Scott D. Anthony:


058 – Dual Transformation and Why Noah’s Arc Management can’t Work with Scott D. Anthony of Innosight

Scott D. Anthony:


058 – Dual Transformation and Why Noah’s Arc Management can’t Work with Scott D. Anthony of Innosight

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In this episode, Scott D. Anthony, writer, speaker and Managing Partner at consulting firm Innosight, joins us to discuss his new book, Dual Transformation – How to Reposition Today’s Business While Creating the Future. Scott is a globally renowned specialist in innovation, publishing several books on the domain as well as being a regular contributor to the Harvard Business Review.

  • Scott’s concept of ‘dual transformation’ and his assertion today’s every changing global marketplace companies need to reinventing their business of today to make it ‘better, faster, cheaper’ (Transformation A) at the same time as creating their business of tomorrow (Transformation B)
  • Why the most successful leaders in innovation are ‘living at the periphery’ and not at the core of their industry
  • Why Scott believes that combining the best elements of startups and large companies is a good path to solve today’s biggest global challenges
  • How Scott’s experience of living in Asia has evolved his thinking on how best to organize markets, and the role that family owned businesses, private companies and government linked enterprises can play

Key Takeaways and Learnings

  • By doing ‘dual transformations’ together allows an organization to take the disruptive threats that are coming at them today and turn them into exciting growth opportunities of tomorrow
  • To avoid getting stuck in the core of today it is necessary to be able to play at the periphery of an industry. The core of today will give you no signal that it’s time to change until it’s too late
  • The meeting of entrepreneurial energy with assets and scale can make magic happen – so we should look for ways to combine the start up and large company communities to tackle our most intractable problems
  • There are different cultural norms around the world in how people and organizations think about failure. And where we see a reluctance to accept failure it holds back the innovation ecosystems both within large companies and startups

Links and Resources Mentioned in this Podcast

 

Summary

In this episode, Scott D. Anthony, writer, speaker and Managing Partner at consulting firm Innosight, joins us to discuss his new book, Dual Transformation – How to Reposition Today’s Business While Creating the Future. Scott is a globally renowned specialist in innovation, publishing several books on the domain as well as being a regular contributor to the Harvard Business Review.

Scott D. Anthony

Scott D. Anthony is the Managing Partner of Innosight. Based in the firm’s Singapore offices since 2010, he has led Innosight’s expansion into the Asia-Pacific region as well as its venture capital activities (Innosight Ventures). In his decade with Innosight, Scott has advised senior leaders in companies such as Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Singtel, Kraft, General Electric, LG, the Ayala Group, and Cisco Systems on topics of growth and innovation. Scott has delivered keynote addresses on five continents, and has appeared on Good Morning America, Channel News Asia, CNBC, and FOX Business.

What Was Covered

  • Scott’s concept of ‘dual transformation’ and his assertion today’s every changing global marketplace companies need to reinventing their business of today to make it ‘better, faster, cheaper’ (Transformation A) at the same time as creating their business of tomorrow (Transformation B)
  • Why the most successful leaders in innovation are ‘living at the periphery’ and not at the core of their industry
  • Why Scott believes that combining the best elements of startups and large companies is a good path to solve today’s biggest global challenges
  • How Scott’s experience of living in Asia has evolved his thinking on how best to organize markets, and the role that family owned businesses, private companies and government linked enterprises can play

Key Takeaways and Learnings

  • By doing ‘dual transformations’ together allows an organization to take the disruptive threats that are coming at them today and turn them into exciting growth opportunities of tomorrow
  • To avoid getting stuck in the core of today it is necessary to be able to play at the periphery of an industry. The core of today will give you no signal that it’s time to change until it’s too late
  • The meeting of entrepreneurial energy with assets and scale can make magic happen – so we should look for ways to combine the start up and large company communities to tackle our most intractable problems
  • There are different cultural norms around the world in how people and organizations think about failure. And where we see a reluctance to accept failure it holds back the innovation ecosystems both within large companies and startups

Links and Resources Mentioned in this Podcast

 

Hello. This is Mark Bidwell. Welcome back to the Innovation Ecosystem podcast. Now with me today is Scott Anthony who is Managing Partner of Innosight, which is the innovation and growth consulting firm co-founded by Clayton Christensen who is the author of the seminal book The Innovator’s Dilemma. Now, Scott is also the author of several books including The Little Black Book of Innovation and his latest book Dual Transformation which we’re going to be talking about today, and Scott’s based in Singapore since 2010. Welcome to the show, Scott.

