Howard Yu

LEGO® Professor of Management and Innovation

Howard Yu is LEGO® Professor of Management and Innovation and heads IMD’s Center for Future Readiness. He specializes in technological innovation, strategic transformation, and change management. Author of the award-winning best-seller LEAP: How to Thrive in a World Where Everything Can Be Copied, he was named by Poets&Quants as one of the world’s leading business school professors under 40 in 2015, and in 2018 he was included on the Thinkers50 Radar list of management thinkers to watch in the year ahead.

His work as Director of the IMD Center for Future Readiness focuses on firms’ capacity to sustain new growth. The Center, which was established in 2020 with the backing of a multi-million-dollar grant from the LEGO Brand Group, aims to help companies spur innovation and thrive amid uncertainty by quantifying which organizations are most ready for a changing future and exploring the lessons that other firms can learn from them. The Center produces Future Readiness Indicators for various sectors to measure how prepared industry incumbents are for coming challenges.

I help executives to filter out the noise. They can then lay bare what impacts their companies. Leaders must take action to make their organizations future-ready.

Yu’s work has been published in journals such as Harvard Business Review, MIT Sloan Management Review, The European Business Review, and Business History Review, and popular media outlets including the New York Times, Financial Times, Fortune, Forbes, Straits Times, South China Morning Post, and Shanghai Daily. He is also regularly interviewed and quoted by news organizations such as the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Reuters, Bloomberg, CNBC, the BBC, and China Daily.

He says businesses are experiencing a series of seismic shifts as a result of global developments such as the encroachment of emerging market firms, the onslaught of digital transformation, growth in the number of affluent consumers across the world, the COVID-19 crisis, and the expansion of e-commerce, and managers must align with the trends affecting their sectors to prosper. For carmakers, for instance, the most significant trend is the leap from the mechanical engineering of the internal combustion engine to electric vehicles that blend connectivity with self-driving capabilities based on software algorithms.

At IMD, he is Director of the Future Readiness Strategy (FRS) open program. He has also delivered customized training programs for major global companies in Asia and Europe including Bosch, OCBC Bank, COFCO, Mars, ASML, Sanofi, ABB, Novartis, Assa Abloy, Maersk, Daimler, Electrolux, Nitto, and LEGO.

Yu’s book LEAP shows how pioneering companies can endure and prosper in a world of constant change and inevitable copycats by harnessing new strategies and advancements in technology and leveraging shifts in markets. The book won widespread praise from top executives as well as several awards, including an Axiom Business Book Awards Gold Medal and a strategy+business Best Business Book award.

He has also written numerous case studies and won several case writing awards from the European Foundation for Management Development and The Case Centre.

He joined IMD in 2011 after completing a doctoral degree in management at Harvard Business School. He is a Hong Kong native and worked in the Hong Kong banking industry at the start of his career.

