By Stuart van der Veen; Nedbank CIB Head: Disruption and Innovation
For decades, strategy and an associated positioning have been seen as the key means by which any business could successfully differentiate itself from its competitors. Business experts would typically spend thousands of hours analysing the past, assessing the present and trying to predict the future – all with the singular aim of affording their organisation an edge over others in its industry. And for a long time, this approach has worked relatively well because the majority of businesses, the industries in which they operated, and the clients they served, could be neatly packaged into relatively predictable frameworks. Success, then, simply required leveraging these frameworks as well, or preferably better, than anyone else.
For businesses today, while strategic objectives remain vital, trying to achieve those objectives via business-as-usual processes and systems is becoming increasingly difficult. This means strategy alone is no longer a reliable means of shaping a predictable future business trajectory. Massive technological advances, fast-shifting customer needs and expectations, and the arrival of a new generation of entrepreneurs with an entirely new way of doing business, have made planning for the next quarter virtually impossible. Let alone the next year.
The response by most organisations has been to focus intently on innovation in the hope that this would deliver the next big thing that, at least for a little while, would satisfy customer needs and keep them happy and loyal. But while innovation is important, and is invaluable to any business, it simply isn’t the silver bullet solution that organisations hoped it would be. The problem is that innovative thinking is too often limited to finding new ways of doing old things, when what businesses really need to set themselves apart is to find completely new things to do. And that’s where disruption, in the truest sense of the word, has become key.
But while disruption has become one of the biggest buzzwords these days, people and organisations still make the mistake of seeing it as something they need to respond to – in most cases philosophically – rather than lead in. The reality, however, is that the organisations that will survive the so-called fourth industrial revolution, and emerge as leaders of the resulting new world, will be those that proactively leverage disruptive transform the way they operate in order to scale the positive outcomes they deliver for their clients.
This type of client-centricity is essential for any organisation wanting to lead through disruption. For this reason, every disruption-led initiative undertaken by Nedbank CIB begins with the question: Will this add value to our clients? And the second question we ask immediately after the first, is: Will we be able to scale the resulting solution to maximise the benefits it delivers?
The work being done by Nedbank CIB in partnership with Aerobotics is a prime example of our commitment to going beyond innovation to lead in transforming the traditional understanding of what a corporate and investment bank does, and how it adds value to its clients. Aerobotics is a disruptive tech company that builds advanced analytics on top of aerial drone and satellite imagery, to deliver precision farming tools for clients. We partnered with the business to conduct an initial experiment by flying drones over pecan nut farms of one of our prospective agricultural clients.
The high-resolution drone data that was collected was used to calculate tree health and canopy size. Our collaboration with Aerobotics has enabled us to expand the value of this data for farmers. The in-depth data is also proving useful in terms of our own client assessments and, ultimately, delivering effective, scalable holistic agriculture solutions that have real potential to eventually transform farming and agriculture finance in South Africa, the rest of Africa and even the world.
For us, the results we are seeing from the Aerobotics project epitomise the real value and power of disruption – done right. We believe that true disruptors are those organisations that are able to see through their traditional roles and functions and create new realities for their clients and their businesses. And in the process of transforming themselves from business thinkers to innovative thinkers to disruption creators, these organisations also have real potential to transform the economic reality of entire communities and for Nedbank CIB that is the real role of banks in the not too distant future.
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