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Creative Destruction (Winter 2018)

No company today has the luxury of basking in yesterday’s—or even today’s—success. The humbling fact of life for today’s leaders is that virtually everything you thought you understood about running a successful business is open to better ways of doing things. In this issue, we look at how creative destruction is unfolding across industries, and the thinking and leadership required to fuel it—and navigate it

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Feature Articles From this Issue

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  • (FREE) Thought Leader Interview: Ajay Agrawal
    by Karen Christensen
    The founder of the Creative Destruction Lab describes its moonshot mission to create a Canadian AI ecosystem.
    Click on the title to read the article or here for a PDF version. 

  • (FREE) A Start-Up is Born: The Story of Helpful 
    by Karen Christensen and Sharon Aschaiek
    A start-up isn't a 'company' in a the traditional sense; it's a learning machine, says serial entrepreneur Daniel Debow (Rotman JD/MBA '00)
    Click on the title to read the article or here for a PDF version.
  • (FREE) How AI Will Transform Business 
    by Richard Piticco, CPA, CA
    What does AI mean for businesses big and small? What key opportunities and challenges does it present? Two experts on the topic weigh in: Rotman School Dean Tiff Macklem and Scotiabank CTO Michael Zerbs.
    Click on the title to read the article or here for a PDF version.

  • (FREE) CEO Spotlight: Staying Relevant in a Disruptive Age
    by Karen Christensen
    In a wide-ranging interview, the CEO of Estée Lauder Companies explains how he took the company from a market cap of $6 billion to $35 billion. He describes how he created new ‘engines of growth’ for the company through the diversification of its brands, categories, geographies and channels; the pros of working for a family-owned firm; why the company chooses to focus on its most discerning customers; and how he has engaged Millennials in creating company’s forward-looking strategy.
  • Moonshots: Achieving Breakthrough Innovation in Established Organizations 
    by Anita M. McGahan
    Embracing a transformative goal is one way to move a legacy business from the brink of disruption to a new business model that incorporates new ideas and technologies. The author defines such a ‘moonshot’ strategy, named after President John F. Kennedy’s 1962 speech announcing that the U.S. would seek to put a man on the moon and return him safely to earth by the end of the decade. She provides a framework for developing such a lofty goal and shows that you don’t have to travel to the moon to experience the moonshot effect: In the end, a moonshot is not defined by its distance from Earth, but by its distance from business as usual.

  • The Future of Growth: AI Comes of Age
    by Jodie Wallis and Deborah Santiago
    In the modern economy, the two traditional drivers of production—increases in capital investment and labour—have declined in their ability to propel economic progress. 
    The authors argue that economies are entering a new era in which artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to overcome the physical limitations of capital and labour, opening up new sources of value and growth. They explain how AI technologies can be combined in different ways to sense, comprehend and act, showing that these three capabilities are underpinned by an ability to learn from experience and adapt over time. AI, they predict, will transform the basis of economic growth for countries around the world.

  • A Winning Formula: Disruptive Innovation + Jobs to be Done
    by Stephen Wunker and David Farber
    New business opportunities stem from understanding the full landscape of ‘jobs’ that people are trying to get done on a daily basis. The authors begin by explaining two of Harvard Professor Clayton Christensen’s best-known concepts: disruptive innovation and Jobs to be Done. Then, they argue that these theories are natural complements: Jointly, they show where incumbents are vulnerable and how customers hunger for new solutions. They introduce the ‘Jobs Atlas’, and show how it can be used to bridge the two theories and develop creative solutions for customers.
  • Creating Great Choices: A Leader’s Guide to Integrative Thinking
    by Jennifer Riel and Roger Martin
    The authors begin by asking the reader, How often do you make choices? Really make them? Or how often do you just accept one of the choices that is handed to you? They describe how LEGO’s CEO went about creating a new choice for his company—one that did not previously exist as an option. They describe how this display of ‘Integrative Thinking’ brings together three thinking skills to create new choices: metacognition, empathy and creativity. These components, they argue, can overcome the limitations of current decision-making processes and produce better outcomes.
  • The New Leadership Imperative: Embracing Digital Transformation
    by Maxwell Wessel
    All of the things that allowed companies to build massively- valuable, industrial-scale businesses in the 20th century are now ‘for rent’: You can rent ‘scale’ from companies like Foxconn (as Apple does); communication infrastructure from Trillium; computing capacity from Amazon; and logistics capacity from FedEx or UPS. So, what matters today? Data, says the author, an executive at SAS. He provides three reasons why ‘data is the new oil’: it is scalable, reinforcable and defensible. He then describes three key challenges for today’s leaders and provides five principles for moving forward on your organization’s digital transformation. 
  • How to Sense and Seize Opportunities—and Transform Your Organization
    by George Day and Paul Schoemaker
    Haas School of Business Professor David Teece and his colleagues created the Dynamic Capabilities Framework, showing that three capabilities—sensing, seizing and transforming—enable firms to sense opportunities sooner than their rivals, seize them more effectively, and support the organizational transformation that this entails. The authors take this theory a step further by adding two ‘sub-capabilities’ to each Dynamic Capability, including ‘peripheral vision’, experimentation and vigilant learning. They then provide a case study on DuPont’s biofuel initiative, showing how all six sub-capabilities manifest themselves in strategy.
  • Reputation Management Goes Digital
    by Anne Bowers and A. Rebecca Reuber
    From ‘best of’ lists on magazine websites to employer reviews on Glassdoor, to product reviews on Amazon, to service reviews on Yelp and TripAdvisor, companies are continually being judged, and those assessments are easily accessible to everyone, everywhere. The authors describe two types of online reputational ratings—curated and uncurated—and discuss the impact they can have on organizations. They also provide guidelines for how managers can use these ratings to their advantage. 
  • The Democratization of Judgment
    by Alessandro Di Fiore
    Hardly a day goes by without the announcement of a promising new frontier for Artificial Intelligence (AI), and corporate investments in Big Data are touted regularly for the dividends they yield. But we don’t hear much about the demand created by this rising ‘supply’: In a world of Big Data and AI, the demand for sound and distributed judgment is increasing quickly.  The author argues that ‘qualitative judgment’—the ability to make a decision based on a personal interpretation of the context and the available facts—has never been more important. He provides four steps for leaders to take in order to ‘democratize’ judgment in their organization.

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Interviews and Ideas

From This Issue Winter 2018

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