Leveraging Technology Disruption & Innovation to Scale Social Impact
By Yao Huang, Managing Partner at The Hatchery, keynote speaker at the Business Call to Action 8th Annual Forum, Technological Disruption in the World of Inclusive Business
Everyone starts a business with PURPOSE. Everyone invests in a start-up for the ride. We just learn to plaster the business case and the financial returns as the headline and sweep the essence under the rug. It’s lost along the way. Skype was built to DISRUPT. The money that came out of it was secondary. Entrepreneurs are driven by creation. Tech companies grow to become part of our lives and change the status quo within a few years. Think about Facebook grew to be the way we stay in touch in 6 years, Whatsapp became the way we make international calls in 6 years, Uber became the way we get around in 4 disrupting the taxi industry, and Netflix disrupted content from TV, movies, and definitely the way we rent content within 9 years. The list goes on. They become known brands and shape our lives. Technology growth is fast and has become the driving sector of every company for them to stay competitive – from automation to AI. It can also be used as a foundation to grow social impact with just a little thought. And tying the two together means you can get double bottom line returns. People think that social impact and tech are antithesis of each other. It's the synergy that's powerful.
Technology is an advantage. People, companies, governments fight over the latest tech to move ahead. It means we don’t have to spend months to cross the country and we can do it in hours and in special planes it can be done in minutes. It means you can get a message in a second instead of days. These examples probably don’t disturb you because it’s part of what you’re used to. What brings skepticism and fear in people are what they don’t understand. It could stem from fear that if groups of people gain they individually would lose something. That’s not true and it doesn’t have to be so black and white. Or what they’re used to would change. There’s constantly a recycling of old for new. Being open to new things, being curious is the human advantage. Blockchain is disrupting the entire foundation of how our financial systems are run. Artificial intelligence is disrupting modern work. Virtual reality is advancing the way we learn. And all of these for the better. Each saves time, money, resources, and gives more people access to tools they didn’t have before.
Purpose requires thought -- just an extra thought. The “why you’re doing something.” And not just for “more” or to “break.” Be curious for improving and helping. Shifting to impact isn’t hard. Just focus on a purpose besides making more money. And again, helping others doesn’t mean you don’t make money – it’s not mutually exclusive. Just requires a little thought and consideration on why you as the decision maker are building, growing, implementing your “it.” It’s about being thoughtful. About bringing empathy to business. And no, it’s not a weakness. It’s actually a superpower – not everyone can think like this, not yet. It’s as cool as the concept of money making money while you sleep. You can structure an idea or a business to impact while you sleep. Using a technology to help advance people, communities, and create more for others. Double benefit – doing good and making money. And if you want to take it another step further, see if you can take a portion of profits to create ripple effects as well. Microfinance is an example – you make money while loaning someone money to build a business that creates jobs, feeds their family, and fuels them with pride in something they created.
Doing nothing didn’t hurt so much until now. There is a speed of advancement happening now that is allowing groups to leapfrog, leaving those with old tech behind. The pace of innovation and adoption is accelerating. And with this, we see fear from change and action lead to death. Amazon has been running fast for over 10 years, taking out traditional retail one sector at at time. That’s how stubborn entire sectors are to change. Wall Street even knows this, as stocks for entire categories drop by mere announcements from Amazon entering grocery and healthcare. They are dying a slow death by standing still for decades. Closing your eyes doesn’t make things go away. Most of what’s happening in innovation you can foresee the next steps. You don’t even need to be that good a chess player for that. The problem is not being willing to move, because it’s easier to stand still. It requires basic vision with a passion to move. In order to move fast and inspire others to move, you need purpose. No one is going to move to make you two piles more money. And it’s so boring. It doesn’t do anything. That second Ferrari doesn’t do anything. I promise you won’t be happier or more famous.
It’s not size, it’s growth, it’s spreading a good thing. What if we put energy into spreading technology to help improve mental health; to teach inclusion, understanding, and the value of diversity; to improve health and wellness? Can you now see the next set of benefits that it leads to (simple chess)? The ripple effects to business, churn, profits -- peace. What if we harness the power of tech development to further something more meaningful. What if we put a little more thought to including something that benefits others into the thing we sell, our efforts and our days. It doesn’t have to be separate. So the by-product helps others. They are choices. And if you are in a position of action, they can become realities. It’s not just that we should harness tech for good -- we have to, because it has the power to destroy and separate it as much as it can connect.
Learn more about this year's Business Call to Action 8th Annual Forum, Technological Disruption in the World of Inclusive Business here.