CBS professor will lead us safely through disruption


The Danish government's newly appointed Disruption Council will ensure that Denmark is at the leading edge of technological development. Jan Damsgaard, Professor at CBS, has been appointed member of the council. But what is the newly appointed member going to bring to the council table?


Photo: Bjarke MacCarthy

"Not afraid of asking the tough questions" is one of the sentences Jan Damsgaard uses to describe his role in the new Disruption Council, recently established by Prime Minister of Denmark Lars Løkke Rasmussen (Danish Liberal-Democratic Party).

According to the Prime Minister, the council will provide suggestions as to how the Danes can face the future with confidence and create a cutting-edge corporate sector, making the most of technological development and digital solutions.

Read more about Jan Damsgaard's concerns over old, Danish heavy-weight industrial companies, about digital health and the danger of Denmark becoming a nation of digital users.  

How do you define disruption?
It means disturbance or something that interrupts something else. In terms of digitalisation, we are not talking about a technological interruption, but an interruption of a business model, which forms the basis of your business. For example, the hotel industry depends on a fixed number of rooms, which they prefer to be booked all the time. Suddenly Airbnb enters the scene. They facilitate short-term rentals for people who have a spare room or want to let out their entire home. They become a powerful competitor to the hotel industry. The hotel industry is now disrupted. This is going to happen within many industries.

What is Denmark's greatest challenge?
Making money on digitalisation will become harder. The consequences are near-monopoly conditions as we know them from Google, Facebook, Apple, etc. If Denmark fails to get ahead in designing and developing information technology, we become a nation of digital users; a nation that only learns to use, but fails to develop. And then we will be sidelined. That is not profitable, and it will be difficult for us to maintain our position as one of the richest countries in the world.

What will be your most important contribution to the Disruption Council?
Insight into how digitalisation will change the economy and the corporate sector, and the labour market to a certain extent. I am happy to see that representatives of the labour market also have been invited. There are not many academics in the council. As an MSc in Computer Science working at a research institution, I am going to play a special role. I am not afraid of asking the tough questions or pointing out what research says instead of protecting special interests.

What is the most striking example of a company that has been subjected to disruption?
Blockbuster and Kodak, which where challenged by streaming services and smart phone cameras, respectively. As far as Denmark is concerned, I am worried about some of the old, Danish heavy-weight industrial companies, who dream of gradually improving their technologies instead of considering how to offer their products as services. For instance, there are pharmaceutical companies who want to sell insulin, but what the customers actually want is a good life. There are digital ways that can help you live a better life, e.g. the use of apps can help you stick to your diet, exercise regularly and take your medicine on time. Newly developed medicine will only slightly improve the lives of customers, but the use of digital services can help them improve their lives significantly.

What is the most striking example of someone who has survived disruption?
It is quite hard to find one. The inventor of the concept disruption, Harvard Professor Clayton Christensen, says that if you have been successful during one technology wave, you are not capable of transforming what drove you to success and become successful under new circumstances. A lot of companies are going to succumb to digital transformation. The Danish Financial Services Union, however, could be a good example. They have realised that there are going to be fewer employees within conventional banking. They have reserved two storeys in their headquarters for FinTech (financial technology) start-up companies, who will help create the companies of the future and workplaces for their members. Unions can learn from this example. This development does not necessarily have to be a threat. We have to look at it in a constructive and creative way.  

Which role will future graduates from CBS play?
Our students must be in charge of development. They will play a massive role. They must transform companies. They have the skills and the insight. The Disruption Council is now paving the way for making a transformation that is as smooth as possible for lawmakers, c-suite and labour market.
The Disruption Council will start off on 15 May and continue till the end of 2018.

Please contact Professor and Head of the Department of Digitalization Jan Damsgaard.

The page was last edited by: Communications // 05/08/2017