“It’s scary to ruin what works so well”: how fear of change impedes the development of business and career

Accenture Research’s senior manager Paul Nunes, who worked with Apple, Marriott and Unilever, told Forbes why most companies are not ready for quality changes, how not to harm the business with transformations, and whether it is possible to look into the “inevitable future” of global giants

“Technology is changing so fast that business turns need to be done all the time. This skill is one of the most useful for a modern leader. 

It’s impossible to just take and change everything at once, and then reap the benefits of this pivot for decades (a sharp change in the model of development in business or career — Forbes comment), ”says Paul Nunes, managing director of research at the international consulting company Accenture Research and author of the best-selling book Big Bang Disruption: Strategy in the Age of Devastating Innovation. 

Nunes is researching new technologies and their application in business, and the results of his work are published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and other publications. 

At the end of October, the expert visited Moscow with the presentation of his new book Pivot to the Future, took part in the Open Innovations forum and gave Forbes an interview in which he shared the secrets of building a career and business in the face of constant changes in the market .


— Your Pivot to the Future book is mostly based on American cases. Why did you decide that in Russian realities your advice would be relevant and came to present it to Moscow?


— The basis of the book is far from being just cases of American companies. The book is based on three key inputs: the research that Accenture Research conducted over two years, the experience of working with our customers, and Accenture’s own internal management experience. The basis for the material that we reworked with my co-authors Omar Abbosch and Larry Downs was formed by these three elements, and, in my opinion, putting all three together is a rare occurrence. Thanks to this, the book has become universal — I think it is suitable for any organization in the world. I find it difficult to name a company that would not find in it something useful for itself.


— What do you mean by pivot?


— The idea of a pivot is born when, due to the speed of innovation and the exponential growth of technology, companies no longer need a simple business transformation to keep up with the modern market. The fact is that transformation improves organization linearly, while technology evolves exponentially. Therefore, companies need another way to keep up with changing technologies and innovations. This method is exactly what we call a wise pivot. The most successful companies in the world — Apple, Netflix, and others — follow this path: they do not just try to open new projects that are initially built on a modern model, they are not afraid to innovate in their already existing stable business.


Even if you think as an innovator, you should not try to switch to business models for which you are not ready

— Does the concept of pivot apply only to business or can you make such a revolution in your personal career?

— I am sure that pivot can be made in many areas of life. But this must be done very carefully. Even we at Accenture Research often wondered whether it was worth making a turn. A reasonable pivot is not a blind desire to destroy the old and plant a new one. Before you apply new tools, think about how they will relate to the past of your company, how they will affect its present and whether they will be useful in the future. The same principles should be followed in professional life: to look at what stage your career is at, what its history is and how the expected turn can affect its future.

— How, then, to choose the perfect moment to make a pivot?

— There is no specific suitable time for the pivot. Technology is changing too fast, so turns need to be done all the time. You have to innovate throughout the organization, and do it all the time — you can’t just take and change everything at a time, and then reap the benefits of this pivot for decades. It is important to remember that each transformation of a business or career takes a lot of energy. You can’t think over the script in detail in advance or just unsystematically try to jump the competition — it will never work.

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