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7th Feb 2018

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Connecting Technology Leadership with a Growth Mindset

What is happening today, and what will happen tomorrow?

These are the questions David Cornick grapples with in his everyday life. Having worked for IBM for over 30 years, David sees technologies emerging from all corners of business, and watches as they evolve, merge, compete, and, ultimately, change our lives.

How to think about the Future

The future is impossible to predict, but it is possible to think about it in a way that will give you a glimpse into it. This way of thinking can be illustrated by the Fixed vs Growth Mindset theory.

With a growth mindset, an individual is much more likely to embrace change, treat failure as an opportunity and be excited by the future, not afraid of it. With a fixed mindset, the individual will be much more inflexible, see change as a threat and be afraid of failure.

Growth mindset (Photo source)

A leader and manager must have the agility and flexibility to see opportunities in a world of rapid change, and a leader that leans towards growth mindset is more likely to spot those threats and opportunities quicker than their rivals.

With the proliferation of new technologies on an almost daily rate, the other thing a leader needs to lean on in the future is other people. It is critical to build your network because the way technology is evolving today means that you will need subject-matter experts in a variety of fields and, maybe even more critically, be able to create new opportunities by combining different technologies into a single solution.

For example, a major construction company created an incredibly efficient and sustainable HQ building using smart technologies – simple things like lifts being on the floors at the times they are most used, smart lighting for when rooms aren’t being used etc.

When they calculated how much their work had saved in terms of the cost of running the building, they saw they had saved 7% over the year. In a hugely competitive industry like construction, a 7% gain can be sector changing. Now, that major construction company has gone into the facilities management business, knowing they can undercut their competitors on the design and build of a project, and then recoup the money back over a longer period.

So, by combining their traditional skills with new technologies, this construction company has essentially carved out their own niche while damaging their competitors at the same time, who now have to race to catch up.

A Look Ahead

For companies and organisations, technology is fundamentally changing how they deliver their products and solutions, and for some, even what their core value proposition is.

The sportswear company, Under Armour, did what every other traditional sportswear company do; they sold sportswear. Their CEO, Kevin Plank, had a different vision – he wanted Under Armour to help athletes to reach peak performance.

This vision would, in the past, have been an aspiration – a mission statement to be guided by. Under Armour would be able to produce improvements in their clothing line to help athletes get better, but in reality there’d be no data to back it up and probably only elite athletes would get the benefits. With digital technology however, Under Armour saw an opportunity to become partners with every athlete in the world – both professional and amateur – on an individual basis for all aspects of their life, not just the hour they spent at the gym.

They started by buying three different apps – MyFitnessPal, MapMyFitness and Endomondo. One tracks diet and exercise, one an athlete’s movement and one an athlete’s diet and nutritional intake. In other words, Under Armour bought apps that covered the entirety of an athlete’s life.

Today, 170 million people are using those applications.

‘All this is about gathering as much data as possible they can about their customers, and then feeding it back to them in a way that is easily consumable’ said David. ‘Examples? A forty-year old athlete could compare their performance with other forty-year olds in the database for a realistic standard, your nutrition app will feed into your fitness app, suggesting improvements, and will track your overall progress with motivational ‘pushes’ based on your past behaviour. Always skip the gym on a Monday? Your device will tell you to get off the couch’.

According to Under Armour, 2/3 of their growth over the next decade will be from their digital offerings, while the company is now predicted to be the 3rd biggest sportswear company in the world by 2020.

We’re still in flux

There is always the human temptation to say ‘well, this is as good as it gets’ or, at least, ‘someone must be doing that’. However, this is generally not the case. This is still the beginning of the technological revolution, and there are plenty of opportunities out there.

And it is the flexible, growth minded leaders that will be able to see these opportunities. ‘It’s all about people’ said David. ‘You have to attract, develop and retain the best people to succeed when everything is constantly changing.’

The robots may be coming, but it will be people that point them in the direction that they go.


This article is based on a talk given at the IMI Campus by David Cornick at the Advant-edge series for IMI members. To become an IMI member, click here. To find more details on upcoming IMI Membership events, click here

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