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A New Role for the CEO – Chief Disruption Officer

Whether you like it or not, accept it or not, or think you’re affected by it or not, there’s a new reality in town. It touches everyone. It is continuous disruption. It is rampant in technology, in terms of rapid changes and in the pandemic of cyber-crime. While cyber-crime is today’s headline grabber, disruption has affected almost every area of every business, regardless of size or industry. Disruption is a force moving at warp speed.

The target of these disruptive forces is the culture of a company – your company. Culture is where habits and traditions live; it’s where behavioral norms define reality. And because any organization’s culture touches every person, in every area of a company’s business – only the CEO has the authority, power and influence to change and adapt the company’s culture in ways that can cope with the opportunities and threats that define our new reality. 

Here is my job description for the CEO of any company as it relates to leading her/ his company in our world of continuous disruption, with special emphasis on cyber security.

CEO and Chief Disruption Officer:    

Job Objective: Keep the organization relevant – forever – in a world of continuous disruption.

Job responsibilities: Lead and transform the organization’s culture to:

·     Be highly agile;

·     Positively and enthusiastically embrace continuous change – in every facet of the business;

·     Be pro-active in looking for opportunities to implement market-driven disruptions before someone else does;

·     Continuously examine the culture to ensure that cultural norms are responsive to the present and anticipated needs of all constituencies;

·     Mandate that all HR and other internal recruitment and hiring activities focus on attracting and retaining people who are highly and positively adaptive to conditions that create continuous disruption; and

·     Create a cyber-resilient culture, where staff are trained and practiced in preventive skills; they have up-to-date awareness, information and knowledge so that your organization becomes and remains a hard target; and they have the knowledge, skills, and training to discover and respond to any and all kinds of cyber crime and other cyber incidents

This new role has been brought about by a digital transformation that is affecting organizations of all sizes in virtually all fields of endeavor. That digital transformation has resulted from the introduction and progressive permeation of big data, artificial intelligence, cloud computing and the Internet of things. Life is different. And it will keep getting more differenter (I like inventing new words).

Even though all these technological elements were designed to improve the quality of our lives and make more things available to more people, they have inadvertently created a new, lucrative, rapidly growing parallel industry – cyber crime. 

Cyber crime, by its very nature, cannot be curtailed or controlled through the single channel of technology. And just as the factors causing permanent disruption have spawned the need for a new breed of CEO – the Chief Disruption Officer – they have made one of the responsibilities of that new job to lead the cultural adaption needed to become and remain a hard target in the continuing war against cyber crime.

In a recent article by Thomas M. Siebel appearing in the December 2017 McKinsey Quarterly, entitled “Why digital transformation is now on the CEO’s shoulders” he cites a variety of reasons why the failure of CEO’s to lead digital transformation will result in the collapse of many currently successful companies and force them to go out of business. That correlates to the high percentage of small and mid-size companies that fail because they cannot withstand the array of costs and loss of market position resulting from being the victim of a cyber crime.

But at the opposite end of the spectrum will be those leaders and their companies who see a robust, pro-active response to the cyber crime threat as an opportunity to rise up, meet the threat head-on, not just to survive, but to thrive, using the disruption brought about by cyber crime, to sharpen the organization’s overall ability to ride the disruption wave, and reap the rewards made available by the unfortunate mistakes made by leaders who simply failed to act. 

Which side do you want to be on?

By, Bill Leider, Managing Partner, Axíes Group

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