Ricardo Vargas: “Adapt and reinvent” to survive disruption

Today’s accelerating pace of change will result in cascading disruptions that businesses need to prepare for by adapting and reinventing themselves, says author, engineer and think tank director Ricardo Vargas.

Speaking during a Live Stage session on the second day of Nordic Business Forum 2018, Vargas said that change is a constant and natural feature of human society. What is different today is the pace of change, where developments that previously took 100 years may now happen in 100 hours.

“So we need to adapt and reinvent ourselves because we don’t know what’s going to come in the next 10 or 20 years. We have disruption on top of disruption and we need to be prepared for that,” the executive director of the Brightline Initiative think tank declared.

According to Vargas, one of the key characteristics of successful businesses is precisely this ability to adapt and reinvent themselves. Retail titan Amazon has demonstrated that it is able to stay relevant in a period of disruption, he noted.

“When they were in retail they saw an opportunity to sell cloud services that they were not using, and it’s become a massive business for Amazon today. So it’s about the ability to reinvent.”
Since its establishment as an online retailer in 1994, Amazon has diversified into areas such as streaming content, producing consumer electronics and is currently the world’s largest provider of cloud infrastructure services.

In September 2018 Amazon became the world’s second trillion-dollar company just weeks after tech behemoth Apple became the first to achieve the same milestone.
But Amazon is not the only corporate creating what Vargas describes as a two-speed engine – maintaining traditional business while actively pursuing opportunities in new growth sectors. He said that oil companies have also been adopting this strategy.

“So for example oil companies don’t give up their core business in oil, but at the same time they start framing their industry as energy and then there is a whole new opportunity there. So most of the very large oil companies are shifting because they know that potentially in the future the current business model will no longer be sustainable.”

Research has shown that adaptability and the ability to reinvent starts with mindset, Vargas concluded, “because people need to buy into the transformation. It does not come from top to bottom.”

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