Published On: Sat, Dec 30th, 2017


David Cornick has worked for IBM for over 30 years and has watched technologies emerge and change lives.

His experience has taught him that though the future is impossible to predict, it is possible to think about it in a way that provides some sort of guidance.

This way of thinking can be illustrated by what is called the fixed vs growth mindset theory.

With a growth mindset, an individual is much more likely to embrace change, treat failure as an opportunity and to be excited by the future, and not be afraid.

With a fixed mindset, the individual will be much more inflexible and see change as a threat, and to be afraid of failure.

As a leader and manager, you must have the flexibility to see opportunities in a world which is rapidly changing.

A leader who leans towards a growth mindset is more likely to spot threats and opportunities more quickly than others.

A leader also needs to rely on a network of experts in a variety of fields.

For example, a major construction company built its head offices using smart technologies that incorporated lifts arriving on floors at the busiest times and used smart devices to control lighting when rooms were empty.

The firm identified savings of up to 7% a year. That sort of saving can be a game changer in construction.

Another construction firm is evaluating entering the facilities management business, knowing it can compete more aggressively on the design and build of a project, and recoup the investments over a longer period.

By combining its traditional skills with new technologies, this construction company has the potential to carve out its own niche, while disrupting its competitors.

Technology is fundamentally changing the ways firms deliver their products and services.

For some, it is raising questions about the business itself.

Sportswear firm Under Armour did what every other traditional sportswear company did: It sold sportswear.

Its CEO and chairman, Kevin Plank, had a different vision. He wanted Under Armour to help athletes reach their peak performances.

Such a vision would in the recent past have been a mere aspiration – a mission statement.

Under Armour would have been able to produce improvements in its clothing lines to help athletes get better, but in truth, it would have no data to rely on, and probably only elite athletes would derive any benefits.

With digital technology, however, Under Armour saw an opportunity to forge links with athletes across the world – both professional and amateur – on an individual basis to include all aspects of their life, and not just the hour they spent at the gym.

It started by buying three apps – MyFitnessPal, MapMyFitness, and Endomondo.

The apps track diet and exercise, an athlete’s movement, and diet, and are used by 170 million.

“All this is about gathering as much data as possible they can about their customers, and then feeding it back to them in a way that is easily consumable,” said IBM’s Mr Cornick.

“Examples? A 40-year old athlete could compare their performance with other 40-year olds in the database for a realistic standard; your nutrition app will feed into your fitness app, suggesting improvements and will track your overall progress with motivational pushes based on your past behaviour. Always skip the gym on a Monday?

“Your device will tell you to get off the couch,” he said.

According to Under Armour, two-thirds of its growth over the next decade will come from digital products and services.

While the company could become the third biggest sportswear company in the world by 2020, according to analysts.

We’re still in flux. There is always the human temptation to say ‘well, this is as good as it gets’ or, ‘someone must be doing that’.

However, this is generally not the case. This is only the beginning of the technological revolution, and there are plenty of opportunities.

And it will be the flexible and growth-minded leaders who will be able to see the opportunities.

“It’s all about people,” said Mr Cornick. “You have to attract, develop and retain the best people to succeed when everything is constantly changing,” he said.

The robots may be coming, but it will be people who will point them in the right direction.

This article is based on a talk given at the IMI Campus by David Cornick at the Advant-edge series for IMI members.


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