Philip Swisher – SVP, Innovation – Brown Brothers Harriman & Co.
Question: How do you and your organization adapt to fast-changing times and trends?
Phillip Swisher: A very important element is increasing the speed at which a company can learn, which is one of the few sources of durable competitive advantage.
Q: What’s the best way to innovate and stay ahead of the curve?
PS: The critical element needed for any innovation program to succeed is strong support from the leaders of the company. Innovation inherently involves the new and different, and can challenge those who have benefited from the status quo.
Q: What advice would you give leaders when things don’t go as planned in business, despite the best-laid plans?
PS: The more new and different the opportunity, the more likely things are to veer into the unexpected. I’m a big believer in using lean, and the build-measure-learn loops can maximize a company’s ability to deliver high quality outputs very quickly.
Q: What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever been given?
PS: An early mentor taught me that you can only really negotiate if you can walk away.
Q: The most important thing businesses should know about competing today is…?
PS: Big businesses don’t beat small businesses and small businesses don’t beat big businesses. Fast businesses beat slow businesses. And in a large business, the speed at which an organization can learn is a critical management metric, and a major potential source of competitive advantage.
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