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Words from Charlie - Foreword to the Roundtable on Institutional Innovation 2014 Report

The Aspen Institute Roundtable on Institutional Innovation is a series of annual roundtables that address how organizations can strategize for success in the constantly changing digital environment. Each year, 20 to 25 diverse business and academic leaders bring their vast knowledge and experience to arrive at new insights on the particular focus of that year’s session.

For the 2014 Roundtable, the group sought to assess ways to manage organizations in the face of continual disruption—the almost constant onslaught of new offerings or business models that can challenge the dominance of core businesses. No industry seems immune and it applies as well to nonprofits and governments.

With the group’s focus on information and communications technologies, the disruptions they saw most are those that create new types of networks, new pricing models or new relationships between producers and consumers. Furthermore, as the author observes, the acceleration of the rate of learning required to remain viable in a market is also a source of disruption. The most successful firms—and leaders—figure out how to enable its workers to get better faster.

Often, the following report details, this comes through new platforms that create new ecosystems which challenge the older order of things. They can also create novel forms of collaboration between large firms that provide scale and resources, and small entities that provide individualized customization and local expertise. The most successful businesses in the future will understand how to shape these platforms and ecosystems to their advantage.


I would like to thank the Deloitte Center for the Edge for being our senior sponsor for the Roundtable and in particular, John Hagel and John Seely Brown for their leadership, suggestions and assistance. In addition, we thank Richard Adler for weaving the Roundtable’s dialogue, background readings and his own independent research into a concise and coherent report.

Finally, I thank Kiahna Cassell, Senior Project Manager, who managed the Roundtable throughout, and Tricia Kelly, Assistant Director of the Communications and Society Program, for her review and help in producing this report.

Charles M. Firestone
Executive Director
Communications and Society Program
The Aspen Institute
Washington, D.C.
March 2015

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