Thank you very much, Mark. I’m pleased to be here.

So, let’s get straight into this. The title of your latest book Dual Transformation – what is ‘dual transformation’?

The answer is entirely in the two words that make up the title of the book in reverse order, so transformation first – the idea there is a fundamental change in form or substance, so this is not an organization doing what it’s currently doing better, faster, or cheaper, it’s an organization doing something fundamentally different; this is liquid becoming a gas, this is an organization reinventing itself, this is the caterpillar becoming the butterfly. The word ‘dual’ in the title shows that this is not a single thing that an organization is doing. It’s not a monolithic effort rather we suggest in the book that organizations need to do two things together. They need to reinvent today’s business which we call transformation A, while they go and create tomorrow’s business which we call transformation B, and doing those two things together is what allows an organization to take the disruptive threats that are coming at them today and turn them into exciting growth opportunities.

So, that’s at the heart, the sense of optimism in the book because it’s terribly easy to get, I suppose, stunned by the wave of change and all the technologies and all the regulation in the regulatory environment that continues to create the overall VUCA concerns in the marketplace but there’s a lovely example from the CFO of Adobe: ‘A recession is a terrible thing to waste’. What are some of the triggers that force organizations to start on this path of dual transformation?

You know, you had an interesting word where you described the trigger event. You said the things that ‘force’ organizations to do this and certainly there are circumstances where people have little or no choice and this typically will be that there is some kind of technological shift in their marketplace, their business is slowing, the activist investors are swirling, they have no choice other than to go and do something fundamentally different. The argument we make, however, is that this isn’t the best time to go and do something like dual transformation because it’s really hard to do. We call it in the book the corporate equivalent of artificial heart bypass surgery. So, you know, this is a really, really difficult thing to do, so you want to ideally as a leader have what we call the courage to choose before you need to. That is, you’re leading an organization where everything appears to be going well but you’ve got your early warning signs that suggest disruption is coming and the reality is for every organization, for every industry and every country in the globe, disruptive forces are at work. How fast they will play out, exactly, how deeply they’ll come to your business is always an open question but it’s always going to happen and the right leaders do it while their business is healthy and growing because that maximizes their degrees of freedom to go and do different things.

So, as you say, everything is up for grabs here in terms of the huge amount of noise and energy across industries, across geographies, responding to or talking about these changes but how does the leader who’s really affected this, how do they sort out signal from noise, if you like? What are the things that leaders that are really effective at doing this are doing to identify the warning threats versus ‘this is just more noise, more of the same’?

I think a good example that we highlight in the book that shows leaders who can think about this the right way and can separate that signal from noise is Mark Bertollini from the US health insurance giant, Aetna. He comes in as CEO about seven years ago now, everything looks great, the wind is at his back, record revenues, record earnings, and he makes the courageous choice to essentially blow the company up and say, ‘We have to fundamentally execute a dual transformation where we take our legacy business selling health insurance policies to companies and shift that to something where we’re selling health outcomes to consumers, and we’re going to go build a completely different business where we’re essentially going to be a health care IT provider, selling to health care IT solutions providers, where we will sell to hospitals and physicians and so on’. So, what gives him the conviction to go and do that? One of the things that Bertolini is good at doing, and I think many leaders who can sense these things early are good at doing, is living at the periphery of their industry. So, they’re not sitting squarely inside their industry talking only to their best customers, hearing all sorts of things to reinforce what they currently believe, they’re at the edges, they’re with startup companies, they’re in adjacent industries, they’re going to see other geographies, they’re talking to executives in very different contexts, and because they’ve got that web of connections that go from the core to the periphery they can sense things that are going to change before they actually change. That to me is the most important thing, is to make sure that you don’t get stuck in the core of today because the core of today will give you no signal that it’s time to change before it’s too late. You have to be at the edges or the periphery to spot tomorrow today or else you’re going to get stuck.

