Aberdeen business leaders encouraged to put innovation at the heart of business strategy

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Business innovation and disruption is not limited to technology companies, but existing or new technology can be a catalyst for innovative business models, so heard leaders at an event hosted by KPMG in Aberdeen this month.

Speaking as part of the professional services firm’s Inspiring Speakers series was Will Whitehorn, former President of Virgin Galactic but now deputy chairman of Stagecoach and a non-executive director of one of the UK’s fastest-growing companies, Purplebricks.

Will has been at the forefront of business change and innovation throughout his career.

During the Aberdeen event hosted at The Chester Hotel, Will addressed an audience of around 50 leading figures of Aberdeen’s business community on the need for innovation and disruption to be at the heart of business strategy to meet unprecedented cultural and consumer changes.

Commenting, Will said: “Many business leaders think that innovation is only for technology companies.

“Technology can be a catalyst for change but often it’s about taking existing ideas and applying them to a new business model. Economic history has taught us that some of the world’s greatest gamechangers had existed long before they were applied to such significant effect.

“Purplebricks isn’t the first online estate agent but by taking existing ideas and applying them to an established industry model they are challenging the status quo. By stripping out a number of fixed, high operating costs that come with a traditional agency, this hybrid model combines local property experts with a convenient online platform and is able to offer customers a competitive flat fee, personal estate agents and 24-hour service driven by their focus on technology.”

Will has a keen involvement in the growth of the business community of Scotland, including innovative projects driven by technology. Will also has a personal affinity with North East Scotland, having studied at The University of Aberdeen in the 1980s. After graduating, Will remained in Scotland and worked on Chinook helicopters.

Whilst touching on the current challenges and opportunities being faced in Aberdeen and the wider region, Will shared his views on why innovation and disruption is a business’ greatest asset.

Will’s sentiments on the evening echoed the findings of KPMG’s recent ‘Global CEO Outlook’ report, which canvassed the opinions of more than 1,300 CEOs on the challenges and opportunities facing their businesses in an uncertain landscape.

The global survey reveals that two-thirds of business leaders view technological disruption as a great opportunity, rather than a threat – with three-quarters striving to become disruptors within their own sectors.

Moray Barber, partner at KPMG Aberdeen said:

“Technology is having a greater impact, not only on the pace of business, but how we do business.

Now, more than ever, we need to challenge ourselves to think differently, and this continues to be relevant to the North East of Scotland.

“All businesses, regardless of their sector, should continuously assess their business models and evaluate what can be done to innovate to remain relevant and competitive. In today’s digital world, this diversity in business thinking is critical and doing nothing is the greatest risk to businesses in Scotland.”


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