By Jennibeth B. Reforsado

Companies have no other option but to embrace disruption to keep them ahead of the curve, speakers said during the disruption session of BusinessWorld’s first-ever Economic Forum held last July 12 at the Shangri-La at the Fort, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.

Firms must realize the importance of responding to changes — inside and outside the corporate world, said Margot B. Torres, executive vice-president and deputy managing director of McDonald’s Philippines, and one of the speakers during the session. She cited the fate of more than half of Fortune 500 companies that have gone bankrupt, have been acquired, or have ceased to exist since 2000 due to disruption.

For his part, Alfredo C. Tan, group director of Global Marketing Solutions, Facebook Canada, concurred, saying that since change is currently the norm, companies must never be complacent and never stop innovating.

He also said that the world has already gone mobile, with 7.5 billion mobile devices expected to grow five times than the population of 100 countries including the Philippines. This massive consumer base presents a lot of opportunities for firms, he added.

A similar opportunity will also be afforded to the players of the country’s power industry if they go solar, said Leandro L. Leviste, Solar Philippines president.

Calling it as the power industry’s “best kept secret,” he said solar with batteries is cheap enough to displace the country’s entire gas and diesel and supply the majority of our energy demand, with the balance in co-existence with coal. He cited Deutsche Bank’s report on grid parity that said the Philippines is best suited for solar as we have one of the world’s highest power rates and high solar irradiation.

“[Solar] can grow the power industry by five times, lower power prices, clean the environment, create a million jobs, and [is] the biggest investment opportunity of the 21st century,” said Mr. Leviste.

For his part, Donald Patrick Lim, ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation Digital Media Division’s chief digital officer, refers to innovation as the centerpiece of every organization. He cautioned, though, that the challenge of innovation does not really lie on small companies but on bigger, established ones.

“Whether we like it or not, we are already [in the digital age]. The question as an organization is how much we digitize our companies,” he said, adding that several corporations have to go through so-called “digital maturity” by first assessing upon themselves where they are now and where to go further. This, as Mr. Tan pointed out that the tools of today will not necessarily be the tools of tomorrow.

Meanwhile, McDonald’s Ms. Torres gave six pointers — agility, authenticity, experience, intimacy, omni channel, and utility — to guide businesses as they embark on the journey towards disruption.

“Disruption probably means changing your own mindset. Companies actually do not change, people do. Your competition is yourself against becoming unwilling and uncapable of change,” she said.

Disruptive technologies may do pose as challenges for businesses in every sector, but for those who have the will to change to stay relevant in these ever-changing times, disruption is an ally. As Mr. Leviste said, disruption should not be prevented, and that “if you can’t beat them, you should join them.”

Jennibeth B. Reforsado worked as a proofreader for BusinessWorld for three years. She is now a writer-in-training for the Special Features Section.