I’m always excited about the guests we have on Talking Agility––with so many inspiring people and leaders in their field willing to share their insights, who wouldn’t be? But I have to admit that I was a little extra excited about my most recent guest, Omar Abbosh. Omar is the chief executive of Accenture’s Communications, Media and Technology industry group. He has also recently become a podcaster, and co-hosts Pivot to the Future with will.i.am, the prolific musician, artist, and tech entrepreneur. Two degrees of separation to will.i.am – I hope he hears about Talking Agility from Omar!

Omar has been a change leader for quite some time and has been integral to Accenture’s transformation into an agile enterprise. He recently co-authored a book with Paul Nunes and Larry Downes also called Pivot to the Future, which explores how companies can discover value and grow in a world that is disrupted by technology. He uses case studies and Accenture research, plus the company’s own story of pivoting. I was really ‘into’ the book when it came out, so it was a real pleasure to be able to spend some time with Omar discussing what it takes to pull off the Wise Pivot.

One of the things I really wanted to explore with Omar was, of course, how organizations can approach disruption and make changes with a strategic imperative, rather than a reactionary one. It’s something he discusses in detail in both his podcast and his book.

“When we first started the research that ultimately led to the concept of the Wise Pivot, we looked at the financial performance of companies and their digital intensity,” he explained. “We had this thesis that companies that were more digitally intensive should perform better financially. Actually, what we found was only six percent of companies were using digital to drive financial performance overall. So we wanted to understand what was really going on.”

“Innovation is something that has to be applied, not at the edge of the business but throughout the entire business.”
– Omar Abbosh

What Omar and his team found was that there are patterns in disruption that you can see and predict. Understanding this led to insights that helped develop the idea of the Wise Pivot––steps that can be taken to help achieve a successful transformation.

The Wise Pivot approach which Omar has used within Accenture’s transformation and with other large organizations has four key steps:

  • Step 1 – Transform the Core Business to drive up investment capacity.
  • Step 2 – Grow the Core Business to sustain the fuel for growth.
  • Step 3 – Scale the New to identify and scale new growth areas at pace.
  • Step 4 – The Wise Pivot requires the right investment strategy to ensure that the timing, scale, and direction of investments are calibrated adequately.

If an organization is able to take those four steps successfully, it will be better able to manage its rotation toward the new. This strategic approach to transformation is underlined by the idea that organizations rarely unlock innovation as random acts of genius––resulting in what Omar calls “big bang” disruption. Instead, change usually happens as a series of innovations over time. It is led from the top town and implemented throughout the organization with strong leadership.

“It turns out that companies that are successful are not companies that treated innovation as random acts of creative genius, but companies that have a disciplined, top-down approach to how to think about innovation.”
– Omar Abbosh

Another key to successful transformation is not forgoing your core business as the cost of change. An example that he shared, and one that I really loved, was that of Netflix, the behemoth streaming service that disrupted an entire industry.

“Everyone knows about Netflix streaming movies and series to people’s devices,” Omar explained. “What most people don’t know, is that Netflix retains the DVD mail-order business––still with about four million customers.”

At one stage, they tried to shut it down, but realized they were cutting off a key revenue source.

“Despite the huge digital part of the business, the old mail-order business is still there and it has proved extremely successful.”

That was just one of the many insights Omar shared throughout our talk. We explored in depth the Wise Pivot and talked about how he helped Accenture become a leading agile organization, as well as the approaches that an organization can take to become a disruptor and the challenges this entails.

It was a fantastic conversation and I highly recommend giving it a listen when you have a moment during your workday, or during your commute home.

As a reminder, there is a new episode every two weeks—you can subscribe here, or on iTunes, Soundcloud or Spotify to revisit our previous episodes and be updated when a new one goes live. You can find me on Twitter, LinkedIn, or through the website. I’d love to hear from you—please get in touch and share your thoughts!

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