4 ways telecoms will change tomorrow

It all started when the adoption of IP-based networks was a standard. Not only did this turning point change Telecoms as a whole, deconstructing the complexity of physical networks and simplifying the management process. It also made our customers’ lives easier, broadening the number of available services and improving the efficiency of the system, whilst letting them conveniently add and remove the services they did or did not need.

Combine that with the rise of software-defined networks (SDN) – a dynamic network architecture that is manageable, cost-effective, and flexible to the needs of the high-bandwidth – and you get two major factors that contributed to the disruption of the Telecoms industry. But there’s more. In fact, we’ve only seen the very beginning of this transformation. Here are four major drivers of innovation that will need us to rethink daily work in the Telecoms industry in the near future.


Imagine a world where every single device will have a feature connecting it with the outer world – the so-called Internet of Things. We are quickly approaching it. According to the estimates that have been made so far, in the near future there will be billions, if not trillions, of connected devices, from phones to refrigerators.

So, what happens when everything is online and operates in a cloud? Well, connectivity will become a commodity, just like water or air – something Nicholas Negroponte foresaw in the late 90s. Our lives, on the other hand, will depend on that connectivity far more than today, giving network operators a pivotal role: the role of possessing the infrastructure to run all these networks will make them able to mould the connectivity according to each customer’s needs. As a consequence, stronger security measures will become necessary. We’ll need deeper protection and we’ll have to focus on resilience: in case a network is hacked, rather than just try to fix what went wrong, it will better to shut it down shortly and bring it up effectively again. This is going to dramatically change the way our security teams currently work.


5G will revolutionize the concept of the “one-size-fits-all” network. With 5G, the network can be partitioned, each slice dedicated to a specific feature. Take a pacemaker, for example. If continuously connected to a terminal in a hospital, this device can give you a warning when the risk of a heart attack increases. For that to happen, though, you need a reliable and secure connection: 5G lets us allocate you the exact amount of bandwidth that you need. Another example is related to VR and gaming, where the user needs a latency below 30 milliseconds in order not to get motion sickness. 5G lets network operators allocate a slice of bandwidth specifically to that purpose, in order to make your gaming experience enjoyable.

Yes, every service can benefit from having a super-efficient, smart connectivity, and this could happen all over the world thanks to the 5G roaming service. 5G is also an all-access technology, so you don’t care about whether you are browsing at a WiFi spot or on a 5G mobile network, or if you are connected to a picocell — 5G combines all of these access points, guaranteeing you a seamless Internet experience. From our point of view, this will make operators able to cope with the restricted bandwidth that you usually have in the current mobile networks, bringing the services we offer closer to perfection.


Another trend for the Telecoms industry includes mergers of big telecommunication companies on one hand, and an improved cooperation between the players on the other. We will witness something similar to what happened within the airline industry, where big alliances have grown and the flights of one company are often operated by another. In the Telecoms industry, operators will need to cope with the lack of scale every company has by cooperating with other network operators. This collaboration, on a global scale, will put them in a stronger position when negotiating with companies like Google – companies which usually don’t sit at the table with single (and smaller) players.


One thing is for certain: in the future, we will work even more closely with machines. We therefore need to raise a global discussion about ethics. The technological changes that will affect the Telecoms industry – as well as many other sectors – pose to us new threats and bring us new challenges. Machines and artificial intelligence are already superior to humans, and they will mostly likely be able to pass a Turing test soon, resulting in a situation where no one will be able to detect whether they’re talking to a machine or to a person. This raises many questions.

How and to which extent can machines be tweaked? Do they have any sort of personality? Are they becoming individuals? Are they vulnerable? And how can we relate this new reality to the ethical standards that we have right now?

We have to redefine the human position in this evolving world. Something similar has happened in the past – so it’s not a first time – but the tremendous speed of today’s transformation is unprecedented. We’ve had industrial revolutions before, but they gave society the time to adapt to them in terms of decades. Today, we’re talking about years. Or even less.

