Industry change is everywhere. We can’t pick up a paper, watch a commercial, talk to a friend, or even have a strategy discussion without talking about the possibility and impact of the disruption around us. Some people feel threatened by it. I’m energized by it.
Don’t get me wrong; change makes me a little anxious, even if I can’t always admit it. Change is an opportunity, which is exciting, but it takes courage to act before you can see the opportunity fully baked. I find that a lot of us are overwhelmed by change.
As leaders, we make excuses about why something cannot be done or will never happen. Our denial is a form of resistance. Personally and professionally, that resistance is a mistake – over time, it chips away at our relevance. Leaders (and companies) are guilty of this resistance all the time. We should not be focused on if we should change; we should be focused on the pace of change.
The incumbent disadvantage
If you stand still, the competition will take what you have worked hard to build. Startups benefit by disrupting the way the game is played. They want change – they can’t win without it.
Ironically, the firms with the best opportunity for taking advantage of change are the incumbents – as long as they can see it and have the courage to act. They have the assets necessary to take advantage of change:
- Valued customer relationships
- Well established brands
Unfortunately, they also have all the trappings of success:
- Existing revenues and profits
- Pride of authorship
- Historical relationships
- HR policy and procedures
- Investment hurdle rates
Ironically, what made them incumbents may prevent them from embracing change, until it is thrust upon them.
Here’s the upside
Challenge yourself to consider how you can lead change. Look at how it’s happened outside of your industry. For example, Ross Ellis, a colleague of mine from SEI’s Investment Manager Services unit, shared a paper his team recently produced called the Upside of Disruption. I loved it! It documents 5 major industry disruptors:
The dictionary may not recognize these words, but leaders should. We can learn best by looking at what’s happening outside of our industry and determining how to apply similar change. I believe in my industry, wealth management, the time for this type of thinking has never been more important or more exciting than right now. The Upside of Disruption does a great job discussing these topics and their potential impact.
I’m such a fan of this paper that I sat down with Ross to take a deeper dive into it. The result is a series of podcasts – the first of which I’ll share later this week.