Re-Imagining Leadership in the Age of Disruption with Professor Ranjay Gulati

Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “The only thing that is constant is change.” In a world where everything moves as if all were in a fast paced race; societal norms change, the ways of life adjust, and the people simply adapt. As no one is deemed capable of being free from change, in the business world, even large corporations who are almighty and strong can be affected. Large corporations as such then face what is known as the challenge of disruption.

The challenge of disruption companies’ face involves the call for a need in adjustment in their existing product or business model. Disruption for most companies may appear to be a change that appears to be risk-taking yet imaginative.

Harvard Professor Ranjay Gulati takes great interest in understanding the phenomenon and has decided to be part of an extraordinary conference held last July 10, 2017 at the Shangri-La Makati to share his expertise on leadership, strategy, and organizational issues among firms.

Professor Ranjay Gulati is the Jaime and Josefina Chua Tiampo Professor and the Unit Head of the Organizational Behavior Unit at Harvard Business School (HBS). He is also the Chair of HBS’s Advanced Management Program and has directed several executive education programs and at current his works explores leadership and strategic challenges for building high growth organizations in turbulent markets.

As the ballroom filled with leaders from all sectors, the professor began the session with a basic introduction by mentioning corporations who either failed or prospered from the effects of disruption.

Practicing Harvard’s renowned case- study method, the Professor focused on discussing two company cases: Netflix and Mobileye.

Beginning with the case of Netflix, it began with looking into the 4 key elements of a business model. Highlighting the difference between Netflix and its competitor at the time Blockbuster ended up revealing to its audience as to why Blockbuster wasn’t able to move forward in the age of disruption. Specific reasons such as how Blockbuster was too invested in their established stores, they became complacent with what they already did have, and the competitor’s idea simply didn’t come off as a threat to their large company.

By the time Blockbuster did decide to adapt to Netflix’s business model, they were too far behind in comparison. Hence, to be able to innovate in one’s company, it doesn’t just mean having to upgrade the technology or system, but rather learn from mistakes and to understand the need to have an adaptive and winning mindset when facing disruption.

By the end of the first case study, Professor Gulati had yet more to share with the packed room. The second case explored the Israeli based company, Mobileye, and its astonishing technology for a driverless car. The professor sought out to explain the case of Mobileye by understanding how the company responded to competitor’s efforts in imitating, substituting, and holding up their product — this proving Mobileyes response towards disruption.

Soon enough, it was 5 o’clock in the evening, and the professor posed a question for everyone: what can they now do when faced with the challenge of disruption?

No words can truly explain how grateful I was to be part of such an experience; being in a room filled with great minds, each sharing insights from their own experiences. Certainly I can’t help but think that when the time comes, will I too be prepared to face the challenges of disruption?

About the Author:

Kayleen Cheng graduated with honors from De La Salle University- Manila with a bachelor’s degree in Development Studies. Currently she is working as the club administrator of the Harvard Business School Club of the Philippines, where she coordinates among the alumni.