Power to the people

Over the course of the last decade, the digital revolution has been disrupting the way we work. Thanks to the Internet, the percentage of employees working physically inside an office and with set shifts is in decline. In fact, according to a study carried out by Nasdaq in 2017, “many Americans are saying goodbye to the traditional 9-5 lifestyle”. The number of freelancers, too, is predicted to reach 43% of the total workforce by 2020.

It is clear that we’re gearing towards global and delocalised structures, where members of the same team work in different areas throughout the world. This switch has to be followed by a change in management — but how?

I call this new way of working the “Virtual Power Team”. A team which is virtual because it is, by definition, set in more than one location. “Power”, instead, comes from the fact that the individuals share a goal, a purpose. Virtual working can be compared to an atom: it has a nucleus, which is not a boss per se but the team’s overarching goal, and it has particles – the members who circle around this goal. The objective from a management perspective is to keep the team focused on one side, and to retain gravity on the other.

The main issues of this workflow usually comprise of the following: from the team’s perspective, the individuals can feel frustrated and isolated; from a management perspective, it’s harder to keep everyone focused and collaborative. How, then, can we solve these new problems and make virtual working effective and successful, while empowering its main components at the same time?

A virtual power team needs to stress its efforts across 10 key factors. First of all, the main focus should be on the personality of each individual in the team. What the manager should ask himself, and retrieve from the team with simple bottom-up brainstorming, is the following question: which skills and what knowledge make this person valuable for the company? This helps makes each component of the team unique, both in a professional and personal way. The second and third factors are the strengths matrix and the interdependent goals. The manager has to set a purpose and establish its foundational protocols together with the team. Such a goal has to be divided into very specific tasks and responsibility delegated accordingly by the team members themselves.

If we picture the Virtual Power Team as a human, these first three factors are linked to its “head” ­– they’re the mental side. The next elements can instead be compared to the skeleton: they make up the structural side and are linked to communication within the team. This should happen through dynamic platforms, as they are the most efficient and immediate means we currently have. As per the agenda, in a traditional business the manager usually calls for a meeting only when a problem arises. To make a virtual power team work, instead, there should be a set agenda and regular team calls where each team member has a chance to express themselves. This allows the individuals to speak up and give both professional and personal updates; it also keeps the management updated and aware of the team’s situation.

Finally, the heart: these final factors include recognition, diversity, and the establishment of a winning spirit. Each individual has to perceive the recognition they receive for their work from both their coworkers and from the management. Also, as there may be lots of cultural diversity, it would greatly benefit the team to discuss and try to have a shared idea about what is good leadership, how best to foster smart decision making and how to mitigate, or avoid, conflict completely. The establishment of a winning spirit within the team is also a key factor in this sense: the members themselves should decide a team building activity and make it happen. This makes each individual feel unique and more valued, and helps the management get the most from their employee’s skill set. The last element consists of involving younger generations in specific programmes that are designed to nurture their talents. Such programmes boost innovation and benefit both the leaders of the future and the company itself.

The decentralised and virtual path that we are currently experiencing is becoming more and more relevant to all businesses across the world today. People are always resistant to change at first, but it’s about understanding that decentralised models are now a fact of life: something which have already become intrinsic to the current global business climate.

That is why changing traditional management models is no longer a choice: any business, in order to be relevant in the future, has to go through it. At the end of the day, it’s all about empowering the members, facilitating communications, and ultimately recognising the team’s work: the success of your company relies on them.

How the European startup scene can conquer the world

When we think about major hubs in the startup world, we usually think of Silicon Valley, Israel, and Asia. Europe seems to have been surpassed by other regions in terms of building innovative, sustainable businesses. Is this really the case? 

I see a lot of activity, creativity and talent across the European startup scene. It is true that if you look to Asia or America, you can’t help thinking that Europe still needs to catch up – but good things are happening. New funds have been made available in recent years, as well as a sharp rise in the number of accelerators, incubators, and companies: there is a positive period coming our way.

