Inside UBC Sauder Executive Education: Professor Raj Raina says stop fearing disruption, embrace it

A global academic and strategy consultant, Adjunct Professor Raj Raina helps start-ups and corporations scale up, make strategic change and enter emerging markets. An award winning faculty member at the renowned Gordon Institute of Business Science in Johannesburg, South Africa, he brings his hands-on experience managing major change into the classroom.


In his course Leveraging Disruption for Competitive Advantage, Raina teaches managers how they can lead organizations that embrace game changing new ideas and innovations with the potential to give their companies the upper hand.

Describe your approach to teaching in Executive Education?

In Executive Education, participants bring significant experience and insights into the room. The aim is to draw on what they bring into the class and create a safe environment where they can discuss it and experiment with it using new concepts and strategies. In the end, we want them to be able to mould these strategies to best suit their business environment.

What is business disruption and why can it be a good thing?

Business disruption can be caused by technology, globalisation and more importantly by a competitor. Usually a company comes up with a solution that is multiple times better than existing solutions and often at lower prices. Most businesses’ view it as something they need to contend with, but a business can turn this on its head by embracing disruption as a central goal. It’s about embracing big ideas early and running with them – channeling them in a way that best suits the organization.

How is the tech sector using disruption to leap frog their competitors?

In the tech sector it is about generating ideas, then going out and experimenting. Throwing a lot at the wall leads to more potential innovations, and many that work.

For example, tech-giant Apple’s key contribution was in conceptualizing the next generation of mobile devices. They then used the resources they already had at their disposal – manufacturers etc. – to co-develop products. Others are catching-up, but now Apple has the brand, the ecosystem and size.

Apple’s story and other cases studies offer learning experience for businesses that transcend sectors and that can be leveraged and capitalized on.

What are your top three tips for leaders trying to navigate and manage rapid change?

First, remember that you can be the driver of disruption instead of having to cope with it. Second, surround yourself with a team that is on-board with change and has the flexibility to let go of approaches that were used in the past. Third, find ways to experiment with your ideas. Invest in low-budget pilots to test out theories because experimentation is crucial. 

What is the key takeaway you want participants to gain from the class that will allow them to transform their abilities?

I want participants to come out of this class with a clear and comprehensive idea of disruption, so that they can go back to their organizations and become the catalyst for this kind of change.

Describe how managers who take your class will have an immediate impact in their organizations?

They will be given the tools to develop innovative low budget approaches to validate their big ideas. I also show them how to build a team of influential people to push forward new ideas and gain organizational consensus. With these structures in place they will have the power to transform their companies into those positioned to make disruptive change. Of course, this process takes time, but all big changes start with an idea shared by a few people.

Executive Education at the Sauder School of Business

Our professional development programs aim to transform your career and accelerate your organization’s business objectives. With more than one hundred open enrolment programs taught by top Sauder faculty and leading industry experts, we zero in on your goals and ensure you get results.

We have a broad range of programs, from short skill-building courses for managers who want to make their mark to intensive week-long programs in residence for senior leaders. Each is comprehensive and convenient, minimizing your time away from the office and family. All our programs can be customized to meet your organization’s business objectives and professional development needs.