Disturbing the peace: Embracing change and disruption for growth

On 10 August, EO New Zealand, local chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, the only global network exclusively for entrepreneurs, hosted Prime Minister John Key in Wellington, discussing disruptive technology.

Forty entrepreneurs from New Zealand and Australia attended. Andrew Butel, CEO of boutique software company EndGame, shares his learnings on how business owners can embrace disruption for increased growth.​

Disruptive technologies challenge the status quo, by creating new industries, establishing new resources within and between businesses, or displacing an established technology.

Steve Forbes once said, "You have to disrupt yourself or others will do it for you." From 1995-2001, while working as the head of global foreign exchange at Merril Lynch, the wealth management division of the Bank of America, John Key was part of a working group that included representatives from Kodac and Gibson Greeting Cards. Concerned that the rising popularity of the Internet would drive parts of their business to extinction, these companies needed to proactively reinvent elements of themselves to avoid being rendered obsolete.

Disruptive technology is being developed all around us. While New Zealand is somewhat distanced from what’s happening elsewhere in the world, global trends do still impact us. Businesses need to be prepared to adapt and reinvent themselves, with an eye on the rest of the world.   

Following the example of innovations currently taking over their predecessors, like Uber and Airbnb, we need to set up our own businesses to leverage assets, resources, and communities that we don't already own. In order to continue growing, Kiwi businesses need a global outlook. We aren't going to grow if we only look inwards. 

EO members with PM John Key

Globally, EO has over 12,000 members, so it’s a great way for Kiwi business owners to see what’s happening to businesses around the world. It's also a great way of challenging each other to build companies that are scaleable, purposeful, and have a drive to implement real, lasting change.

A disruptive technology can only emerge from the right culture, within both an economy and a company. New Zealand is often a test bed for new technology. Because we’re small, there are fewer barriers to trying new things, and collaboration between small businesses, corporates and the government is far easier.

New Zealand’s economy has all the right ingredients, and with a history of being change-makers and innovators, it's now up to us as entrepreneurs to cultivate the internal culture necessary to drive the development of new and groundbreaking technologies.

Key referred to the government’s recently-released app that registers births online. This wasn’t advertised, but in the first month of it going live, 85 percent of births that occurred during that time were registered using the app.

Left-right: Blair Mainwaring, John Key, Andrew Butel

Right now, newspapers are shrinking in both staff and readership, being replaced by easily accessible, shareable online news. Uber and Airbnb are challenging the relevance of taxis and hotels, providing a service without actually owning any assets. It took Snapchat three months, and Pokemon Go a number of days to reach the same user-base that took Facebook three years to reach, demonstrating the expanding global reach of smartphone and app stores.

How then, does a disruptive technology come about? In Exponential Organisations, author Salim Ismail states that information is a business owner’s greatest asset. “An information enabled-environment delivers fundamentally disruptive opportunities, " he says, outlining the following steps for a technology to be developed that creates a new value market:

1.  A domain or technology becomes information-enabled

2. Costs drop exponentially and access is democratised

3. Hobbyists come together to form an open-source community

4. New combinations of technologies and convergences are introduced

5. New products and services appear that are better and cheaper

6. The status quo is disrupted

In order for a business to develop a disruptive technology, it must have “massive transformative purpose” (MTP), an ambitious mission that creates a positive impact on the world. Key referred to this in his presentation, advising business owners to watch Simon Sinek's inspirational TED talk on 'the why', rather than 'the what' of business. Having an overwhelming purpose is what motivates our teams and what attracts customers to us. It's not the what, it's the why. 

At EndGame, we believe that to position ourselves to embrace disruptive technology, and be at the forefront of new breakthroughs, we must be ready to solve global problems. We’re constantly seeking out new problems to solve, through cloud and mobile applications, and partnering with experts in a wide range of industries. Software development has huge potential, and only a fraction is being leveraged today. It takes time and both a breadth and depth of experience to identify new trends, but that's what drives our hunger to build new products that solve problems that effect not just New Zealand, but the world.

It's about creating the culture. We have that in EndGame, in Wellington and throughout the rest of New Zealand. We have the right ingredients to create real change, and it’s only a matter of time before some really big disruptive technologies emerge from Down Under.

Main image, left-right: Maria Johnson, John Key, Chair Marisa Fong, President James McGlinn