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Disruption and the future for Africa

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Disruption and the future for Africa

Disruption happens when companies and industries are so greedy that they don’t want to innovate.

That’s the word from musician and entrepreneur will.i.am, who explains: “They get so greedy, they don’t realise there is another way to do things like distributing music or taking pictures. And they can only do that for so long until someone see a better way of bringing the same product or experience to market.”

This innovation – finding a better way of doing the same things – is different from invention, he says, which is the act of creating something new.

“Thank god for the disrupters,” he adds.

Lars Silberbauer, senior global director of social media and video at Lego, points out that disruption doesn’t have a finite timespan.

“After disruption happens, it’s just a short time before the next disruption,” he says. “The pace of change just increases over time.

“This is important for companies to realise,” he adds. “When you position or reposition for something that has happened, it is just a short time before it happens again.”

His advice for organisations is to develop the “change muscle”, ensuring that they are able to change all the time.

When it comes to disruption, Silberbauer says there are four types of companies and people: deniers, those in catch-up, those embracing it and those creating disruption.

“So companies need to focus on culture and openness; and diversity is important to making sure you are not blindsided.”

Mariéme Jamme, technologist and World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, describes disruption as a volcano. “It just goes boom,” she says.

“When disruption happens, you see small people who are not scared, going out and creating things. People are angry and frustrated, so they go out and create things.”

A developer can be anywhere in the world, as long as they have a computer and a connection, she adds. “This is what I call disruption, and it will be marginalised communities who are the people who will make it happen in Africa.”

She agrees that there is no end to this cycle of disruption. “There is no stopping; the world has shifted; and people are demanding change. We mustn’t stop and we mustn’t be scared.”

Ian Russell, CEO of BCX, says its critical for African companies to change the way they think about things.

“As South Africa’s largest technology company, the truth is that we have limited ability to invent. BCX has grown out of a number of large organisations that needed to be disrupted and reinvented. And we are deep into that.

“I think we are very comfortable about our change, about our ability to disrupt.”

One of the biggest challenges in disruption is the issue of connectivity, Russell adds. “We need to achieve a pervasiveness of connectivity. There are a number of things coming on line now that will help to make connectivity like oxygen, that anyone can consume.”

Will.i.am, Silberbauer, Jamme and Russell are among the speakers at the BCX Disrupt Summit taking place this week at the Kyalami International Conference Centre.

Other speakers at the event include:

* Charlie Ayers, best known as the chef who fed Google.

* Jane McGonigal, director of game research and development at the Institute for the Future in California.

* Nick Goldman, mathematician, genome scientist and a member of the management team at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI).

* Rapelang Rabana, founder and CEO of learning technology company Rekindle Learning and a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader for 2017.

* Richard Mulholland, founder and 3-CPO of Missing Link.

* Sipho Maseko, Group CEO of Telkom and an executive director of BCX.

The event will also feature a panel discussion titled “How to Create the Future”, with Malcolm Gladwell, New Yorker columnist and bestselling author; Russell; Mike Ettling, human capital and finance management executive and former SAP SuccessFactors business leader; Rabana and will.i.am.

“A ground-breaking, world-class learning experience, this two-day summit promises to stimulate new thinking and inspire positive action as the globe’s top thought leaders and industry pioneers tackle the most pressing disruptors facing business today,” says Russell.

The second day of the event will feature a masterclass, hosted by Gladwell, comprising an interactive group seminar examining beliefs around personal obstacles and the qualities that distinguish high achievers.

Dean Carlson, founder of BrainFarm and co-host of the Summit, says this will be an interactive forum that offers opportunities for delegates to engage with these leaders who have their fingers on the pulse of disruption and innovation. “In today’s fluid business environment, knowledge sharing is more powerful and more critical than ever before. We promise that delegates will never think the same way again.”