Fit for Disruption: A talk with Matthew Webber

On Thursday May 28th, 2020, the Silicon Valley Design Thinking club welcomed Matthew Webber for an open interview to talk about how businesses can survive amidst times of disruption. Our conversation started out by talking about the timely nature of his new book, Fit for Disruption: How to Transform Your Business and Thrive in Times of Rapid Change. The book synthesizes some of the lessons from Matthew’s experience as an organizational strategist and the founder of Menark group —a specialist strategy, program delivery and training organization.


During the conversation Matthew shed light on the nature of pivoting by emphasizing the importance of prioritizing between changes within an organizational strategy: “You can’t change everything, so you have to change the things that matter most”.


According to Matthew, the direction for what elements matter most should come directly from the customers. By being intune with the customer, in terms of “how they are behaving, what their needs are, and how their needs are changing”, business can identify whether or not it’s time to respond.


When discussing why certain businesses are overly resistant to change, while others aren’t, Matthew pointed out that this is usually a leadership problem. He emphasized that the “barrier is the mindset”, and that change must come internally. The goal in this case, according to him, is to keep moving rather than becoming idle with the fear of the “consequences of error”.


Regarding the current atmosphere, he pointed out that acceptance can be an important starting point in changing environments. He explained this further by talking about how businesses shouldn’t continue to use Pre-COVID’19 as their reference point.


Another piece of advice he had for the businesses within this climate is to try their best to keep honoring their commitments to partners, and to not alienate their supply chain. He believes that this piece of the puzzle will play an important role in strategic partnerships going forward. Maintaining those partnerships, and working together with partners during this time may be a key factor for long term success.


When talking about how the distance between businesses and their customers, and distance between employees has come into play in the current climate, Matthew presented the argument that we have actually come closer in some ways. Pointing out the increased use of social media, and how web-conferencing is bringing people right into each other’s personal spaces, he explained that there is currently an increased potential for empathy with customers.


We asked Matthew what specific advice he would give our audience of individual leaders and emerging leaders in the Silicon Valley Design Thinking club. Matthew’s advice was to focus on supporting one another during these times. He emphasized that we must make sure that there are “environments where one can get support” and that we ourselves are “ready and inviting people to ask for help”.


As members of a design thinking club, we aim to support each other with various challenges by creating a community of leaders and learners. Through our different roles in the respective organizations we are a part of, we can apply design thinking processes not only to product innovation, but also to innovating means of supporting each other through difficult times. As you think about ways to incorporate design thinking into creating support systems, I’d like to leave you with an important reminder from Matthew:


“How do you possibly be creative when you’re at 100% capacity? You can’t do it.”

Check out Matthew Webber’s new book, Fit for Disruption: How to Transform Your Business and Thrive in Times of Rapid Change.


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