My criticism is more about the speed at which things are happening, which is usually not fast enough. In order to improve it, we should ask for more robust and timely investments from both national and regional governments (like in Finland or France). Even if these institutions acknowledge that startups will be the future of this continent, they still allocate too much funding to traditional industries – the coal industry in Germany for example. We need more politicians to support this new ecosystem and take an interest in the opportunities they present. Companies too, must take charge of this, and provide these industries with a better chance by investing more in young and promising startups.

Do European startups have some responsibility for this situation? What are the most common mistakes they’re making?

I believe European startups are thinking too small. Most startup founders follow the idea: if I’m based in France, France is my market. This is wrong. The market is global, your market is the world. This is the biggest difference between the Silicon Valley and other regions; in the Valley, everybody starts a company with the belief that they will conquer the world. This is what we should be doing in Europe too — we should aim at conquering the whole world. Historically, Europe was very successful hundred years ago. But this should not be new colonialism, it should be tech leadership and working together with the world innovation centers!

What are the strengths of the European startup ecosystem?

Europe is the talent pool of the world. If you go to California or Asia you will meet many Europeans. The continent has an incredible history of innovation and, on average, its average education is better than both that of America and Asia. Yes, we could have more top class universities but the average European university delivers hundreds of thousands great educated people. Also, here in Europe, we enjoy a lot of freedom. Freedom is very important because it’s closely tied to creativity. In a dictatorship, you can only be so creative. But here we can move freely, get in touch with different cultures easily and let ideas flourish. All these opportunities put Europe in the best position to be an innovation leader.

Even compared to Silicon Valley?

Well, I wouldn’t want to live in Silicon Valley because – unless you’re rich and work in one of the few top companies that are based there – it’s not a good place to live: no matter how cool your job is, it is hard to afford your living and keep your standard. The cost of living is so high that companies have to pay engineers $150,000 a year: that’s too much for starting a business. This is another reason why I think that we need to create an environment like Silicon Valley, but stay in Europe and be based more on European values.

You’ve been involved in every part of the startup ecosystem: you’ve been a buyer, an investor and a founder. Now you are creating your own company which is trying to help startups grow and businesses thrive. What was the motivation behind this shift?

I’ve been in the high-tech business for 26 years, starting in the early 90s. Back then, the fax machine was essential, and the mobile phone wasn’t a viable option until 1995. I grew up in that “tech age”, fascinated by new things and by finding new ways to invent the future. At Dolby International, I was involved in M&A of startups and witnessed all sorts of mistakes and successes. After that, I think I wanted to wear a different hat: and switch to the other side: that’s why I started Silicon Castles, trying to help startups generate value, grow faster, and achieve a higher return.

How do Silicon Castles work?

We basically follow three major streams. The first one is investing in promising companies. We’re not a simple VC or business angels: we’re strategic investors. I look for what I call “the diamonds”: companies which have a unique technology that they own and they are able to leverage in order to create a profitable business. Secondly, we help them to really accelerate: we consult them on how to create the right IP, , teaching them how cut deals, improving marketing and sales. Winning the first big deal is so important. All the necessary skill sets to succeed in the industry they work in.

And third?

Third, we provide what we call “executive education”: we teach founders and CEOs of startups how to be better startups execs. Most of the time, startups executives come from a tech engineering background, and they have a low understanding of how to do business. This academy teaches founders pivotal concepts and the steps needed to build a great company: how to go to market, how to define their strategy, what business model they should pick, what price is right, how to negotiate etc. All extremely practical things.

How do you pick the right startups to include in Silicon Castles?

I mainly look at three things. I look at the team; I look at the technology and if they have patents; I look at the global market. If they have the right product, if they can sell it globally, if it’s scalable, if they believe in it. These are all things any investor would look at. The key in startup growth is: who is your first customer? It should not be the customer around the block, nor another startup. It’s all about getting a real customer. This is the proof that they can do real business: a signed deal. In my view, the value of startups is created by having great technology and patents and a signed deal. In this world, value is driven by facts.

What is BIoT?

