9 November 2015

  |  CBI Updates Team

Intelligence, Update

How all businesses can drive innovation to thrive

Whether you’re a brand new business looking to scale-up or an established business that has been around for a while, the ability to disrupt the status quo and to adopt new technology will be critical to securing a place in the modern online marketplace. But how do you do it? The CBI’s Annual Conference ‘Disruptive Innovation’ panel session aimed to answer this question.

How all businesses can drive innovation to thrive

Having already heard from the Prime Minister that entrepreneurship is front and centre on the government’s agenda, more than a thousand business leaders at the CBI’s Annual Conference heard from innovative and ‘disruptive’ businesses old and new to learn about the opportunities and challenges in today’s business environment.

Kicking off with Jo Bertram from Uber and James McClure from Airbnb, the first stop on the agenda was utilising the sharing economy to succeed where others have not. These businesses, who have shaken up travel and leisure markets, share in common a number of attributes that have driven their success: an easy to use and customer friendly user interface; ‘safety’ and trust mechanisms; lower costs for customers; and an ability to reach wider audiences and scale quickly. Technology has changed how businesses and customers interface, and to succeed “businesses have to embrace and adopt technology or be left behind” according to Uber’s Jo Bertram.

Next up was Jayne-Anne Gadhia from Virgin Money, and Christopher North of Amazon UK, two innovative businesses that have moved from disruption to carving out a longer term place for themselves in their respective markets. How did they do this? For Amazon, it was about setting out consistent principles, almost twenty years ago now, and sticking to them. For Virgin Money, it is about staying innovative and not getting comfortable; “we want to be disruptive for ever” as Gadhia quipped to the audience. For both of these businesses, the wisdom was to accept failure, learn from mistakes – no matter how “big, expensive and embarrassing” they may be – and to take risks together with having the patience to see through results.

Finally, Whitbread’s Andy Harrison and Royal Mail’s Moya Greene shared their experiences of adapting a traditional business to compete in disrupted markets. For these businesses, investment is the order of the day. Investing in technology as well as people with know-how is critical to “moving with the times”. These investments must be “prudent” though, keeping a watchful eye on developments in technology and – importantly – responding from the top of the organisation right down to front line delivery. ‘Disruption’ is not the reserve of young or tech businesses, but is up for grabs to any business who wants to innovate and grow in the modern business landscape.