Russell Yardley, a leader in IT Governance, suggests the current digital age is being driven by four forces: IT as utility (e.g. cloud computing), location based services, big analytics and collaboration.
How digitally minded are we as directors? Are our boards stress testing the impact of these forces on our (for profit and for purpose) business models? Do we have a vision for IT in our organisations? Do we know how to allocate capital appropriately? Do we know how to effectively oversee technology projects?
And do we practice what we preach? Is the work of the board and directors as digitally enabled to the same extent as our organisations? What capabilities should directors possess and develop to protect and pursue value in the digital age?
‘Turning Innovation into Growth’ is a topic recently presented by Russell Yardley at the Bienalto breakfast briefings in Sydney and Melbourne. Either click here to be redirected to Bienalto’s official post on Russell’s presentation, or read their summary and view video highlights below.
TURNING INNOVATION INTO GROWTH
‘There are three types of people in the world: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what has happened.’
These wise words came from Russell Yardley’s boss at IBM, many years ago. Today, with technology a part of everything we do, businesses must be in the first group – driving productivity through innovation – if they want to remain relevant and competitive. Reflecting on how technology works, Russell expanded on three ideas:
- Each wave of technology builds upon the previous one
- Technology connects people through devices, allowing us to ascertain value
- The value of trust
View Video Highlights:
WAVES OF TECHNOLOGY
Russell believes looking back is the best way to understand how technology creates change.
600 years ago, Gutenberg invented the printing press. As a result, spelling and language were standardised, people were able to read in silence, and new ideas emerged – leading to the French and Scottish Enlightenments.
In nineteenth century America, the move from transport by river to rail necessitated watches as trains left on time; a further consequence being the punctuality of workers.
In 1927, Lee de Forest introduced sound to film with The Jazz Singer – and, though silent apart from four musical sections, it was a hit. But 20 years later, Carol Reed made The Third Man – bringing together writing, cinematography and sound to effect a radically different experience for the viewer.
So, how to best harness technology to be a part of change? Russell maintained that no matter the effort put into strategy and prediction, it is the capacity and capability of people and enterprise that are most important.
Russell offered up Bitcoin as an example of recognising value in innovation – the only development in technology he would compare with the PC and Internet itself.
A sequence of bits with a chain of trust built around it, Bitcoin embodies 20 years of innovation: decentralised timestamping, public key technology and more. Though a favourite of naysayers, Bitcoin has real strength – hackers have tried to break it for years and failed; and inherent value – the technology behind it could be used to verify any contract or piece of work.
Russell believes there is myriad potential in delivering value via technology. There are two billion people using the Internet now, but this will grow to five or six billion as Africa comes online. It is just the beginning of the journey and there’s opportunity for us all to create and participate if we can recognise value and provide it.
THE VALUE OF TRUST
Russell spoke on the value of trust, and how it can guide us in decision-making.
Referencing Beinhocker’s Origins of Wealth, he explained how low GDP per capita economies had low trust and were communist countries where commerce was difficult.
High GDP per capita economies, on the other hand, were high trust and capitalist. From this we can conclude that trust is integral to economic success.
Our connected world abounds with trusted networks that are used to make decisions: think Amazon with its star ratings and Yelp with its reviews. A group will arrive at a better decision than a person acting alone. Russell urged us to be clever and build trusted networks that allow us to identify what is valuable for our businesses.
150 years ago, George Bernard Shaw said that ‘unreasonable people are happy to shape the world. Reasonable people are happy for the world to shape them.’
Russell volunteered Steve Jobs as an example of an unreasonable innovator; he fought people to do things. We all have to think about political correctness and the way in which we operate, but we must also be willing to be unreasonable to innovate and achieve.
Closing by quoting Peter Drucker –
‘There is nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency that which should not be done at all’ – Russell implored us to really think about our businesses.
How can technology achieve our objectives? How can we meet the rising standards customers have? How can we cultivate cultures of innovation?
We must think about our structures. We must set an agenda for innovation – and then protect it. We must tolerate and learn from mistakes. And we must be accountable and transparent.
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