Home Business Insights & Advice Navigating disruption: Hanif Lalani on how to adapt to technological changes

Navigating disruption: Hanif Lalani on how to adapt to technological changes

by Sarah Dunsby
9th Aug 23 11:36 am

The current narrative around disruption today is that we are facing an unprecedented onslaught of change. 5G internet, artificial intelligence, blockchain and cryptocurrencies – these technologies of the digital age can feel both exciting and terrifying at the same time. It seems that every day there is a new proclamation being made about how our lives are about to be changed forever by an advancement of some form, and those who do not wish to fall behind must adapt, and fast.

The fact of the matter is, it would be naive to say definitively that the information age and technological revolution has been the most disruptive period in modern history. Disruptions are a part of human history, and societies have time and again shown resilience and the ability to adapt and rebuild after facing challenges.

According to Hanif Lalani, a career executive with over three decades of experience growing companies, leaders need to accept the inevitability of disruption. Lalani spent almost three decades in the telecommunications sector.

The telecommunications industry has seen its fair share of disruptions driven by technological advancements. When Lalani began his career in England the country had recently passed the British Telecommunications Act 1981 that transferred the state-owned telephone network from the Post Office to a new statutory corporation.

Although it created disruption, the act allowed for greater private sector involvement, increased consumer choice, and encouraged technological advancements in the sector, and this was only the first of many disruptions Lalani faced during his career. For decades telecommunications relied on copper wires and physical infrastructure to transmit voice and data signals between telephone exchanges and endpoints (e.g., landline phones), but the widespread availability and adoption of broadband internet connections provided the necessary infrastructure to introduce the more flexible and scalable IP digital system.

These are just a few examples of disruptions that occurred over the course of Lalani’s career, but they are illustrative of how any business, and business leader, that hopes to run a company with longevity must accept the inevitably of disruptions. For leaders in this sector, staying ahead of the curve and navigating through these changes is vital for success. Below, Hanif Lalani shares his insights on how to adapt to technological changes.

Embrace innovation as an inevitability

According to Lalani, the first step as a leader to navigating disruption is both the most simple and most difficult: embracing innovation as an inevitability. As humans, we find comfort in things staying the same. Finding patterns and creating routines are ways in which we process the unknowability of the world around us and make sense of the massive amounts of information we take in on any given day. It is comforting to think that because something is one way in the present moment it will always be in the future, but as the saying goes “change is the only constant.”

Innovation, disruption, change: these are inevitabilities for every business no matter how long they have been around, what industry they are in or who is running them. Lalani says the best leaders are those who inherently understand this, and do not resist them when they arise.

Balance long-term vision with short-term results

Balancing long-term vision and short-term results in a rapidly changing technological landscape is particularly challenging, says Lalani. Keeping up with the latest advancements and integrating them into the long-term plans while performing with immediacy can be demanding. Predicting how new technologies will evolve and impact the industry in the long term can be difficult, and their often short life cycles can lead to the obsolescence of products and services in the future. (Lalani points to the Blu-Ray and HD DVD format wars of the early 2000s as evidence of how quickly these moments can play out.)

Successful organisations must develop agility, adaptability, and foresight to effectively navigate these challenges. They need to strike a delicate balance between delivering short-term results that satisfy immediate needs while keeping the long-term vision in focus to remain relevant and competitive in the dynamic technology market. Hanif Lalani suggests leaders create clearly defined objectives and ensure that every key project aligns toward those objectives, but remain agile in strategic planning and come up with metrics that ensure even when a pivot is deemed needed because of disruption that it can be measured against the overall long-term goals.

Cultivate a learning organisation

Cultivating a learning organisation is crucial for companies to adapt to disruptions effectively. Lalani says companies that promote continuous learning and knowledge-sharing create a team that is inherently more agile and adaptable. Employees are accustomed to learning new skills and embracing change, enabling the company to respond quickly to disruptions in the market or industry. By encouraging organisation members to stay informed about industry trends, emerging technologies, and potential disruptions it allows the company to be proactive rather than reactive.

Lalani suggests leaders provide a wide variety of resources and opportunities for continuous learning such as workshops, training programs and online courses. Encourage team members to actively engage in learning by acknowledging and celebrating employees who demonstrate their commitment to growth, and consider adding a metric related to this to quarterly evaluations to truly emphasise how important this trait is to the organisation.

Find good talent and keep it

Finding and keeping good talent during disruptive times is an investment in the organisation’s future, says Lalani. A skilled and motivated workforce helps the organisation weather challenges, seize opportunities, and emerge stronger and more resilient in the face of technological advancements and subsequent change. Skilled employees who understand the business well contribute to maintaining continuity during times of disruption. They can help sustain essential operations and ensure that critical projects and initiatives continue to progress. A competitive advantage, employee morale and engagement, reduced turnover costs, institutional knowledge—it is undeniable the benefits holding on to top talent can bring to an organisation during times of disruption.

Lalani emphasises that when an industry or society is experiencing disruption this can often create a ripple effect that trickles down and results in a general feeling of uncertainty and anxiety. Transparency and open communication are crucial to creating a sense of security in an organisation during these times, which are the bedrock on which a strong culture and therefore low turnover are built.

Navigating disruption as technology evolves requires a willingness to embrace innovation, foresight, fast action, thirsty minds, and a strong team in place. Lalani says that if leaders feel overwhelmed or anxious after reading yet another piece about disruption, they should close the tab, take a deep breath, and remind themselves that disruptions have been occurring since the dawn of civilisation. People are adaptable, and therefore businesses can be too.

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