And the language you use, the language is similar, or the concept is similar to the language we use, Scott, which is the ecosystem, having an ecosystem which is sufficiently diverse and robust such that you can tap into and be aware of some of these, you know, the new predators, for instance, coming into your ecosystem and respond accordingly. Does that analogy resonate with you?

Absolutely and it ties into one of the most persistent findings in innovation literature and innovation literature is riddled with contradictions. One academic will find this thing, another will find something that contradicts it, but something that everybody agrees on is that magic happens at intersections, when different mindsets and skills collide together, so when you have an ecosystem that is biologically or equivalently diverse, you’re going to get some really interesting things happen, so the more a leader thinks of themselves as someone that is orchestrating and participating in the ecosystem, they’re going to spot the new predators early and they’re going to be able to combine things together in ways that nobody else could and that’s what creates big, powerful, new growth organisms.

So, just moving on because the next piece that I wanted to explore a little bit, Scott, is – I think the statistic here, that between 1950 and 1980 about 15% of disruptions came from big companies and today that number is closer to 40% – what’s the reason for that? Are CEO’s and leaders getting better at building out these ecosystems or is it just a fact that there’s been so much change that they need to respond in order to remain alive essentially?

I think you nailed it. I think it’s those two factors. I think number one, there’s just a much richer understanding of what can happen in the world and everybody’s read the failure stories, everybody knows what happened if you miss a big ship like this, like Blockbuster did, like Eastman Kodak did etc, so there’s language, there’s literacy, there’s fluency around the idea of disruptive change and the pace is happening so much faster than it did before that people have to figure out learned responses to this or else they’re going to die pretty quickly. So, I think you have those two combinations; deeper understanding and a deeper necessity allowing more and more large companies to say, ‘Hey, as much as disruption sounds like a threat’ – and it does, you know it’s an ugly word, your mouth contorts when you say it, disruption, it’s not a great word – ‘there is an opportunity that’s behind each and every disruption that comes’, because you go and study any disruptive change and it ends up growing a market. Yes, the business model shifts, the way in which people make money always changes, but the net result is growth, so if you look at it through those lenses it’s a really exciting opportunity.

So, if you are, let’s say a listener here, a listener in an Asian business perhaps not running a business but responsible for a business unit or a function and they are told by the new CEO, the new board, ‘This is the new strategy, over to you, take it from here, move forward’, what are the behaviors that you see in your region that really characterize outstanding performance in this new environment? What kinds of things do these people do in order to be effective in these, as you say, challenging environments? And by the way, the quote here which I love, ‘You know, running a startup is like being punched in the face repeatedly but working for a large company is like being waterboarded’, so, this isn’t easy stuff but what are the really outstanding business unit leaders in this environment in your part of the world actually do differently from others?

Yes, that’s a great quote from Paul Graham from Y Combinator that I think many people in large organizations can appreciate and, of course, there’s a flip side to this. The large organizations have something that every startup dreams of which is they’ve got access and they’ve got scale, and that’s something that the people who are doing this well recognize. They recognize, as hard as the bureaucratic tape that always exists in size can be to deal with sometimes, they’ve got toys that every startup wished they could play with. So, the ones that I see out in this part of the world who do this well, you see a few common patterns. Number one – they take advantage of the local connection to markets to really understand the fabric of the communities they’re serving. Southeast Asia, in particular, is an incredibly diverse place, Singapore is not, the Philippines is not, Myanmar is not, India and so on, so the leaders who really go and invest the time to understand the local nuances of their market, I think do things better than those who don’t. Second, I think those who recognize that this is a VUCA world, as you describe, where you’ve got volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, and because of that you’ve got to get really good at being agile. You have to have a plan because everybody does but you have to recognize that the actual thing that you will do will have to come from trial and error experimentation which means you have to do a lot of different things to have things succeed. And then third and finally, you recognize that, particularly again in many countries in this part of the world, there are ecosystems that you need to participate in, and Singapore is an example where I’ve lived for seven and a half years now, you just can’t do anything without interfacing with the government because the government is just really, deeply embedded in the business system here as well, Singapore Inc., so you need to understand that and you need to know how to play in that ecosystem and that could look very different than if you did not grow up in this part of the world. It could look very different than what you are used to so it can be a really steep learning curve but I myself have found it to be a transformational experience to get to see all these differences and many leaders who go through these forms of crucible experiences report the same thing.

