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One of the smartest people I worked with during my time on the board of New Zealand Telecom – now Spark – was Rod Snodgrass. Now CEO of Spark Ventures, Rod recently wrote a think piece for Accenture about the three D’s – digital, disruption and design – in relation to telecommunications. I’ve covered it in a condensed format here.

By way of background, Spark Ventures is an internal incubator and accelerator for Spark. Rod is mandated to deliver ‘long term health’ for Spark – creating new businesses and revenues through being bold, agile and different. This tenacity in approach is reflected in Rod’s comments below.

On how digital comes into play: “In order to make magic happen, we will charter a new way of doing things for the Spark group, build deeper partnerships, and grow future talent… We are increasingly design-driven and have a very strong digital focus.”

On whether digital is helping telcos stay relevant: “If you want to survive in this world you must remain relevant to consumers… Unless you remain relevant, are mobile-centered, are using cloud and apps, digital and design, you’re going to be irrelevant and one step removed from the end-user where the value is moving away from. Being removed from the end consumer is not a good place to be.”

On his advice for leaders who are trying to drive change: “If you want to change, you have to be willing to embrace disruption and rethink your mental and business models. I see disruption as a positive word if you apply it in the right ways in the right places… I also think failure is part of the learning process, so fail fast and fail cheap and learn from it… Ultimately, you need to have a vision for driving an outcome for the consumer and a recognition of what you are good at versus the rest of the pack. What’s your competitive advantage or right to play?”

On what makes Spark’s digital initiatives different from those at other telcos: “We’re able to move a lot faster to embrace digital, disruption and design – the three D’s. We are open to partnering and have invested in third party companies to support our strategies and ventures… I think where we’re also different is that we’re very open and embracing of change with a culture of curiosity and trying things. If they work we adopt them, if they don’t we simply move on.”

On his vision for the unit: “Ultimately I would like Spark to be seen as the most innovative corporation in New Zealand and as the most innovative communications company in the world. To do this we have to deliver our mission and create awesome connected digital experiences for consumers. And to do that we must develop the new ways of working, build partnerships and foster and grow talent.”

On what’s driving his passion for the role: I love change and this role allows me to pursue that in a business context. It’s incredibly important for the company to do this… to change and to move to digital and become more customer-centric and indeed relevant… It’s also important to have some fun. You spend a huge chunk of your life at work so you better enjoy it. Have some fun and celebrate your successes.

On what inspired him to work in this area: “I’m a huge believer in the internet, as I saw it as a thing that was going to change the world. A lot of people think that what can be done with the internet and technology has already been done, but I think it’s only really just starting… I’m a very curious person and I think things can always be better. So why not have a go at making it so?”

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Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts is founder of Red Rose Consulting; business leader and educator; author and speaker; adviser on marketing, creative thinking and leadership.


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