Disruptive Innovation Talk: When not playing by the rules is a good thing!

L-R: Ciaran O'Shea, Fintan McGovern, Aileen Butler, Bryan Hickson, Vincent Cooney, Kieran Harte, Pooja Dey, Sreekanth Nagabhushana
L-R: Ciaran O’Shea, Fintan McGovern, Aileen Butler, Bryan Hickson, Vincent Cooney, Kieran Harte, Pooja Dey, Sreekanth Nagabhushana

On Wednesday 17th of February the Smurfit MBA Thought Leadership Club hosted a talk on Disruptive Innovation to provide students a better view of current disruptive trends and how they shape the fourth industrial revolution that is arguably well underway. Three distinguished industry leaders addressed the audience: Bryan Hickson, Senior Manager, IT Advisory at EY, Kieran Harte, General Manager, Marketing at Uber, and Fintan McGovern, CEO, Firmwave (Smurfit Exec.MBA, 2012). They provided valuable insight on how they felt the industry was shaping up to the changing economic landscape, what they were doing to ensure their firms remained at the leading edge of the innovation curve, and what the future has in store. Two current students, Ciarán O’Shea (Exec.MBA 2017), and Sreekanth Nagabhushana (Full-time MBA 2016) welcomed speakers, hosted the evening, and facilitated a lively panel discussion and Q&A.

Bryan Hickson from EY kicked things off by talking about cloud computing initiatives in his organisation and how the cloud was creating lean and agile software architecture, and compressing solution delivery lead-times from months to weeks. As a techie myself, I had expected Bryan to extol the virtues of cloud computing and how it is going to be the way of the future, I was pleasantly surprised to hear him provide a reasoned argument about how the cloud computing needs vary based on system and security requirements, and I wasn’t aware of the regulatory challenges associated with going ‘cloud only’. It is not often that I hear consultants provide such a balanced view without championing the current trend ruling the industry; Bryan’s impartiality really increased his credibility and the effectiveness of his talk.

Kieran Harte told us the story about how two friends were able to turn a language barrier in a foreign city into a $60 billion business. His savvy and eloquent presentation about the origin of Uber in Paris, and the true purpose of Uber—to increase car utilisation from an average of 4%, and to ultimately make personal vehicles obsolete had the audience enthralled. Kieran claimed that Uber were not disrupting the taxi market, they were creating a more flexible public transport system, especially in markets with unreliable or undeveloped public transport services. He also pointed out that the shared economy business model will change the way people work and think about business, which was definitely a point to ponder for future executives and budding entrepreneurs in the audience.

Our final speaker for the evening, Fintan McGovern is yet another success story from the Smurfit MBA. Having completed his MBA in 2012,  Fintan spoke about globe-hopping post-MBA, including stops in Mozambique and St.Lucia before starting his own venture in Dublin. Today Firmwave is going strong and is growing from strength to strength in the ‘Internet of things’ space and shortening development by enabling rapid prototyping. Fintan spoke at length about his company’s vision and mission, and how by ‘sitting on the edge of cloud’ and engaging in ‘edge analytics’ they are helping clients increase their competitiveness. The talk was inspiring for students who want to beat their own path after completing their degrees.

After the presentations guests engaged in a lively and interactive panel discussion and Q&A with an engaged audience. The impact of regulation was a recurring theme. Kieran spoke further about Uber’s plans for the future and regulatory challenges Uber has faced in Ireland, and about the looming threat posed to its service by copycats and driverless cars. Bryan spoke further about how organisations could leverage cloud computing technology to make software development a much faster and agile process. Ultimately, all speakers highlighted how strategies employed always placed the customer at the centre of solution development and delivery.

We would like to thank all the speakers for taking out time and sharing their knowledge and opinions with us, and we hope the audience can apply some of the inspiring and motivating ideas in the future.

Arka Banerjee & Vincent Cooney ~ Full-Time MBA