Yeah, and I’m curious here because you touched on trial and error, and you’ve also worked in the US and Europe as well, are there any regional differences in terms of how companies or individuals think about failure? You didn’t use that word but think about trial and error versus not even talking about the ‘F word’?

This is something that I perceive as a real problem in many countries in Asia where failure carries huge stigma, whether there’s social stigma or whether there are actual work repercussions, and because of it, people are often hesitant to go and push boundaries and try different things. I remember there was a client that we were working with recently right here in Singapore, a great big organization, and we were describing to one of its leaders, the sense we got from the organization is that there was a huge fear of failure and the leader said, ‘Oh, that’s ridiculous, people fail here all the time, let me tell you my own personal story’, and they went through this long story about how they were working on this new digital offering and how it looked like they weren’t going to be able to launch it and they weren’t going to hit their budget and everybody was laughing at them but they worked really hard and they overcame and they launched it, and I said, ‘Well that’s not failure, that’s grit, that’s perseverance, that’s overcoming obstacles, that’s great.’ Failure is when Innosight tried to launch a newsletter, and we launched it, we sold some copies, it didn’t sell enough and we said we’re going to shut it down. There’s no heroic end to the story, we just stopped doing it, and yeah, we learned some things from it so it was good, but that’s failure, and that kind of failure is still pretty foreign to at least some parts of Southeast Asia and I think something that still holds back the innovation ecosystem both inside large organizations as well as within startups.

And Tata, for instance, have this Dare to Try Awards that they run annually, and there are some organizations that are trying to do it are you seeing any progress since you arrived in 2010 or is this deeply embedded in cultural norms, do you think?

My answer to both questions would be yes. I think it is deeply embedded but I certainly have seen progress. So, Singapore obviously is the market I know the best but I think you see a couple of things in Singapore. One is some of the leading companies in Singapore, people like Singtel, the leading telecommunications company in the region, people like DBS, the biggest bank in Singapore, they are demonstrably changing and showing that they’re more open to entrepreneurialism, to innovation, to trying things etc. and that has a big impact in the local market. Second, the Singapore government being who it is, they’re looking at the educational programs in Singapore and saying, ‘Yes of course, it’s great that we get the highest PISA test scores in the world, trade with the Koreans and with people from Shanghai’ – you know, they’re up there with the best but they said, ‘That’s not enough, so we need to make sure that there is space for creativity, and individualism, and entrepreneurialism, so we’re going to go and change the curriculum to help to encourage these sorts of things.’ That obviously takes a decade plus to have impact but it’s that type of long range thinking that I just find so interesting to see in Singapore because you don’t see that in very many governments around the world right now.

Yeah, and I think you’ve got a specific chapter in the book about the curiosity to explore and just before I wrap up this section maybe you can just give us a sense of what some companies are doing to encourage this exploration in their leaders, the desire to get them to think differently, to be exposed to new stimuli, any specific examples that resonate for you?

