Where Disruption Meets Opportunity
July 11, 2019
By Axel Brown
Former Navy SEAL Mike Zapata, founder and chief investment officer (CIO) of activist hedge fund Sententia Capital, says disruption occurs constantly and is unavoidable. At EisnerAmper’s recent Process Risk and Technology Solutions (PRTS) Summit Adapting to Change in a World of Evolving Technology he shared his perspective on harnessing the power of disruption while delivering the keynote address.
While disruption connotes a sense of chaos, uncertainty and change, Zapata said the right mindset can leverage these very same attributes. The challenge he posed to PRTS Summit attendees was to study, analyze, implement and achieve when faced with imminent shifts in the industry. He also highlighted characteristics of Sententia that allow the firm to operate effectively in a disruptive environment. Further, he stressed the importance of collaboration over conflict, however, when the fund is met with resistance, the goal could not be more clear-cut: Win at all costs.
Zapata heavily drew upon his experience of serving in the Navy. War, he says, is one of the ultimate forms of disruption. On September 11, 2001, he was already partway through the grueling 24-week training program known as BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/Seal). As the prospective SEALs watched the towers fall, they knew that they would be the tip of the spear for the impending American response. He relished this opportunity; he looked forward to combat and the chance to hold those responsible for the attacks accountable. The 9/11 attacks resulted in a dramatic paradigm shift with obvious global ramifications. No longer was the U.S. shrouded in invulnerability and war was inevitable. However, as with any instance of disruption, the ensuing war on terror, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, were catalysts for advancements in military technology, medicine and tactics.
“If war is the dark side of humanity, military medicine is the light,” he said, using this quote to highlight how disruption spurs innovation. In order to better protect, save, heal and rehab members of the armed forces, a tremendous amount of research and development (R&D) is constantly conducted, resulting in vast improvements to battlefield medicine. For example, improved battlefield dressing has led to a drastic reduction in deaths attributed to blood loss, which accounted for nearly half of U.S. combat deaths post World War 2. When veterans returned stateside, innovations in neurological science led to the diagnoses, study and rehab of previously undiagnosed traumatic brain injuries. This medical breakthrough has since been adopted by the general population in order better understand and treat concussions. He further discussed how battlefield tactics and technology had to be adapted for a new type of war, noting that the SEALs were often on the front line and thus were their own best advocates when adapting to a disruptive environment.
Zapata concluded his remarks with principles that allowed him to find success in controlled chaos, which can be applied to all industries, not only PRTS.
- The goal is to win, not to be right.
- Act decisively and adjust as needed.
- Do not act blindly. Just because other people are doing it doesn’t mean it’s right.
- Be comfortable with discomfort.
- Surround yourself with the best.
- Seek advice from others and embrace diversity.
Process Risk and Technology Solutions Summit Blog Series