the ceo magazine, innovation,
Chuck Saia, CEO, Deloitte Risk and Financial Advisory

Disruption isn't just a buzzword. It's a legitimate concern on the minds of the executives I meet with.

There are a lot of reasons organizations can be disrupted—innovation, technological advances, policy changes, to name just a few. But if executives can foster a culture of courage and alter their strategy, there’s an opportunity to change the business model and the path forward. Organizations can take proactive steps and not only avoid being disrupted, but also become the disruptor in their industries.

That’s exciting.

To answer the “disrupted or disruptor” question, business leaders are trying to find ways to disrupt through innovation as a way to not only protect their current business model, but to also find new revenue sources.

In Deloitte’s “Future of Risk” report1, an organization’s core business assumptions and structural limitations are listed as threats to being disrupted. Why? Because assumptions and limitations stifle innovation. It’s important for leaders to recognize these roadblocks and to plow through them. When I assumed the role of Deloitte Advisory CEO last fall, I made disruption a key part of our vision. We encourage our professionals to be the disruptors by looking at things differently, asking lots of questions, and taking an issue-centric approach to client problems.

The key is to look for innovation everywhere and to embed an innovative mindset throughout an organization. Employees know their organizations like few others because they’re embedded and live it on a daily basis. Creating a culture that empowers professionals to be creative, come up with ideas for products or services, and take ownership of something new can incubate disruption through innovation.

At Deloitte, we often take an internal solution that we’ve incubated and applied within our four walls and deliver it into the marketplace, knowing that the challenges we face are often similar to the challenges our clients face. And we don’t just focus on internal challenges when innovating. We have a culture of innovation and funds that are devoted to creating new products and services with the intention of taking them to market.

Innovation from unexpected places

Regardless of industry, I believe this mindset is necessary for long-term success. Organizations that disrupt through innovation will be better positioned to identify and capitalize on risks. Here are some of my favorite examples of new thinking in action in the marketplace:

  • Organizations that were typically content distributors are now content creators
  • Universities are using advanced technologies and data analytics to determine an applicant’s potential to become a leader during and after their college years
  • Automakers are embracing electric bikes and car-sharing programs
  • Video games, traditionally played indoors on a couch, are compelling people of all ages to get outside and exercise
  • Baseball teams are using advanced cyber metrics to position players in the field, resulting in odd defensive “shifts” rarely seen five years ago

For a baseball purist like me, that last one stings a bit. But I get it. It’s an attempt to move beyond conventional thinking and continuously improve. These are just a few examples of innovation coming from unexpected places. Innovation can come in all shapes and sizes. It’s what they’re doing that’s unexpected. 

The flip side of disruption

And it’s not just organizations that benefit.

An internal focus on innovation allows employees to tap into their creative side. They’re often more engaged and stay longer at an organization given the sense of ownership that develops from their creation.

And it can accelerate careers. Professionals who are allowed to drive ideas to completion get rare and career-changing exposure to enterprise leaders.

Creating a culture to challenge the status quo can do wonders for an organization. When professionals are empowered to disrupt through innovation, the results can extend beyond the organizations’ four walls and have a major impact on society.

Disruption doesn’t have to be something to dread. With the right approach, it can be something to get ahead.

About the Author

Chuck Saia is Managing Partner of Deloitte & Touche LLP and CEO of Deloitte Risk and Financial Advisory. As CEO, Chuck leads a risk consulting and financial advisory business comprised of 12,500+ professionals. He serves on Deloitte’s Executive Committee and reports directly to Deloitte’s CEO. Previously, Chuck served as the chief risk, reputation and regulatory affairs officer for Deloitte. In his 25-year career, Chuck has driven relationship development at the C-suite level for Deloitte’s key clients, advising them on strategic risk, corporate governance, internal controls, reputation, and regulatory issues. Chuck is a CPA and has an MBA from Quinnipiac University.

The future of risk; new game, new rules. Deloitte Development LLC, 2016

This publication contains general information only and Deloitte is not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified professional advisor. Deloitte shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person who relies on this publication.

As used in this document, “Deloitte” means Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Please see for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting.

Copyright © 2017 Deloitte Development LLC. All rights reserved.


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