Yeah, one example that I like locally goes back to DBS, big bank in Singapore, it’s very countercultural. DBS was formally known as the Development Bank of Singapore. It was part of the government, it is a banking institution in Singapore which you would think is the most conservative thing that you can find in the world yet their CEO, Piyush Gupta, is trying to create essentially a 23,000 person startup, that’s the way he describes it, and core to that is experimentation really deeply embedded within the organization. So, at least one of the things that he and his team have done is to change some of the ways in which they develop leaders. So, they have a program that they ran a couple years ago where the top couple hundred people in DBS had a leadership development experience, not sitting in a classroom listening to someone lecture but going through a corporate equivalent of a Silicon Valley hackathon where they broke into small groups, they had a couple days, they stayed overnight, they went and blitzed the market, tried to understand from consumers, actually created a functioning mobile app, did all the things that you would do if you were at a proper startup, and the point wasn’t really to go and create a new functioning mobile app, the point was to show leaders what the world was like today and show them how much they could accomplish in a short period of time by getting out there, being in the market, following good principles of design thinking and so on, and that’s at least one of many things that DBS has done to really try to fundamentally change its corporate culture and I think it’s had some really powerful impact.

Now, Scott, if we can just switch to the personal story because I was intrigued in your book how you talked about in 2010 you retired from consulting to focus on Innosight Ventures. We talked a little bit about this before we came on here but I’m curious about, what did you – and now today the portfolio has shifted again but that sounded like a crucible experience that you referred to earlier, is that the case, and secondly what happened on that journey?

Yes, there’s a long version of the story that I won’t bore your listeners with, I’ll give you the slightly longer short version of the story. So, 2009 we had set up a part of our portfolio called Innosight Ventures and Innosight Ventures at the time was essentially incubating new companies primarily in India and Singapore and was just beginning to invest in startup companies, and the person who had set up that part of the business left to go take a job running strategy for a big company, so we talked about it as a group and we decided that we wanted to keep doing this. I was personally interested in it so I agreed to pick up that part of the portfolio and move out to Singapore where it was based and really focus on it. So, what happened since then? Well, the incubation activities, we ended up winding that down, there were a couple of businesses that we had incubated that attracted some outside funding so those lasted a little bit longer but the last one from that portfolio essentially just shut down this year so that is now done and dusted. The venture capital activity we kept going so we have now invested in ten Singapore based startup companies, a relatively small fund that we’ve invested in these companies but we’ve done pretty well with it and we’ve learned a ton from doing it. The third thing I did is to begin doing consulting in the region and that now, as I said, is the core activity in my set where I spend most of the day working with large established companies helping them to confront the challenges of disruptive change, and I think I’m personally much better at doing it because I’ve had these other experiences of shutting a business down, trying to get the venture business on solid footing, actually help the team invest in the startups, work with the startups to nurture them etc. So, for me personally, it’s been a fantastic experience because I’ve gotten to experience different forms of business in different geographies and I wish the venture capital business was ten times bigger than it is. I wish we had incubated some unicorns, billion dollar businesses. We didn’t but we learned a ton from going through the process. We put our money where our mouth was, we showed the clients that we serve that we really are serious about this stuff because the money invested in the startups, it came from two sources; one was the pockets of the Innosight leadership team, the second was the Singapore government, so it’s a pretty serious commitment on our part about how much we believe in the ideas that we bring to companies.

And today as you’re sitting across the table from your clients who you’re talking to about the challenges of dual transformation, what can you bring to that conversation now as a result of you personally having gone through that experience?

I can say with deeper conviction than ever that the best place to be if you’re trying to launch a new disruptive business is where the people across the table from me are sitting. So, there is this belief that large companies are where innovation goes to die and of course, there’s research that suggests it’s really hard and all that but having seen firsthand what it takes really to start a business up and to see all the existential struggles that startup companies go through, we get seduced by the success stories but the success stories are one in a thousand, if not one in ten thousand. Large companies have already been through that. They’ve got these amazing assets that yes, they don’t utilize very well sometimes, they utilize imperfectly even at the best of times but they’re there, and when the large companies learn how to get out of their own way, that’s where you can have real magic happen. Entrepreneurial energy meets assets and scale is an unbeatable combination, and that’s what I’ve learned firsthand from actually being part of the startup ecosystem and seeing how hard it is.

