Leading disruption in a legacy business

Magazine Spring 2022 Issue Borders

Compelling growth ambitions are a critical factor for new businesses.

Andy Beans, Michael L. Tashman, and Charles O’Reilly III

Reading time: 9 min

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Borders

An MY SMR an initiative to explore how technology is changing management practices.

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Gary Waters/theispot.com

Few doubt that something extraordinary has happened at Nvidia, as its stock price has risen more than 8,000% over the past decade. It is now among the top 10 most valuable companies in the world, thanks to its transformation from the world’s leading provider of graphics processors to a leader in computing for artificial intelligence and autonomous driving.1 CEO Jensen Huang refuted the conventional wisdom that established companies cannot reinvent themselves and their industries through radical innovation.

Nvidia is no exception—rather, we see it as one of the most striking examples of the trend of large corporations driving radical innovation. Among them is LexisNexis, which became an early leader in big data analytics, building a multibillion-dollar business that outstrips the original legal information firm. Another company, Deloitte Consulting, is challenging the century-old model of management consulting with Deloitte Pixel, a new open talent model. Best Buy spun out of its retail business to create a company that provides health technology and services to seniors. And MasterCard has shifted from focusing on processing credit card transactions to creating new digital payment solutions.

A new crop of executives are running disruptive businesses from within large corporations. These corporate explorers are ambitious, focused managers who are willing to campaign for breakthrough new ventures within stable, successful organizations. They come up with, develop and scale innovations, just like an entrepreneur does. However, innovating within an existing corporation is significantly different from conventional entrepreneurship. These leaders need an enabling context that empowers and encourages them. This is the role of what we call a strategic ambitions.

Definition of ambitions

CEOs such as Nvidia’s Huang, Analog Devices’ Vincent Roche, MasterCard’s Ajay Banga, and Best Buy’s Hubert Joly have offered their organizations strategic ambitions that inspire aspiration and hope, not fear.

Most importantly, leaders articulate an emotionally compelling higher purpose for their companies — such as Jolie’s aspiration that Best Buy should “enrich people’s lives through technology and contribute to the common good.” Many companies have a mission and vision statement that articulates a commitment to a higher purpose. They can tell us about the company’s stance on important social issues, such as climate change and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Topics

Borders

An MY SMR an initiative to explore how technology is changing management practices.

More in this series

List of references

1. According to data on the website https://seekingalpha.com, as of December 22, 2021, Nvidia shares have increased in price over 10 years by 8736.68%.

2. N. Furr, A. Shipilov, A. Duvochel, “How does digital transformation take place?” The Case of MasterCard (A)”, INSEAD case study no. 6348 (Fontainebleau, France: INSEAD, 26 February 2018); and N. Furr, A. Shipilov, and A. Duvochel, “How does digital transformation take place?” The Case of MasterCard (B)”, INSEAD case study no. 6348 (Fontainebleau, France: INSEAD, 1 December 2020).

3. S. Pangambam, “MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga on Risks in Your Life and Career (Full Transcript),” The Singju Post, December 7, 2015, https://singjupost.com.

4. Jensen Huang, interview with authors, February 27, 2016.

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