In this issue we will once again put disruption in the spotlight and examine the strategies and mindsets of the most successful innovators, disrupters and entrepreneurs. We kick things off on page 6 with Exploring the Impact of AI, where Creative Destruction Lab Chief Economist Joshua Gans argues that AI works best when your objective is obvious. When an objective is difficult to describe, there is still no substitute for human judgment.

What are the core assumptions that underpin your current strategy? What types of disruptions are you likely to face? Are you even in the right business? Questions matter more than ever. On page 18, MIT’s Hal Gregersen shows that Behind Every Breakthrough is a Better Question.

Will automatic vehicles (AVs) improve social welfare or create unprecedented congestion? The jury is still out. On page 24, Rotman professors Opher Baron and Oded Berman discuss The Economics of Autonomous Vehicles.

Elsewhere in this issue, we feature innovation expert Rita McGrath in our Thought Leader Interview on page 12; and in our Idea Exchange, Alibaba’s head of strategy Ming Zeng explains what it takes to be a ‘smart business’ on page 92; Gallup’s Sangeeta Badal describes how to become a ‘builder’ on page 103; Harvard’s Francesca Gino shows why it pays to break the rules on page 134; and Rotman professors Angèle BeausoleilAlberto Galasso, Brian Keng and David Dunne discuss their latest work.

This past October, the Government of Canada announced a $25 million investment in the Creative Destruction Lab (CDL), a non-profit organization based at the Rotman School of Management. Headed up by Ajay Agrawal, the Geoffrey Taber Chair in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, CDL operates across six locations, including sites at the University of British Columbia and New York University, merging science-based projects with business expertise to help young companies scale up into creators of new jobs, processes and services.

In his announcement of the investment, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains said that CDL “promises to unleash a new wave of start-up innovation across Canada, creating thousands of middle-class jobs and further securing Canada’s position as a world leader in the AI field.” This funding will facilitate CDL supporting business ventures that harness emerging technologies such as AI, clean tech, energy, health, smart cities and space and quantum technologies.

Amidst all of the disruption taking place at the Rotman School and elsewhere, one thing remains constant: Committing ourselves to continuous, lifelong learning is the best way to keep up with accelerating change — both in life and in business. We hope this issue contributes to your disruptive learning journey. 

Karen Christensen



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