Forbes

‘Embrace Cannibalization’ To Succeed In Digital, And Other Important Insights From Leaders

By Robert Reiss

January 5, 2017

On November 15, 2016 I attended what I define as a truly important conference entitled, “Unleashing Your Personal Next: Personal Transformation for Sustainable Success.” Here are some insights from the speakers on how to succeed in our digital world:

  • Tyler Wry, Management Development Professor, Wharton
  • Sree Sreenivasan, Chief Digital Officer, New York City
  • Ganesh Ayyar, CEO, Mphasis
  • Mark Casady, CEO, LPL Financial
  • Jose Tolosa, COO, Viacom International Media Networks
  • Joe Ripp, Executive Chairman, Time Inc.
  • David Clark, President, The Weather Channel

Tyler Wry: “You have to have more than just a strategy to deal with digital. Digital is not something you do once and then stop. You need to be able to develop competencies inside your organization to change on an ongoing basis. Digital transformation is rooted in culture, it’s rooted in leadership and it will require structural changes in your organization.”

Sree Sreenivasan: “It really makes a difference when the CEO, or the top of the company chain, cares about change. You have to make sure you pick and choose the right influencers – not everyone can change, nor should they change – right away.”

Mark Casady: “I go through digital transformation regularly. The world is full of interesting ideas and people.” Every year for the past 15 years, he thinks about what he wants to learn and goes after that knowledge wherever it resides. LPL’s digital transformation mantra became, “Let’s go from command to cooperation.” But change took time and capital; it also resulted in the replacement of 80% of the management team.

Ganesh Ayyar: “I cannot be a has-been CEO,” he said. “I cannot lead this company, which is a fantastic company, to success if I don’t change.” One of toughest things to overcome was the aversion to failure. “The fear of failure was very high,” Ayyar said. “That prevented me from creating a culture that embraces experimentation, which embraces empowerment.”

Jose Tolosa became COO of Viacom International Media Networks at the time when viewership moved to content on mobile devices anywhere/anytime from an analog world of television viewing at scheduled times. To encourage innovation and become nimble, Viacom holds competitions every year and backs winning ideas that disrupt and transform the company.

Joe Ripp, Executive Chairman of Time Inc., returned to the company after nearly a decade, he saw a proud and entrenched corporate culture rooted in print publications that needed to adapt to the digital age. “Everyone said to me, ‘You can’t change that. The culture is way too strong. I am a strong believer that Culture trumps strategy every day of the week.”

“Sometimes your culture can hold you back because you’re clinging to traditions. The only true thing about today is whatever traditions you have now, five years from now they will be totally different because the pace of change is moving so quickly,” Ripp added. “You have to look forward and make sure you’ve got people excited about change, excited about the future, excited about the vision.”

David Clark, president of The Weather Channel, the goal was to transform the network into a “big data company with a number of publishing platforms on top,” Clark said. “It was a very utilitarian brand, but we wanted some soul to it.” To guide The Weather Channel through this transition, Clark had to change his mental models. To understand the target audience of weather enthusiasts, he sat down with meteorologists to perceive why they love weather so much. What’s the big deal? Their answer: “Don’t you get it? It’s amazing out there.” Clark said, “That became our rallying cry.”

Ganesh Ayyar, CEO Mphasis summed up the meeting saying, “One of the factors that I believe is the biggest obstacle to transformation is the fear of cannibalization. If you don’t embrace cannibalization – for all the good talk that we have of the CEO transformation, self-transformation, organizational transformation, a new set of strategies, new culture – you will stop in your tracks and you will not progress.

We have read so many case studies where iconic companies have fallen by the wayside, and the challenges they were confronted with was the fear of cannibalization and not embracing cannibalization. Something that has been giving you revenue and profit suddenly is vanishing, and something new is emerging. You are afraid to embrace new simply because you will cannibalize your existing revenue and profit, as a result you don’t change, and you are hanging on to this, hoping that this shall pass. It doesn’t pass and the company dies. So if we double up this ability to handle cannibalization, I think that will help tremendously in transforming the company.”

 

This article was written by Robert Reiss from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.