John Kotter and Charlene Li Talk Business Strategy

The rate of change in our culture is increasing—and in order to compete, businesses need to increase their rate of change as well, says management guru John Kotter. 


In his Big Think interview, Kotter, the chief innovation officer at Kotter International, says that the two biggest drivers of change right now are technology and globalization.  "They produce lots of sub drivers," he says, "like competition in industries and the like, and those two are not going to go away. Globalization is going to bring us closer and closer together across nations and technology you can’t stop. So, the amount of change is going to, I think and the rate is just gong to go up and up and up for I don’t know how long."

Kotter also says it's important for companies to create a high sense of urgency when they want to achieve change. He says that people need to have "a gut level determination" that they want to get up every single day and mobilize people to take advantages that will benefit the company. "If you don’t have enough people with that frame of mind, it's like putting up a tall building and you don’t put in ... the pylons deep enough.  They really are the structure that supports everything.  That keeps things moving around.  That gets people into it in a 'want to,' not a 'have to' frame of mind."

Meanwhile, Charlene Li, the founder of the Altimeter Group, talked to us about the importance of social media for today's businesses, and why companies need to take it more seriously than they have in the past. "The days when you could actually ignore [social media] ... are long gone," says Li. "We’re at that point now where more people are using Facebook than are using Yahoo and Facebook is rapidly catching up to Google in terms of the number of people using it, so I think when it comes to business it is no longer a way to think about this is sort of a nice to have activity that your teenagers are using.  This is a place where you can actually build real relationships with real people and in fact, if you don’t do it you are in peril of being overrun by them."

Li thinks social media technology is only in its infancy, and that social networks will continue to evolve. "We are like just at the beginning of this," she says in her Big Think interview. "This is a place that never stands still. ... Things that change relationships fundamentally, that have power shifts involved are the things that you really need to pay attention to because those are the things that matter, things that change that relationship and therefore change the way that you have to run and act in your business."

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