Yeah, and that comes back to the earlier comment around the optimism with which you can go into a recession, for instance, if you have those deep understanding of the assets you’ve got, and the scale and the customer relationships. It’s a very powerful resource up against a blank sheet of paper and a bit of seed capital and lots of enthusiasm.

Absolutely. Now, of course, the blank sheet of paper is powerful too because you’re not burdened, you’re not held back by anything, you don’t have to rewire or unthink anything so both sides have something to give and it’s one of the reasons why one of my wishes for the world is that the two sides, the startup community and the large company community, rather than positioning themselves as being at war with each other which is what a lot of the language is, they say, ‘How do we actually work together to go and solve important problems?’ and there are a lot of them. We have to deal with climate change, we’ve got seven billion people in the world going up to nine or ten, we’ve got to feed all these people, health care and education is out of reach for too many people. There are problems worth solving in the world that if we brought the best of the big companies and the startups together the world would be a far better place than if we fought to figure out how to make an advertisement 0.1% more effective on a social media site which is what far too many people do today.

Yeah, couldn’t agree with you more. So, just beginning to wrap this up, before we go to the questions I sent across, you talk to towards the end of the book about a number of industries that are at risk of disruption and are going to change radically and one of them is professional services which is the industry you’ve been in for a number of years, and just recently your company was bought by Huron and you touch, in the book, on the power of an Innosight consultant fueled by Watson AI. What’s going on in professional services and how are you in your company adapting and evolving the offering, the technology to meet emerging market needs and remain relevant?

Yeah, it’s a great question. So, I think if you look at it at a broad level in professional services, you look at advertising and legal services and advisory services like ours, I think the thing that you’re really seeing is automation, analytics, and artificial intelligence. They have the potential to fundamentally change the offerings that many people are going to be giving to people and I honestly, you almost were saying what I’m about to say because you only see it last in your own industry but for the specific things that Innosight does, reasonably high-end strategy consulting, I think we are in one of the safer positions in the industry, but you see a lot of other pockets, if you’re doing basic accounting work for a company, just managing their books, that’s going to get automated, it’s just a question of when it’s not a question of if. So, you have that as the fundamental thing that’s going to reshape business. What do we do about it? Well it’s one of the reasons why we were so excited to join forces with Huron because we said as a one hundred person organization, which is what Innosight was at the time of the transaction back in March, there’s a limit to how much you can do but with a group of three thousand people and a good balance sheet there are some more interesting things that collectively you can do, so we’re in the process now of figuring out exactly what those things are but I think that the short and safe answer is we are going to reinvent what the core of our collective professional service offering will be. There will be a transformation A, it will embrace automation because it has to, and we’re going to go push the boundaries and do some new cool stuff where we follow the basic tenets of disruptive innovation and try to make things simpler, more affordable so a broader population can consume our services, and interestingly enough for Innosight, I was just talking to Clay Christensen about this yesterday, as a matter of fact, this is where we started. Innosight did not start as a consulting company, Innosight started as a software company, and the idea was Christensen had just written The Innovator’s Dilemma, he was beginning to get popular, let’s go and shrink wrap Clay’s brain, put it in a box and allow people to access. It didn’t work, it was 2000/2001, it was too early for the idea to connect, we shifted course and ultimately ended up where we are now but sometimes ideas are right, it’s just the timing wasn’t great, so perhaps that brain in a box or whatever the 2017/2018 equivalent is perhaps now is the time. I don’t know, we’ll see.

Well, you touched on a really important point. Most professional services, be it legal support, be it accounting, be it consulting, it’s very, very elitist. There’s only a fraction of companies or individuals on the planet that can afford to benefit from the wisdom and the knowledge and intellectual property, and going back to your point around democratizing some of this stuff to go after the wicked problems that the world faces, that has to be a really exciting and fruitful avenue to pursue I would imagine?

