Businesses must embrace and integrate disruptive technologies strategies or risk being left behind more agile organisations. 

That’s the word from Valter Adão, chief digital and innovation officer for Deloitte Africa, speaking ahead of the SingularityU South Africa Summit to be held in Johannesburg on 23 and 24 August).

“Today we are experiencing a meteoric pace of innovation as the use of exponential technologies is impacting every industry, and changing the competitive landscape,” says Adão. “An organisation’s competitors are no longer the traditional large, local, or multinational corporates.

“They are agile organisations and entrepreneurs often from other industries that are embracing new and exponential technologies to disrupt long-standing norms and leaders.”

The advancement of exponential technologies, including digital biology, robotics, artificial intelligence and nanotech, and strategies for companies to work within this new environment are the key topics for discussion at the SingularityU South Africa Summit, the next in a series of high profile two-day conferences held across the globe as part of a multi-year strategic alliance between Deloitte and Singularity University (SU), a global learning and innovation community headquartered in Silicon Valley that uses exponential technologies to tackle the world’s biggest challenges in order to build an abundant future for all.

“It is important to understand how technological advancements and innovation ultimately accelerate industry capabilities and economic outputs, improve outcomes for consumers and increase prosperity, and how businesses and governments should be reacting to take the fullest advantage of the opportunities that arise,” advises Adão.

“Much like Darwin’s ‘survival of the fittest’ aphorism, it will be the workers, organisations, and governments who are quickest to adapt to change who will survive the next wave of disruption.”

Adão cautions that leaders who believe their organisations are immune to such disruptions do not truly understand the seismic impact that digital technologies will have on every facet of business, industry and society. This would apply not just to fields like manufacturing and logistics, where automation already has a significant impact, but also to financial services, healthcare, education, technology, professional services, and a range of “white collar” industries once believed to be safe from digital disruption.

“The question is not if disruption is coming to your field of expertise, it’s how soon? Large, already successful organisations need to be proactively constructing a business environment and culture that is quick to recognise these challenges, adapt, and innovate effectively. Responding to this challenge will require moving beyond restrictive, overly narrow ideas of what innovation means,” says Adão.

For some, innovation means incremental improvements, shaving seconds and cents off processes, for example. For others, innovation may mean employing new technology to help create a second core of the business or, more radically, a total re-imagination of the business.

“At Deloitte, we encourage our clients to be focused on constant improvement of the core. However, now more than ever before, we need to embrace the latter two understandings of innovation. Incremental improvements are important and will always have their place, but genuine innovations aimed at defining and securing an organisation’s future are not about tinkering around the comfortable core, but moving confidently into the white spaces on the edges, and doing so before your competitors do,” says Adão.

“The SU-Deloitte alliance began more than four years ago and is built upon the shared philosophy of using innovation to solve our global grand challenges,” states Rob Nail, associate founder and CEO of Singularity University. “The alliance combines Deloitte’s strategic consulting and innovation practices with SU’s deep experience in producing world-class educational programmes and events. Together we bring the technical expertise, global networks, business acumen, and future vision to help organizations of all sizes innovate and grow exponentially.”