Innovation and Change

Leadership

Tuesday 19 May 2009

Dr Jonas Ridderstråle

Innovation and Change: How to embrace change and thrive in a downturn

Lewis Media Centre, London

Due to legal reasons we are unable to make audio of this event available.

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Innovation and Change

Funkster and egg-head Swede (i.e. bald, as well as academic), Dr Jonas Ridderstrale took to the stage at the Lewis Media Centre to reveal to the London Business Forum how to confront the changing world of business head on. With a highly polished presentation that was so rich in content, ideas flew everywhere.

“‘Capitalism without failure is like Christianity without Hell”’ began Ridderstrale, quoting Warren Buffett and addressing the current economic crisis. Now is the time to stand out, and develop ideas, “Standing still is the surest way to fall behind – inaction is not an option!” he warned the LBF.

Success is in surprises said Ridderstrale, the smart thing is to “focus on being the surprise.” David Beckham, explained the Funky Business guru, is the most famous man in a traditional macho sport but he is very much the modern metro-sexual who “waxes his chest.” The success and marketability of David Beckham is partly due to how he surprises his audience, he is a refreshing change: “In Ghandi’s words: ‘be the change you wish to see in the world’” exclaimed Ridderstrale.

How can you build an organisation that is capable of implementing change? The answer he offered is that you need to understand that customers typically want, “exactly what they desire.” The increasingly deregulated world in which we live means both greater personal and economic freedom for its inhabitants. Successful companies have adapted to these freedom movements, they have created platforms that enable consumers to co-produce and co-design.

“There are 287 million migrants on our planet,” said Ridderstrale, “and what part of the world has been the most ambitious talent magnet?” he asked. It is the USA, the ‘Land of Freedom.’ Anyone can become American, explained Ridderstrale, as the American constitution is based on an idea, “a big, hairy, audacious idea!” Austrian born Arnold Schwarzenegger is not just an American but the Governor of California. In contrast it takes 297 years to become Swedish, “and that’s if you’re born in Norway,” he joked.

Of course ideas are always open to criticism recognises Ridderstrale, “some people may love that idea, others may hate it.” As a leader of a company you must ask yourself, “Am I running a big, hairy, audacious idea?” This will make it more attractive not just to consumers but also to prospective employees who will share your values.

“Values are critical if you aspire to be the surprise agent” Ridderstrale told the LBF. Criticising traditional management models he argued that people can be trained for skill so they must be hired for their attitude. Managers, he continued, spend too much time concentrating on their worst performers, “stamping out deviants”, and not enough time on “positive deviants.” He suggested that to be successful, leaders should spend more time developing their positive deviants by “initiating discussion to a deadline.” In addition he implored the LBF to stop rewarding mediocre successes and instead celebrate mistakes: “If you rule out the risk for negative surprise to happen the positive surprise may never happen – To succeed we must become Masters of Mistakes!”

Ridderstrale pointed out that even in harder times there is still a wealth of opportunity out there. Companies must compete by using the market to their advantage if consumers are “stressed, bored, lonely, anonymous” then seize the opportunity and “pamper,” “excite,” “connect,” and “see.” For example, sites such as Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and Second Life have answered the call of the lonely individual.

To conclude, he reflected on the last major economic crisis, the oil crisis in 1973. Now massive global companies - Microsoft, Fed-Ex and Pringles - were founded during this period. “Dare to be the change, dare to be different,” the funkster advised the LBF, “be the light at the end of the tunnel!”