Investment banking group United Capital Plc is one of the fastest-growing companies on the Nigerian Stock Exchange. But Toyin Sanni, the firm’s Group CEO, isn’t satisfied. She wants to understand the factors behind this success and how to maintain it. That’s why she enrolled in Building and Sustaining a Successful Enterprise (now titled Disruptive Innovation: Strategies for a Successful Enterprise) at Harvard Business School, a program that explores the connection between innovation and sustained success. She shares some highlights from her experience.

Why did you choose to apply to this program?
When I chose to apply, my organization’s profits had been growing significantly over several months, and it was imperative that we addressed the question of sustainability, especially given the current economic challenges in the Nigerian market. It was important that we made sure we were on the right track and learned how to further improve our position in the market. While we have done very well this year, as in previous years, I refused to be complacent. I was still interested in more growth, but I was also very interested in sustainability. This program was, therefore, very relevant to my current situation.

Q. What aspect of the program surprised you the most?
The most surprising part of the program was learning the distinction between sustaining innovations and disruptive innovations—that is, examining the strategies that are required to achieve success. It was eye-opening to discover that strategy is not static, and that the best strategy for me at one stage of my business is not necessarily the best strategy for another stage of the business.

Q. What was the most valuable takeaway from the program?
One key takeaway from this program is the realization that there is no position that’s sustainable indefinitely. It’s important to recognize that as a business leader I am most vulnerable when I’m at the top of the hill—that a company is less able to handle disruption when it’s sitting pretty in a comfortable position. Sometimes it’s easier for an incumbent to handle disruption when it’s already dealing with a burning platform.

Q. Do you now have specific insights or strategies to apply to your current work?
Absolutely. One of the key lessons I learned is that capabilities can very easily become disabilities. So an inherent part of success is identifying weaknesses that can make a company susceptible to disruption.

Q. Can you describe your experience in the living group?
The living group was valuable because it gave me an opportunity to think through issues and share ideas. At this program, participants learn not just from the faculty, but also from other participants. The level of participation was very high, with senior executives from across the world sharing different perspectives based on their unique experiences.

Q. Has this program validated some of your approaches or inspired you to make changes?
A bit of both. One of the things I realized is that we don’t often think about strategy when dealing with issues. Usually, when I’m making decisions, I’m applying some of these theories without actually thinking about them. In other words, I have been implementing some of the theories that I have picked up over time. What I learned in the program validated a lot of the things that have helped us to achieve our success at United Capital. At the same time, the program showed me important things that I hadn’t thought of or thought through. The entire experience was positive.

Q. How would you describe the program’s value to someone who’s considering it?
If your organization is an incumbent, do not get complacent with your success. I highly recommend you attend this program and learn ways to ensure that your business is sustainable in the long run. This program will also help you plan for this effectively. However, if you are a new entrant looking to disrupt an industry, then you should enroll to learn what you should or should not be doing in order to achieve your goals. Regardless of the organization’s position or objectives, I definitely recommend this program.