Selected publications
Article
How future thinking can derail your company’s present
Everyone wants to be future-ready, especially in uncertain times. Inflation has hit its highest level since the early 1980s. Many technology stocks have plunged dramatically from the beginning of t...
Published 13 July 2022
Article
What makes a company “future ready”?
The pandemic put companies under a tremendous amount of stress. It revealed who is ready for the many changes the near future will bring — and who is not. In times of crisis, this type readiness do...
Published 21 March 2022
Article
Why companies must embrace microservices and modular thinking
Companies that embrace remote work — which is here to stay — can also drastically reduce their coordination costs through modular organization. Spotify announced earlier this year that it would com...
Published 1 September 2021
Article
Why some retailers are thriving amid disruption
A crisis reveals as much as it devastates. Retailers that were struggling before the coronavirus outbreak are now crumbling. And yet, a mortal blow to retail has not been felt universally. Some com...
Published 29 June 2020
Article
How autonomy creates resilience in the face of crisis: One Chinese manufacturing giant quickly rebounded from coronavirus. Here’s what you can learn from its org chart.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has exposed the fragility of the global supply chain and, in turn, many companies’ organizational structures. In their pursuit to become ever more efficient, bear fewer cos...
Published 9 June 2020
Book
Leap: How to thrive in a world where everything can be copied
How can companies achieve long-term success? Through learning to leap: building a system of reinvention into their organization that will stave off competition and keep them at the top of their ind...
Published 12 July 2018
Conference Paper
Leopards sometimes change their spots: How firms manage a shift between strategic archetypes
This article describes a comparative field study of Taiwan’s PC industry. Tracing the strategic evolution of six leading firms, I found their transformations followed different paths because of the...
Published 29 December 2010
Academic publications
Article
Taiwan’s PC Industry, 1976–2010: The evolution of organizational capabilities
The stellar growth of Taiwan’s personal-computer (PC) industry over the past three decades represents a paradox. Participating in the global production system, local firms in Taiwan grew in associa...
Published 1 July 2014
Insight for Executives
Article
How the tech giants are innovating to weather the looming downturn
Rising inflation and looming recessions are squeezing household finances, but businesses also worry about an economic downturn. This is not just because of higher bills, but also because consumers ...
Published 5 October 2022
Article
How the tech giants are innovating to weather the looming downturn
Rising inflation and looming recessions are squeezing household finances, but businesses also worry about an economic downturn. This is not just because of higher bills, but also because consumers ...
Published 4 October 2022
Article
Only inclusive companies are future-ready
It is notoriously difficult to measure inclusion quantitatively, and every company makes mistakes. Eliminating a toxic culture does not happen overnight. Negative past events will leave traces behi...
Published 30 September 2022
What AI can teach us about human bias in decision making
Article
What AI can teach us about human bias in decision making
An ensemble of algorithms working together will produce far more accurate predictions than one working alone. In other words, the collective power of the weak is mightier than that of the strongest...
Published 16 September 2022
Framing the future: The importance of managing shareholder expectations
Article
Framing the future: The importance of managing shareholder expectations
As interest rates continue to rise and governments withdraw pandemic-led financial stimulation, share prices are starting to bear the brunt. In these uncertain times, how can CEOs keep investors’ s...
Published 6 September 2022
Marketing in the metaverse: Time to explore, experiment and learn
Article
Marketing in the metaverse: Time to explore, experiment and learn
As the metaverse expands its business reach and gets hold of the public consciousness, how should CMOs position themselves to make the most of its exciting opportunities?
Published 25 August 2022
Article
Why diversity in clinical trials leads to better medicines
No one likes to be called a racist or a misogynist. Even the most hardened extremists would deny it. It is not that they oppose hiring women or minorities, they will say, but policies such as gende...
Published 15 August 2022
Article
Elon Musk’s Twitter bid fell through not from strategic reasons, but hubris
Elon Musk is no stranger to self-inflicted pain. He constantly pushes himself to new limits, having founded groundbreaking companies like Tesla, SpaceX, and Neuralink, then in April, announcing his...
Published 3 August 2022
Article
How companies unknowingly accumulate non-financial debt
Emotionally burdensome – that is how it feels these days to fly. And it is as painful to be a passenger as it is to work as a flight attendant. Once a promise of an adventure in the world, flying i...
Published 28 July 2022
Article
How future thinking can derail your company’s present
Everyone wants to be future-ready, especially in uncertain times. Inflation has hit its highest level since the early 1980s. Many technology stocks have plunged dramatically from the beginning of t...