By 2025, it is predicted that the world will be dominated by 75 billion connected devices. An exciting time for technologists but currently this advancement is riddled with security concerns: nullifying its benefits. Forrester predicts that IoT security issues will remain a threat in 2018, and that it is likely we will witness yet again more IoT-related attacks similar to The Mirai DDoS Botnet attack which caused chaos all over the world – attacking sites ranging from Twitter, to Netflix and even Paypal. The report unnervingly concludes with the belief that such attacks will only grow in their scale and impact over time.

So how does blockchain technology help? If you need a friendly reminder of what the blockchain technology is, you can find out more about its decentralised, cryptographic processes here. In short, it transforms the ways in which we store and manage data through use of a distributed database. For an easy analogy, it is the difference between working on a Google doc as opposed to a Word doc: with the former, anyone can make changes at the same time, and they will be recorded for all to see – with the latter, this isn’t the case.

The decentralised nature of blockchain means that it eliminates any single point of failure in its verification process. This protection against data manipulation will therefore prevent rogue devices from disrupting a network of connected IoT devices.

BIoT will reassure consumers that their data is safe inside these devices, and considerably lower the time it takes for these devices to communicate with one other by removing the need for overhead intermediaries. Furthermore, Blockchain is programmable, so it can be automated to react in certain ways only when the prerequisite action has occurred.

Whatever the case, BIoT is still in its infancy. However, some businesses are beginning to explore this space: Wal-Mart are trying out blockchain to manage product recalls, and BIoT: IBM Blockchain is currently using this technology to track a food item from farm to store almost instantaneously.

Bill Schmaro, CTO of Dell EMC Services, said in a statement when speaking about BIoT that: “Access to the detailed consumer product usage and consumption data would explode the potential of big data to optimise key business processes, reduce regulatory and compliance risks, uncover new monetisation opportunities, and create a more compelling consumer experience.”

So what is BIoT? It is a technology that has yet to be realised; a new approach to the storage and management of a business’s data that is going to have far reaching consequences in the years to come.

Would you trust an AI doctor?

Artificial Intelligence is already a recurring presence in our everyday lives – when we fly on a plane, perform a banking transaction, research keywords on Google or even when we drive a car (if we have a Tesla, at least) – this technology is intrinsically tied to life in the modern world.

As the Stanford 100 year study on AI index revealed, each year more and more papers on this topic are produced. Most of the actions we perform and the services we use now rely on some form of AI component. But would we trust this technology in a delicate sector such as Healthcare?

Truth is, the pace of innovation often moves faster than we would expect: in fact, several AI softwares are already being tested in our hospitals and clinics, with some of them providing promising results. While current AI applications in Healthcare are not homogenous, there are some trends that, more than others, are currently under the spotlight. Here I take note of some of the most important ones.

In branches such as radiology, pathology and ophthalmology, AI-powered facial recognition systems have already started to be implemented successfully, often outdoing human performance. Sometimes it can be a matter of months, or weeks, or even less: for example, IBM Watson Health for Imaging is about to release its first multi-modal AI-based application, while Zebra Medical Vision is already using a single modal AI-based analytics system.

Applications of AI in ophthalmology and pathology have also been very promising. IDx, a cutting-edge company founded by an internationally renowned physician scientist and fellowship-trained retina specialist, has developed a fully-automated retinopathy screening system based on algorithms that recently got FDA clearance. In pathology, Israel-based company MobileODT is leveraging the power of mobile phones and selfies to improve cervical cancer screening among women in high-risk, low-income areas.

We can find a similar scenario in biology, where AI is helping scientists in drug discovery and bioinformatics. The massive amounts of data that result from multi-omic analysis have recently lead to the discovery of new biomarkers and pathways — and will ultimately lead to the understanding of System Biology, the computational and mathematical modeling of complex biological systems. Through an approach that is completely different to the one we are used to, Smart Data – where AI is used to semanticize and make Big Data meaningful – will eventually provide us with huge amounts of analyzed information, improving the way we research and discover things in a way that we couldn’t imagine just a few years ago.

