To thrive, organizations need to be nimble, innovative, and disruptive— not words one often associates with the large, lumbering corporate beast! Heavy on process and (rightly) risk-averse, and more often than not working in silos—they need to switch it up. The thing that might be difficult to accept is that start-ups get faster traction than internal teams working on similar problems.
Look at the rapid pace of transformative change unfolding across the financial services industry right now. Alliances and commercial configurations have exploded, with APIs and open data initiatives creating a wave of young, hungry “Fintech” entrepreneur’s eager to disrupt traditional banks to provide the highly personalized, intuitive products and services that digitally-savvy customers prize so much. Head to London, Paris or New York, and you will find Fintech events galore as customer demand switches channels and new technologies bleed into everything, from chat-bots, natural language processing to sentiment analysis. It’s because we’re all customers and we don’t just want banking statements anymore—we want help in our lives (for more, check out the CFOWs Mike Cook and his work on the New Banking Genome where Europe’s Open Banking regulations unleashed a set of dynamics between incumbents, Fintechs and challengers – and smart incumbents are beginning to take advantage of this new ecosystem through an open marketplace model).
That Fintech disruption so intense in financial services is now on the march across every industry as a wave of start-ups lever agile processes and a greater tolerance for risk. This art of the possible sees the rise of “Adtech,” “Cryptotech,” “Health Tech” or “Insuretech” to name a few, signposting the blend between technology, entrepreneurialism and industry expertise. The process data that flows from customers, stakeholders, partners, employees is rich with meaning, and provides a massively scaled up understanding of millions of customers, demand, operations etc. in incredibly quick time—and when that insight is plugged into a bunch of passionate and creative self-starters, free from the crushing institutional inertia of a legacy corporate then the innovation ignites. So, step forward start-ups, why they matter and why young people want to work for them.
At Cognizant I hear from a growing number of leader’s eager to inject the art of the possible into their teams. They want the agility, pace and devil-may-care attitude to transform a work culture stuck in the past; they want people that can ignite the innovation needed to thrive in this era full of promise and uncertainty. I see the corporate landscape now awash with hackathons and corporate accelerators with the aim of marshaling fresh energy and ideas across tired and jaded business units to unlock something special (not sure they work, but more on that at another time). Leaders clearly face an imperative to raise the pace of innovation and compete for customer mindshare before a competitor or start-up, or a combination of both blindsides their business and blows performance clear out of the water. Given the rapid pace of change, leaders need to learn how to experiment and iterate and engage with broader talent pool to take advantage of emerging trends in anything from artificial intelligence to the Internet of Things.
The thing is, you won’t find the people you need on LinkedIn or Monster. We think they are more at home in a younger, fresher environment than found in the belly of an aging corporate beast. As we move forward into 2019, I wonder if many younger, smart people are preferring to work for their own company or for a start-up rather than working for someone else's company. It’s now so easy because the rulebook for being an entrepreneur is available to every person everywhere across the world (thank you Internet): Global standards for everything are emerging and shared, from the programming tools, communication styles (Slack, always) back office platforms, down to the hipster dress code (beards, skinny jeans, and trainers). For corporates, it means leaders don’t need to travel halfway across the world and do the Silicon Valley “petting zoo” thing, meeting with all the same VCs, talking about the same technologies and start-ups. After analyzing the start-up ecology in Europe, my advice is to examine the innovation closer to home (check out my report that shows the future of digital is scaling across Europe). Our research shows that Europe is witnessing growing access and experimentation with new forms of technology. In the past, this experimentation involved new web-based applications, while today, the opportunities presented by high-performance computing and applications of machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques are growing. Europe’s digital landscape (albeit fragmented) is a fascinating place.