Published 13 July 2022
Article
Three key opportunities for firms venturing early into the metaverse
When Facebook announced it was going Meta in late 2021, it shifted talk of the emerging “metaverse” from the fringes to the mainstream of business conversation. For some sectors, the metaverse rema...
Published 27 June 2022
Drive hard into the future and don’t look into the rearview mirror
Article
Drive hard into the future and don’t look into the rearview mirror
The urge to return to business-as-usual must be resisted. Commitment to change and innovation is more important than ever, explain Howard Yu and his colleagues at IMD’s Center for Future Readiness
Published 16 June 2022
Article
Why Tesla and BYD are pulling ahead of rest
It’s clear that the market is experiencing a seismic shift and we need to react accordingly,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi wrote. The shift is in the collapse of tech stocks this year. From Netflix a...
Published 4 June 2022
Article
Here’s what Elon Musk buying Twitter tells us about the economy
The world’s richest man is not known for austerity. Companies Elon Musk founded or leads are “moonshots”: SpaceX, The Boring Company, Neuralink, Starlink, OpenAI and, of course, Tesla are all based...
Published 17 May 2022
The metrics that will make your company ‘future-ready’
Article
The metrics that will make your company ‘future-ready’
What is ‘future-readiness’? It makes organizations more operationally resilient in times of crisis and responsive to consumers and new market opportunities 
Published 4 May 2022
Article
How thinking ahead becomes a distraction
Thinking about the obvious is the most difficult aspect of corporate strategy. There is always the next big thing to explore. Thinking big is also pleasantly distracting. And nothing is bigger than...
Published 11 April 2022
Article
The best strategies take years to realise – just look at Disney
There exists a simplistic view of corporate strategy. People think of it in two stages – formulation and execution. But in reality, a strategy is always a work in progress and keeps evolving. A gre...
Published 25 March 2022
Article
What makes a company “future ready”?
The pandemic put companies under a tremendous amount of stress. It revealed who is ready for the many changes the near future will bring — and who is not. In times of crisis, this type readiness do...
Published 21 March 2022
Article
Existential battle to become master of the metaverse
All of the tech giants are searching for the next big thing. Howard Yu sifts the evidence to find the likely winners and losers in the fight for future dominance.
Published 17 March 2022
Article
How to avoid melting down like Facebook
What you learn from one industry can be relevant to a seemingly unrelated one. At US$600 billion, Facebook’s operating company, Meta, found itself single-handedly pushed out by Apple. At the last c...
Published 15 February 2022
Article
Intel can’t even grow profits during a global chip shortage – where did it all go wrong?
American chip-making giant Intel is a shadow of its former self. Despite the global semiconductor shortage, which has boosted rival chipmakers, Intel is making less money than a year ago with net i...
Published 28 January 2022
Article
Future of the metaverse matters to everyone
Tech giants have been preaching the coming of the next internet. Tomorrow's cyberspace is said to be immersive, 3D and all folded together. Disparate websites and online services will come under on...
Published 11 January 2022
Article
Some firms died, others thrived - COVID-19 forced radical changes on businesses
COVID-19 is forcing corporations into radical transformation. Throughout the pandemic, it felt impossible to make predictions. Travel plans were roiled because of rising infection rates and new var...
Published 17 December 2021
Article
US needs to rethink strategy to achieve chip self-sufficiency
Instead of pushing Intel to build more plants, Washington should focus on getting TSMC or Samsung to build factories on American soil. The semiconductor shortage has triggered the desire for govern...
Published 17 December 2021
Article
Take a tip from Tesla and drive fast into the future
COVID-19 is forcing corporations into radical transformation. The Future Readiness Indicator shows who is winning, and how to prepare and respond to tomorrow’s disruptions.
Published 16 December 2021
Article
Many big companies are splitting, but conglomerates are here to stay
Size is an asset until it’s not. Within one week, J&J, GE, and Toshiba were all disassembling themselves. Companies over a hundred years old suddenly found their current form unfashionable. General...
Published 15 November 2021
Article
Nio and BYD build for the future with different strategies
People spend peacetime studying how to fight the last war. In the global vehicle industry, executives continue to scramble to obtain enough semiconductors. It's the biggest bottleneck in production...
Published 15 November 2021
Article
Two charts that explain how Apple loses to Spotify in podcasts
How does a company, having invented a whole category of product, lose it to a competitor? I am not speaking of a slow-reacting organization. I am speaking of Apple and its podcasts. Spotify is laun...
Published 30 September 2021
Article
Three charts that show how negative sentiment doesn’t impact the bottom line
No industry understands the importance of the public narrative better than consumer brands. Luxury fashion and athletic apparel sell as much imagination as they do fabric and cloth. These brands li...
Published 22 September 2021
Article