There are still some medical sectors where we’ll have to wait a few more years before witnessing a real implementation of AI. In a complex field like surgery, for example, innovation is slowed down by the complexity and the delicacy of the factors and variables on the plate. Nevertheless, we are already becoming used to idea of having doctors replaced by AI and robots, as shown in this interesting survey paper published in 2017 by PWC. Another interesting research paper from Oxford and Yale looked at when AI will exceed Human Performance, and estimates that robots will outperform surgeons by 2053.

Other than the technological improvements and the clear possibility of AI’s implementation in the market, there is also another, fundamental topic: the deep ethical implications that the use of AI carries, which won’t be an easy puzzle to solve. Implementing AI means to completely reinvent the healthcare system as we’ve always known it: forcing us to reimagine the role of doctors. Let’s hope AI will give doctors more time for patients and allow us to redefine the value of human-interaction, compassion and empathy, which makes all the difference in how well a patient recovers from illness, and which is shortcoming today. The future will need a billing code for compassion, as these are things that won’t be easily replaced by machines.

What is General Data Protection Regulation?

GDPR is a direct descendent of the 1995 EU Data Protection Directive and a culmination of four years of efforts to make data protection more relevant to how the world works today.

The importance of data today is almost impossible to exaggerate. Amazon, Google, Twitter and Facebook all offer their services in exchange for your data. In the past weeks, the Cambridge Analytica scandal has proven why this is an extremely important exchange, with its poster boy implication being that 50 million Facebook profiles were harvested to influence the results of the 2016 US election. GDPR then, is a response to this pseudo-abuse of data, and was created in order to tidy up the law and protect users from such shady practices happening again.

GDPR came into force on 24 May 2016 after it was collectively agreed on by all members of the EU. The upcoming deadline is simply when the regulation will come into effect for all businesses and organisations within the EU in its entirety. GDPR will provide organisations with more clarity regarding the legal environment of data usage. The fact that it will be adopted by all member states leads the EU to believe that it will allow companies to collectively save €2.3 billion annually.

There are major changes included in the regulation. The definition of personal data, for example, has been expanded significantly, and now online identifiers such as IP addresses qualify as personal data. Other data, including economic, cultural and health info, is considered as personally identifiable information.

Further to this, controllers (those who state how and why personal data is processed) must ensure that data is processed lawfully, transparently and with clear purpose. Once the purpose is fulfilled, it must now be deleted. The controllers must also keep a record of how and when the individual provided consent, allow withdrawal of said consent at any time, and permit access to the data at “reasonable intervals”. The controllers must also describe what is occurring with regards to data in plain language so that an understanding is accessible to everyone.

Even more importantly, individuals can now request data which is incomplete or incorrect to be rectified. Furthermore, it is now in the rights of individuals to have their data deleted if they believe it is no longer necessary or being used for different purposes for what it was collected. This is what is known as ‘the right to be forgotten’ and is probably one of most tangible changes consumers will be able to explore following the introduction of GDPR.

Businesses which fail to meet these new standards can be fined up to 4% of their global turnover or €20 million. If you’d like to know more about the upcoming regulation, can explore GDPR more here.

So what is GDPR? It is a mitigator or runaway data monopolies which are currently acting unethically and a bridge to a brighter future in data (and consumer) protection.

Remaining disruptive is key

For years, marine biologists were convinced that the great white shark was the apex predator of its food chain. They were wrong, and found themselves stumped when they discovered that this unbeatable predator could be predated too, by killer whales. A deep-rooted conviction is very hard to disprove, let alone eradicate, but nature is teaching us a lesson: hierarchies can be overturned at any time. In the business world this principle is well known, although often forgotten.

The lesson to be learned is quite simple: never rest on your laurels and expect to be challenged, for you most certainly will. Companies that forget this fall victims to “creative destruction”. The term, envisioned by economist Joseph Shumpeter, is the “process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one”. Creativity is what keeps the fire burning, it allows a business to evolve, surf the waves and not to be wiped out by them. But to avoid “creative destruction”, companies have to recur to “creative disruption”. They have to dare to disrupt their own current organizational models, subvert their own sets of rules and redesign themselves – sometimes even abandoning entire business segments in the process.

