Cain Cooke (ILF2021)



Harvard Business School (USA)

Disruptive Innovation: Strategies for a Successful Enterprise

In the middle of June 2023, I had the pleasure of trading the cold South Australian winter for the mild summer of Boston, USA to dive deep into an immerse learning experience at Harvard Business School thanks to the incredible support of the ILF.

As a passionate lifelong learner and always eager to challenge myself I joined 90 leading innovators from major corporations across 27 countries and buckled in for an intensive Harvard specialty course in Disruptive Innovation. 

For 6 long days (and most nights) we diligently unpacked theory and case studies of some of the world’s biggest businesses including Netflix, General Motors, Intel, UnderArmour, Fedex, Disney and examined not only their successes but often how their biggest failures have shaped their businesses and informed future success. 

Innovation can be disruptive, but it can also be the fuel that sustains the growth of an existing organisation or profession. In fact, the world’s best businesses innovate and disrupt themselves in a structured, systematic way exploring new opportunities, new markets and new initiatives. Both with failure and success. 

We live and operate in a world where companies are looking for pathways to enter markets and disrupt our business models, win our customers, and take a piece of our revenue. 

Challenger businesses often have the advantage of being smaller, nimbler with less to lose and can respond to and take advantage of ‘low hanging fruit’ on the edges of your business. As our business gets bigger or has traded for longer our ability to respond culturally, operationally, and strategically becomes increasingly difficult. 

Innovation in an existing business can distract from BAU, so needs to be separated and focused and championed by executives to ensure success. 

The operating world is changing so rapidly. We all too often keep doing what we have always done because its comfortable, and it works but the world is shifting around us at a rapid rate. If you don’t think there are businesses out there today examining yours and looking for opportunity to acquire your customers or create new markets to win them then you are on a collision course. 

My experience at Harvard was incredible, and I am deeply grateful to Geoff and the ILF Board for their support.  The relationship and connections I made from around the world have immeasurable value. My thinking was challenged, and my sight lines raised to dream bigger and bolder. My personal and professional learnings have translated into a renewed confidence to challenge, innovate and disrupt here in SA, to create new opportunities for all of us.