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How a New Generation Can Be an Agent of Change For the Family Business

If you are a member of the second or third generation of a family business in Asia, you know that technology and innovation can be used to develop new solutions to old problems and make positive changes. However, you also know that one of the biggest challenges you face in doing this is the older generation. If you are finding yourself being met with the response, "this is the way we have always done it," read on for more information about how you can be an agent of change for your family's business.

Design Thinking

Family businesses tend to have a complicated leadership that includes not only multiple generations, but also in-laws and non-family professionals. This often creates friction between those involved in the managerial aspects of the business and those who are involved in the long-term vision, community engagement, and legacy of the business.

The two sides of the business each have to understand the viewpoints of the other in order for innovation to take place. Design thinking is the process of finding the right problem to solve. Here is a look at each of the steps of design thinking:

  1. Empathize: Once you and your family members are able to see each other's viewpoints and discuss the importance of a cohesive approach to change, you will find that you are better able to sense the needs of your customers, as well. You can define the part that legacy and tradition play in your customers' loyalty for you and how a positive change will not only allow that loyalty to continue but will provide you with an opportunity to better serve them.
  2. Define: Remember that design thinking is a matter of discovering which problem to solve. There may be several issues that need to be addressed. Which problem should take priority?
  3. Ideate: At this point, the stakeholders in your family business are likely beginning to formulate ideas designed around meeting the customers' defined needs. You can study alternative solutions and even challenge the assumptions that you have made in terms of need. 
  4. Prototype: This is the point in the process when you have done enough talking and now it is time to start converting your ideas to actions. Remember, it is fine to implement changes slowly and a little bit at a time. What is important though is that the family is able to move together in a unified way to determine what works and what doesn't.
  5. Test: Are your solutions going to work? The only way you will know is if you try them. Although this marks the last step of the design thinking method, it is important to remember that this is a process. You will often find other areas of need to address during the test phase and you may even find that your solution isn't the right one for the problem you're addressing. This will require you to go back through the phases and make some iterations so transformation can happen.

Success Factors in Digital Transformation

Digital transformation in the family business is one of the most challenging aspects of change. If done successfully, your company's transformation will provide the following:

Case Studies

Generally, family businesses that exist for generations have the common features of an innovative spirit that helps them to embrace new opportunities. Here is a look at two family businesses that have thrived in situations that would have seen other companies fold.

Learn More

Change is inevitable, even for the family business. By embracing innovation and using it as your guide, you can prepare your business to last for many generations to come. Learn how you can be the innovative change agent for your family business at Asia's largest experiential conference, Corporate Innovation Summit 2020