There are no sanctuaries: being an industry giant in a one era could mean nothing in the next. The American film company, Kodak, founded in 1884, remained the undisputed market leader for a century, and enjoyed large growth for a majority of that time. But even this wealth and market share didn’t save them from their downfall. In 1973, it had a 173,000 unit strong workforce. In 1976, it controlled around 90% of the American film market and 85% of the camera market. Even so, this colossus would eventually see its business come down faster than a sandcastle. As technology evolved, digital cameras made film obsolete. Later, this same technology began to be replaced by cellphones and smartphones: sales shrunk, revenues dropped, the end neared. In 2012, the company filed for bankruptcy protection and began to sell most of its patents – totalling approximately $0.5billion. Amongst the buyers were Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Samsung. The new giants of a new era.

Did Kodak fall victim of an unforeseeable and unstoppable technological revolution? The answer is no. In fact, the digital camera was invented inside Kodak’s own laboratories in 1975. The inventor was Steve Sasson, who 30 years later told the story to the New York Times: “My prototype was as big as a toaster, but the technical people loved it. But it was filmless photography, so management’s reaction was, ‘that’s cute — but don’t tell anyone about it’”. It’s not that Kodak failed to see the coming change: it deliberately chose to ignore it because it had the potential to disrupt its own business.

The company survived bankruptcy, but had to drastically streamline its workforce to less than 20,000 workers; facilities and laboratories had been sold, as too its many patents; the internal organization was turned upside down. Today, Eastman Kodak is a completely different company, operating through seven segments: print systems, micro 3D printing and packaging, software and solutions, consumer and film, enterprise inkjet systems, intellectual property solutions and Eastman Business Park.

How can a company stay creative? How can it enhance creativity by disrupting its inner organization? Critically, leaders must have vision, goals and be aware of their role. Sometimes leaders seem incapable of adjusting their behavior and approach, it has worked until now after all. They fail to understand that: What Got You Here Won’t Got You There. That is the title of a speech given by FCB’s Chief Creative Officer Susan Credle at the last Web Summit. “When you get power, you have to adjust your behavior, because the exact same behavior now is seen in a completely different manner” Credle stated. Being considered feisty, relentless and headstrong is fine when you have to build your career. But once you’ve reached the top, you’d best leave the “scarcity culture” wherein you are at the centre and instead favour a “culture of abundance”.

This cultural shift is also recommended by Phil Gilbert, General Manager of IBM. According to Gilbert, leaders have to rethink the idea of power. Power is not about controlling others; it’s about providing others with access to vital information. This is just one of the three key factors which allows a company to be a continual disruptor. It’s fundamental that ideas are never divorced from operations and, most importantly, that the decision making process is smart and swift. To reach this goal, Gilbert worked hard to reshape IBM’s internal organization – an organization which he believed was hampered by a silo culture. To reverse the damage done by such a culture – wherein different divisions tend to work separately, thus protecting their own knowledge and specialization – Gilbert sped up decision making by imposing mixed tables, with people from different units working on the same project together.

Many companies have been through almost the same processes which led Credle and Gilbert to similar conclusions. A good example is Hitachi’s deep internal revolution, which was brought on by the awareness that, in the words of Hitachi’s Executive Vice President of Human Resources Levent Arabaci: “what got us here the last 100 years will not get us there the next 100 years, so we have to change”. The fact is that the Japanese tech colossus, whilst continuing to deliver high quality products, was still failing to win over the hearts of its younger users. One of the problems was the firm’s cultural model which was working against innovation. “You always had to put in your 40 years in order for you to become a senior manager or manager and so on. That kind of tradition no longer works for Japan” Arabaci noted. Consequently, a new software to improve the promotion system was adopted, a move which bore many fruits: “Since the internal revolution, Hitachi has gained over 190,000 applicants, seen an overseas revenue ratio increase from 47% in 2014 to 50% in 2015 and ranked No. 38 on the Boston Consulting Group’s most innovative companies list”.