Why it pays to keep two future scenarios in your head
The trick is to make predictions with maximum conviction but, paradoxically, you must be ready to change your mind fast. At the risk of making myself obsolete, in this column I am going to teach y...
Published 16 September 2021
Article
Why companies must embrace microservices and modular thinking
Companies that embrace remote work — which is here to stay — can also drastically reduce their coordination costs through modular organization. Spotify announced earlier this year that it would com...
Published 1 September 2021
Article
From audio apps to food delivery, picking winners in era of change
Super forecasters see things more accurately than their peers. Keeping a fluid mindset is vital as we steer a course towards a post-pandemic business landscape.
Published 17 June 2021
Explore or exploit? How your organization can strike a balance between new opportunities post-COVID-19
Video
Explore or exploit? How your organization can strike a balance between new opportunities post-COVID-19
LEAP: thriving in a post-crisis world with Howard Yu.
Published 26 March 2021
Article
Adapt to survive: Here’s what you need to know
The latest 2021 ranking of selected players is instructive. Only hard market data were used to calculate the overall composite score. The data, which are publicly available, have objective rules. A...
Published 17 March 2021
Article
Where does resilience come from? : It's your progress in digital transformation, especially in times of crisis
The coronavirus crisis has shown us that ‘future-ready’ companies bounce back first.
Published 10 November 2020
Article
Why some retailers are thriving amid disruption
A crisis reveals as much as it devastates. Retailers that were struggling before the coronavirus outbreak are now crumbling. And yet, a mortal blow to retail has not been felt universally. Some com...
Published 29 June 2020
Article
How autonomy creates resilience in the face of crisis: One Chinese manufacturing giant quickly rebounded from coronavirus. Here’s what you can learn from its org chart.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has exposed the fragility of the global supply chain and, in turn, many companies’ organizational structures. In their pursuit to become ever more efficient, bear fewer cos...
Published 9 June 2020
Article
In a crisis, ecosystem businesses have a competitive advantage
Companies like Alibaba Group or Recruit Holdings create advantages by leveraging partnerships, investments, and alliances to continuously adapt their offering to a changing customer base. We call t...
Published 23 April 2020
Article
How some companies beat the competition…for decades and even centuries
The average lifespan of companies is becoming shorter. For them to survive the competition it is important to learn to jump across knowledge disciplines and create new knowledge about how a product...
Published 15 July 2019
Report
How to make AI transformation more likely to succeed
To get the most out of artificial intelligence (AI), companies need more than just data, infrastructure, and off the-shelf analytics; they need to redesign their investment processes. In this chapt...
Published 31 January 2019
Article
From intuition to algorithm: Leveraging machine intelligence
Managers often express a grave concern about how fast artificial intelligence is unfolding — so fast that they become afraid of committing to any one supplier or standard. But precisely because we ...
Published 1 January 2019
Article
What big consumer brands can do to compete in a digital economy
No industry is failing faster than retail. A recent report by the consultancy BCG documented a general decline in sales among consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies in the United States during 201...
Published 4 December 2018
Article
Human creativity in the age of smart machines
Many companies building AI systems have also found that humans must play an active role in both developing and running these systems.
Published 8 November 2018
Article
For some platforms, network effects are no match for local know-how
This article considers Uber's failures in Southeast Asia.
Published 26 July 2018
Article
What a CEO cannot delegate
Famed University of Chicago economist Richard Thaler ran a thought experiment with a large company, asking executives to evaluate an investment scenario: Suppose there existed an investment opportu...
Published 8 June 2018
Article
Machine intelligence will shake up banking, but the disruptors won’t be fintech startups
Artificial intelligence and machine learning are being woven into the fabric of every aspect of our lives. The financial sector, historically faced with inefficiencies, is already undergoing transf...
Published 10 February 2018
Article
When machine intelligence meets main street
AlphaGo may have been about games. But the broader implications are clear: We can expect imminent advances in commercial applications of many kinds. Demis Hassabis, who heads Google’s machine-learn...
Published 7 September 2016
Article
The best companies aren't afraid to replace their most profitable products
The fundamental advantage of large companies is in their ability to integrate and reconfigure offerings and services based on their prior capabilities. Startups may move fast, but they lack experie...
Published 14 July 2016
Article
AlphaGo and the declining advantage of big companies
It is easy to imagine a world where self-taught algorithms will play a much bigger role in coordinating economic transactions; AlphaGo simply shows us what is possible in the near future. With inst...
Published 24 March 2016