Howard Yu

LEGO® Professor of Management and Innovation

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Howard Yu is LEGO® Professor of Management and Innovation at IMD 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
Insight for Executives
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
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 25 March 2021
Surviving a crisis – Why preparation is key to resilience
Article
Surviving a crisis – Why preparation is key to resilience
Chance favors the prepared, and this is especially true in times of crisis. One way to understand the pandemic’s impact is seeing how it speeds up business trends. These trends are neither seasonal...
Published 16 February 2021
How can China tech giants survive regulators? Cash - From abroad
Article
How can China tech giants survive regulators? Cash - From abroad
Chinese big tech is in trouble these days. And it’s not because of the escalation of tech rivalries between US and China.
Published 11 February 2021
Electrolux: Subscribing to growth
Case Study
Electrolux: Subscribing to growth
Electrolux AB is the world’s fifth-largest maker of consumer appliances. In November 2018, Electrolux launched the trial of a subscription-based business model in Sweden for the Pure i9 – a high-en...
Published 15 November 2020
Ping An: How a Chinese insurance firm became a tech giant (C)
Case Study
Ping An: How a Chinese insurance firm became a tech giant (C)
Case (C) is about Autohome, which is the only unicorn Ping An acquired, rather than built from the ground up. After acquisition by Ping An, Autohome was transformed form a pure automobile website t...
Published 11 November 2020
Ping An: How a Chinese insurance firm became a tech giant (B)
Case Study
Ping An: How a Chinese insurance firm became a tech giant (B)
While Ping An is so successful to transform and reinvent itself to a tech giant, it discovered the demand of small and medium sized financial institutions to deploy technology. In December 2015, Pi...
Published 11 November 2020
Ping An: How a Chinese insurance firm became a tech giant (A)
Case Study
Ping An: How a Chinese insurance firm became a tech giant (A)
The case illustrates how Ping An can anticipate digital trends such as cloud computing and evolve from its core business to expand to new areas. Ping An began by selling property and casualty insur...
Published 11 November 2020
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
Matternet-Swiss Post: Drone-based healthcare and delivery (A)
Case Study
Matternet-Swiss Post: Drone-based healthcare and delivery (A)
Matternet-Swiss Post: Drone-based healthcare and delivery (A)
Published 9 September 2020
Matternet–Swiss Post: Drone-based healthcare delivery (C)
Case Study
Matternet–Swiss Post: Drone-based healthcare delivery (C)
Startup Matternet entered in 2017 the market of drone-based delivery of medical samples in Switzerland, via an investment from Swiss Post. Following two consecutive incidents in 2019 during which t...
Published 8 September 2020
Matternet–Swiss Post: Drone-based healthcare delivery (B)
Case Study
Matternet–Swiss Post: Drone-based healthcare delivery (B)
Startup Matternet entered in 2017 the market of drone-based delivery of medical samples in Switzerland, via an investment from Swiss Post. Following two consecutive incidents in 2019 during which t...
Published 8 September 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
Leading in turbulent times webinar series: Rapid resilience
Video
Leading in turbulent times webinar series: Rapid resilience
Leading in turbulent times webinar series - Rapid resilience: What strategies lead to success?
Published 23 April 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
Leading in turbulent times webinar series: Rethinking corporate bureaucracy
Video
Leading in turbulent times webinar series: Rethinking corporate bureaucracy
We don’t know what scenario is currently playing out, but firms need to be agile, discovery-driven and adopt a problem-solving mentality.
Published 5 April 2020
Humans on demand: Coople’s staffing platform at a crossroads
Case Study
Humans on demand: Coople’s staffing platform at a crossroads
Founded in 2011 by the Swiss entrepreneur Viktor Calabrò, Coople operates the largest on-demand staffing platform in Europe. It has enjoyed rapid growth and is considered one of the most successful...
Published 25 February 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
Huawei: fears in the West are misplaced and could backfire in the long run
Article
Huawei: fears in the West are misplaced and could backfire in the long run
Western fears of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei infiltrating their technological infrastructure are rooted in fears of China’s rise. But a lot of these fears are misplaced and cutting Huawei out of ...
Published 6 May 2019
Beyond copying Apple, here’s how WeChat is unseating the first app store in China
Article
Beyond copying Apple, here’s how WeChat is unseating the first app store in China
There is little doubt that, WeChat is, in effect, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Zynga, Instagram, and Apple Pay all wrapped up in one. People can debate whether the rest of the world will embrace We...
Published 4 February 2019
除了模仿苹果,微信是如何在中国推出第一家应用程序商店的
Article
除了模仿苹果,微信是如何在中国推出第一家应用程序商店的
市场回升的时候,每个人都是天才。“只有当潮水退去,”沃伦·巴菲特警告他的投资伙伴,“你才知道谁在裸泳。”过去三十年来,中国的市场持续升温,中国企业似乎不受中国境外发生的全球动荡的影响。这种情况一直如此,直到最近“苹果热”逐渐退潮。苹果公司17年来首次下调销售额预测,理由是中国经济衰退的“幅度”出乎意料。
Published 3 February 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
Google and Facebook: the real reason they should be broken up is China
Article
Google and Facebook: the real reason they should be broken up is China
In the race of artificial intelligence and Internet of Things smart devices, where China is becoming a formidable rival, the US needs a more powerful shot in the arm to revive its innovation prowes...
Published 23 January 2019
What big consumer brands can do to compete in a digital economy
Article
What big consumer brands can do to compete in a digital economy
Big consumer brands are losing market share to smaller brands, as a result of their inability to create direct relationships with consumers at a time when e-commerce is exploding. Howard Yu shares...
Published 17 January 2019
谷歌和脸书:他们应该被拆分的真正原因是中国
Article
谷歌和脸书:他们应该被拆分的真正原因是中国
垄断不利于创新,打破垄断将助力提升美国经济竞争力
Published 9 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
How WeChat's unorthodox user data policy exploded creativity and made it the app for everything
Article
How WeChat's unorthodox user data policy exploded creativity and made it the app for everything
WeChat’s major breakthrough is the realization that a product’s best feature will never be invented in-house. Killer apps must be invented by users instead. IMD Professor Howard Yu explains how W...
Published 12 December 2018
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
Programs
Online
Business Growth Strategies

Create long-term growth by reinventing your business

Adopt a new and more radical strategic approach so your products or services don’t become obsolete, or you get blindsided by new competition.

Location: Online Length: 5 weeks Fee: CHF 1,950 Next start: 29 May 2023
liVe virtual
Future Readiness Strategy

Adapt, innovate and disrupt to build your organization’s future readiness

A research-based strategy program that gives business leaders, experienced managers and high-potential talents actionable insights into leading change and driving their organizations to become future-ready.

Location: liVe virtual Length: 5 liVe virtual sessions (spread over 2 weeks) Fee: CHF 3,950 Next start: 31 October 2022