Microbrewing has the right recipe for innovation leadership according to Mark Spelman of the World Economic Forum. As co-head of Future of the Internet Initiative at the Geneva based organisation, Spelman spoke at a recent gathering of business leaders in technology, HR and finance organised by BIE.
“Brewing is the insight into digital,” Spelman told innovation leaders from the Home Office, manufacturing, FMCG and healthcare. The former board level business leader described how in the UK during the 1920s to 1930s the UK had 1400 breweries. “The market consolidated and hit rock bottom in the 1980s when we had just 400 breweries.
“Today there are loads of breweries again and we are at the same levels as the 1930s. In the last 12 months there has been over 200 breweries open up,” Spelman said; adding that the brewery sector declined because of a strategy to reach scale, which led to consolidation. “In the world of mircobrewing scale is not the thing to get right, it is about uniqueness. As a microbrewer you think carefully about channels and your product, so it is about customisation,” he said of the distinct flavours and localness brewers are developing as independent businesses free from the sales targets of large enterprises, yet like startups stealing a valuable pint of revenue. “To be successful you have to have speed and customisation.”
As businesses throw aside scale and commodity, the role of leadership changes Spelman says. “Our role is how you help people get on the bus,” he says of the change journey organisations have to go through. “You need to do change through people and the people who are on the bus.” Spelman divides his focus into macro, micro and personal economics and says that on a micro level people tell you that the world is uncertain. He believes a great deal of uncertainty is the result of not “having clear anchor points”; something recent macroeconomic events back up.
“We like the world to be a series of flat lines, but in truth is it more of a roller coaster ride. The ability to articulate the context of what environment we are operating in is the leadership role.”
“Digital is blurring the boundaries of business and a lot of businesses are finding their boundaries blur.”