The disrupter’s dilemma: How innovators adapted and innovated in 2021
This article is part of a Technology and Innovation Insights series paid for by Samsung.
Whether it’s an internal issue or something facing their industry as a whole, there is constant disruption facing modern leaders each day. From digital transformation to changing customer expectations and the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders face the never-ending task to innovate and adapt in order to stay ahead.
No industry is immune to these factors either — we’ve seen disruption in everything from venture capital to health care to space and even education. As a new generation of consumers, Gen Z, enters the marketplace and digitization continues to rise, the who, what, where, when, and how will continue to change whether you’re a B2B, B2C, or B2G organization.
Over the last seven months, Young Sohn, Chairman of HARMAN, spoke with venture capitalists, scientists, CEOs, and entrepreneurs about how they have adapted and innovated to disruptions in their field for HARMAN’s The Next Wave series. The Next Wave series unpacks the brave new world of technology and business with some of the leading minds driving the next economy. As you can imagine, the pandemic played a role for virtually every business leader Young interviewed this year.
Health care and science
The advances we’ve made as a society — particularly within the science and technology industries — have allowed organizations like BioNTech and Wellcome Leap to roll out vaccines in record time. And Mr. Sohn was able to connect with a variety of leaders who played critical roles across many facets of this unique and crucial development process.
Building upon decades of research, including the application of mRNA in their oncology research, Dr. Ugur Sahin and his team at BioNTech were able to roll out their COVID-19 vaccine in partnership with Pfizer in just 11 months. Prior to this, vaccines took anywhere from three to 10 years to develop.
BioNTech wasn’t alone in this pursuit either. Wellcome Leap and their CEO Regina Dugan worked with Moderna on their mRNA-based vaccine as well, helping them to provide the first dose of their vaccine to humans in just 63 days.
Vaccines weren’t the only important aspect of COVID-19 response, however, according to Alex van Someren of Amadeus Capital Partners — detection also played a vital part. AI was being deployed by companies that Amadeus invests in to rapidly discover genomic markers, and identify who may be more susceptible to the virus.
Genomics, a focus for Genome Medical and their co-founder and CEO Lisa Alderson, also played a critical role in the development of the vaccines. Genome Medical, however, is working with both patients and health care providers to utilize the data available from genetics and genomics to provide better information and care for all within the health care system in the U.S.
While many are active in improving health care and patient experience with doctors and medical staff, Dr. Xuemei Germaine and her team are focused on the source. MicroGen Biotech uses its proprietary microbiome technology to reduce the number of toxins in our soil and increase soil health, crop quality, and yields. In five years, the company hopes to be able to deploy their technology in rice and wheat fields across the globe — the two crops that can provide the impact in the fight against world hunger.
Space and education
Looking further into the future, Airbus’ Helene Huby believes that we could possibly be living on Mars in 2050. This prediction is based on the rapid pace of space innovation in recent years. The next wave of space — where the space race is being undertaken by private companies, rather than global superpowers — has made space travel more accessible and affordable.
Whether or not we will be taking classes on Mars in 2050, the traditional education system is set to go through a transformation. OpenClassrooms and their CEO Pierre Dubuc are working to make education accessible to all, with a focus on career training and placement — rather than the on-campus college experience.
Our content consumption and digital media experiences are changing drastically. Whereas the content of the past was focused on mass consumption and pre-packaged subscriptions like your cable service and newspaper delivery, today’s content has had to shift to meet consumers where and when they want it with careful curation as a top priority. OneFootball CEO Lucas von Cranach and his team are doing just that as they curate digital football media platform for today’s mobile consumers, allowing users to choose which content they consume, rather than sign up for a flat fee for the entire platform.
While most of our media consumption is going digital, many still prefer the look and feel of a book. Padma Warrior founded Fable to highlight just that as she and her team work to showcase the mental health benefits of storytelling — particularly with the amount of upheaval many of us have undergone over the last 18 months.
Sustainability and customer experience
“To move from what is to what is about to come is the only tradition worth keeping.” Daimler CEO Ola Kallenius shared when he was asked about the disruptor’s dilemma. This could not be more relevant for those within the automotive industry, like Kallenius. For many industries, a key disruptor today, for the better, is a push towards sustainability and social responsibility. Daimler, for example, announced Ambition 2039 in 2019 to become carbon-neutral by 2039.
Sustainability is also driving VC money. According to notable venture capitalist Bill Tai, “It’s going to be very, very difficult to build any company that doesn’t have a positive impact on the world going forward.” This is due to the fact that the younger generation, Gen Z, makes their buying decisions based on a company’s values and is willing to pay more for sustainable products.
Strong commitment to sustainability is a sentiment that HARMAN shares as a key partner to many OEMs, including Daimler. Today’s consumers are also looking for an experience, rather than a commodity. As HARMAN’s CEO Michael Mauser described, their automotive division runs on experiences per mile as the in-cabin experience has become a key focus for consumers — rather than pure horsepower.
Whether they’re developing a vaccine for a global pandemic in record time, securing our agricultural future by improving soil conditions, building and investing in sustainable products for our environment, setting us up to reach Mars by 2050 or committing to becoming carbon-neutral in the next 20 years, these leaders and entrepreneurs have faced the disruptor’s dilemma and come out on top.
Be sure to tune into The Next Wave series for the remainder of the year to hear from more incredible business leaders — or catch up on previous episodes here.
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