Absolutely and it’s going to happen so whether it’s someone like Innosight figuring out how to do it with the support of Huron, or whether it’s Amazon that figures it out and bolts it on to Amazon Web Services that it sells to the small companies anyway, or Salesforce figures it out because it’s selling tools to help companies manage pieces of its business already. Again, it’s as inevitable as the tides that this will happen and more people will be able to come up with their own strategy and approach innovation with more discipline and build stronger capabilities to innovate and grow in a whole range of related things, so it’s not a question of if, it’s just a question of who, and of course, we would love to participate in it because we think there’s a massive opportunity to have positive impact.

It’s funny because back in the day, in my career, I was at the Hay Group and we kicked off the the Productized Services business back in the nineties which started with making pay data available online and that has now grown into, probably, a two hundred million dollar business which was bought by Korn Ferry a couple of years ago, but back in the mid-nineties I remember pitching the board about all these new companies like SuccessFactors.com and Performance Online, you know it was trying to get turkeys to vote for Thanksgiving because it was so disruptive for the core business but history has proven that a lot of these companies were taken out for billions and billions of dollars and integrated into SAP and PeopleSoft and such like and so it’s about timing but it’s also about the technology and the appetite of individuals or organizations to go after this.

Yeah, absolutely, and your comment about turkeys voting for Thanksgiving, this is why we believe that idea of dual transformation is so important, that separation into A and B, because B will often be wrong about A, and A will be wrong about B as well, and if you try and push them together, you’re going to get the worst of both worlds, and my co-author Clark Gilbert who, really the book is his book, I’m trying to give voice along with my colleague Mark Johnson to the things Clark has experienced but the center point of it is Clark and what he has done in a couple organizations, and we try to wrap around with good consulting to help other people do this but Clark has actually gone and done this in a couple places. One of his mantras I just never forget, his mantra is, ‘A does A, B does B’. A focuses on running the best core business it possibly can run, it may be dwindling but they fight like crazy to be the best they can be, and B does B, it goes and creates tomorrow and when you cross those streams, that’s when bad things happen.

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So, what I’d love to do now, Scott, is just go to the last three questions that I sent across earlier. First one – what have you changed your mind about recently?

So, when I came out to Asia I was well schooled in Western orthodoxy which is, professional managers and publicly traded companies are good, and family run companies are bad. So, that’s something that I think is a generally accepted belief if you learn economics or study business in a western school which I did. I have changed my mind about that. I think it’s much more nuanced than that. I think, in fact, family run and government linked companies can be very beneficial for the industries and countries in which they operate because they can take a longer term perspective in many cases, they can place bigger bets, they can approach problems in a different sort of way, and this is hard for me intellectually to even say just because your trade, the invisible hand, the discipline of the market, the professional managers, that’s the best way for things to work, I don’t think that’s actually the case and in fact I think there are lots of problems to the way that many Western markets are organized and a little dose of family controlled businesses, private companies and even some government linked organizations run in the right way could actually be quite beneficial and that’s one place where I’ve changed my mind recently.

So, it sounds like you had to unlearn some stuff that you’d spend lots of time and money learning in the first place.

Yeah, yeah, well they tell you in business school that the class you will appreciate the least in business school but it will be the most important is the class on leadership which is true. I don’t remember a thing that was taught in that class but of course that’s what you spend a lot of your time then thinking about and you recognize that many of the assumptions that you had are just wrong and it’s only when you actually go and experience things with, hopefully, an open enough mind to get countervailing data and then change your perception on things so that you begin to figure it out.

Yeah, and that gets back to the comment around living at the periphery of your industry earlier on in the show so yeah, weaving this together. The second question – do you have a personal work habit or practice you can share with our listeners that has helped make you more effective during the course of your career?

