Becoming a leader in the disruptive world: lesson from Silicon Valley

Economy February 13, 2018 01:00


AT THIS STAGE, change is the only constant thing in the world and disruption has become the new normal that we cannot escape from.

The truth is, in the world that we are living in today, if we’re not disrupting ourselves, we will soon be disrupted. And I’m certain that to change ‘before’ we have to is a much better path to take than to change ‘because’ we have to. 

The bottom line here is that for organisation to become disruptive, it has to start with having disruptive leaders.

Last year, I was among 30 of Thailand’s top business leaders to go to Stanford University as part of the executive education programme called Leading in a Disruptive World run by my organisation – SEAC.

Primarily, the trip was supposed to make me realise that we are now living in an era of near-constant disruption with an endless rise of entrepreneurship along with the fact that technology-driven disruption of entire markets and industries can strike anytime and that the new business landscapes are even more challenging because of their complexity, connectedness, and competitiveness which would essentially lead to volatility and risk; hence, innovation is the only way to win in such |stage.

We also learned that in the disruptive era your newest and biggest competitor will likely come from outside your industry. And, it will most likely be a small, agile, startup company with an innovative and disruptive approach. 

These startup companies can change the very nature of competition by introducing a new business model and this carries a real threat of making even the largest organisations irrelevant overnight. 

One of the lessons learned is a deep understanding of the impact, threats, and opportunities inherent in three mega business trends for Thai businesses is critical to survive in the disruptive world they create. These mega business trends are: the Digital Revolution, Globalisation, and Regional Competition.

Digital Revolution: All industries are being disrupted by the unprecedented availability of data and the increasing interconnectedness of technology platforms. Yet the biggest impacts are still to come as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics are set to revolutionise every facet of our lives and societies. 

If you’re not already deploying an agile strategy to leverage technology – including reimagining business models – you’re already behind the game.

Globalisation: Global connectedness and interdependence is also driven by the increasing penetration of technology. We live in a world of great, and increasing, uncertainty, volatility, and risk. Globalisation and digitalisation also bring great opportunities to expand into new markets and innovate through supply chains. Thai businesses must be agile and adaptive to thrive in this environment.

Regional Competition: As Asean integration accelerates, Thai businesses will face increased competition from powerful regional and also global players attracted by the single market. Leaders will face increased threats from traditional and non-traditional businesses, and greater competition for their talented staff. All businesses in Asean need to both step up their game and change their game to survive.

The thing is that surely we all did learn how the best disruptors in the world drive innovation and we got to see Silicon Valley’s unique ecosystem in which the most creative minds, a culture of innovation, non–traditional venture capitalists, and outstanding academic institutions work in collaboration to foster the world’s most innovative companies and so on.

However, at the end of the trip, I think the most beneficial lesson from this learning experience is beyond just those mentioned realities. Although the programme occurred merely for one week in the heart of the Silicon Valley, what I learned from this trip has truly changed my life and disrupted my perception ie the way I look at myself, my business and the world all-around completely.

This programme has greatly transformed and exposed me to new perspectives. Also, it has incredibly challenged my assumptions, my preconceptions, and certainly my experience. It has greatly challenged myself and my organisation to an extraordinary future of the disruptive era and how to thrive in it. 

We will soon be organising this once-in-a-lifetime learning experience and I can hardly wait to experience it all over again. 

Contributed by ARINYA TALERNGSRI, chief capability officer and managing director at SEAC (formerly APMGroup) -Southeast Asia’s leading executive, leadership and innovation capability development centre. 

She can be reached by email at or