In the same way, the silos culture that Gilbert fought in IBM was creating problems for Microsoft too, where the exasperated internal competition was creating a deleterious toxic climate. Microsoft was not keeping up with the pace of its major competitors Apple and Google. And it was searching in vain for a new product to revive the brand’s fortune. When in 2014 Satya Nadella became the new CEO, he already knew what he had to do. Undergoing a major restructuring of the company. A restructuring that culminated in the creation of an AI and Research Group: composed of the former Microsoft Research Group, teams from Bing, Cortana and the Information Platform Group.

Google also shifted its business model: placing an emphasis on simplification. The creation of Alphabet, which encompassed the Google brand and all of its satellites (Android, Calico, Chrome, Gmail, Google Maps, Google X and Youtube) allowed each company to work more independently and efficiently and thus keep its own identity. Until then, Google had been both a company and the owner of other companies, with teams, budgets and funds often overlapping. “This newer Google is a bit slimmed down, with the companies that are pretty far afield of our main internet products contained in Alphabet instead. What do we mean by far afield? Good examples are our health efforts: Life Sciences (that works on the glucose-sensing contact lens), and Calico (focused on longevity). Fundamentally, we believe this allows us more management scale, as we can run things independently that aren’t very related”, Google’s founder Larry Page said.

The iconic brand Lego has grown massively over the past decade. In 2003, after 10 very difficult years, the company found itself on the brink of bankruptcy. Yes, they could blame Chinese competitors offering cheaper construction sets and the booming of gaming industry but, ultimately, they blamed themselves. As Lego designer Mark Stafford said at a fan convention: “The company at that stage had no idea how much it cost to manufacture the majority of their bricks, they had no idea how much certain sets made. The most shocking finding was about sets that included micro-motor and fiber-optic kits — in both cases it cost Lego more to source these parts then [sic] the whole set was being sold for — every one of these sets was a massive loss leader and no one actually knew“.

The company survived by making some crucial adjustments, as prescribed by the management consultant Jorgen Vig Knudstorp, who the Lego CEO, Kjeld Kirk Christensen, the founder’s grandson, stepped down to be replaced by. A 70% stake in the Lego Park was then sold to the mega-fund Blackrock in order to generate cash, the personnel were streamlined and the plastic brick’s production was moved to countries with a cheaper labor force, such as Mexico and Czech Republic.

Of course, this good business sense helped Lego to turn the tide, but something more had to be done in order to make it soar. This is where creativity steps in. As Time reported, “management sought the participation of a number of different constituencies from both inside and outside the firm and hired a diverse and creative staff”. These people brought renewed energy and ideas and helped the brand to think bigger. Knudstorp, in particular, was convinced of the need to divorce financial control and creative control, with the latter being handed to the hardcore fans. Stafford was one of them. In 2006, Lego held the first designer recruitment workshop. The constant injection of creative and enthusiastic people helped the brand to get back on track. Lego embarked upon projects such as the successful Lego Movie series, which brought in a big amount of venue and a new burst of brand advocates. This link between the firm and the fans was then emboldened even more so by ideas such as the First Lego League, a robotic competition which attracted more than 70,000 fans. Social media proved to be an amazing way to stay connected with the firm’s fans, not only to simply advertise new releases but to also retrieve ideas and inputs from the fans themselves, which in turn created a devoted and loyal fan base.

Social media is a perfect example of where to find a disruptive company. A recent research by the TOW Center for Journalism says that “the influence of social media platforms and technology companies is having a greater effect on American journalism than even the shift from print to digital”. As shown by Kodak patents’ sale; Facebook, Snapchat, Google, Amazon are the winners of this particular era but the wind can change any moment. In the past weeks, in many headlines the word “decline” appeared close to the word “Facebook”. In the midst of the data scandal, Mark Zuckerberg and his team know too well that they have to retain users’ loyalty in order to continue their success (as do Larry Page, Sergei Brin, Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy and Jeff Bezos). They may win today but it doesn’t mean they’ll win tomorrow, and even a great white shark must be aware that there might be always be killer whale looming nearby.