I thought of a few different answers to this question but I think the one that I’m going to go with is to just embrace new opportunities when they come even if rationally they don’t make the most sense to pursue, and I’m proud of the fact that I’ve done that a few times in my career and I think it has made me who I am. So, as an example of this, I’m studying at Harvard Business School in 2000, Clay Christensen is one of my professors, I intellectually fall in love with the ideas that he has, he says midway through the class, ‘Hey, I’ve got some money to hire a researcher, it’s not as much as you’d make if you went and did anything else but it would be an interesting experience’. I could have gone back to the company I worked at before Business School, McKinsey and Company, I had a job offer to go work strategy for American Express, both short term much more lucrative offers but I said, ‘Why not? This is a once in a lifetime opportunity’ and here I am, and coming out to Asia in 2010, and taking the role in 2009 and moving out here in 2010, it wasn’t fully rational, my wife had never been out here, we had two young kids and I disrupted myself in doing a very different type of business but why not, you know? You’ve got to try, nothing ventured nothing gained. So, that has been something that I’m grateful that I have done that and have people who will support me doing that as well. I got very lucky that it’s all worked out.

Yeah, absolutely. Third question – what’s your most significant failure or low, and what have you learned from it and how do you apply that learning?

It goes back professionally at least to what we talked about a little while ago. I came out here with the intent of building an enduring venture capital and incubation business and I think it’s pretty safe to say that that has failed. I think our venture capital activities have demonstrated that our principles work to invest in startup companies and we have done good work in the startup community but we don’t have a team of 20, 50, 100 people, we don’t have hundreds of billions of dollars under management and that’s what the goal was, and the incubation activities have been shut down, so I think this has again reinforced to me how there are lots of different ways to skin the proverbial cat, how big companies have their advantage, how really hard it is to start new things up and how important it is too to have strategic options. The challenge of the startup company is they have one thing. The venture capitalist is investing in the portfolio, a CEO of a startup that’s it, they’re all in, and I’m personally lucky again because I did have a toe in two different businesses so if the ventures business goes in one direction, I can amp up consulting etc. but that has been very helpful for me. As I said, we’ve had lots of things at Innosight that have failed. I personally can count now five things I’ve tried to launch that have not worked; I’ve mentioned newsletters before, we tried to do something where we built a simulation business that didn’t work, we tried to do, essentially, third party training that didn’t work, incubation didn’t work. Venture capital has more success than the others but I think still that you say we failed to build a global scale venture capital business. So, consulting is good and I think I’ve got still a couple more tricks up my sleeve but you do have to deal with the fact that a lot of things you’re going to try aren’t going to work so there you go.

But as you say with the new organization, you’re part of it, the resources, and it sounds like the appetite is there to give you a chance to try a couple more things up your sleeve.

Absolutely and I’ve tried to follow what we tell our clients to do which is treat every one of these failures as a learning opportunity and say, ‘Why? What was behind things not working? What assumption did you make that was wrong? Is it an assumption that it’s just the law of physics and will never change or is it an assumption where something could change in the marketplace to say, that which did not work then could work now, or if we get this instead of that, this might succeed’ and again I’m optimistic that we still have a couple of tricks up our sleeves and are going to do some pretty high impact things in the marketplace and, of course, no complaints in anything that I’ve talked about. We’ve built a fantastic consulting business, a hundred professionals around the world who do high impact work and some of the most interesting problems in the world, we’re thrilled to be part of the Huron family so there’s a lot of good success in this as well, don’t get me wrong, but certainly the balance sheet has two sides to it as it always does.

Sure, sure. So, Scott, where can people get hold of you?

Well, I live a reasonably public life, so Innosight.com has all the information about the company. I’m on Twitter @ScottDAnthony, I’m on LinkedIn as Scott Anthony, Innosight, usually can find me there, and my e-mail address is santhony@innosight.com and I try to be as responsive as I can to anyone who tries to reach out to me so there are various ways to find me.

Brilliant and-

I’m on Instagram too but I think I’ll hold that one a little bit closer to the chest, in fact I know I’m on Instagram too but that’s just for family.

Right OK, well we’ll put all of them apart from the Instagram links in the show notes for this conversation as well as the book reference which as I say, I thoroughly recommend it for people in organizations looking to address some of the challenges that you talked about earlier on and the media is so full but been great to have you on the show, really do appreciate your time, Scott, and I’m sure our audience will have found it as interesting as I did. Thanks very much for your time.

Thank you, Mark, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the conversation as I knew I would.

Great. Well, have a good day.

OK you too, thank you.

Bye.

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