As a zoology student at the Victoria University of Wellington, Geraldine McBride focused her research on the native frog Leiopelma Archeyi, an endangered species in the Coromandel Peninsula.
She says Archey's Frog, as the species is more commonly known, is "literally on life support" as it has not adapted to changes in the environment.
It is an analogy McBride uses to describe the fate of organisations that fail to adapt to similar shifts around them — the rise of disruptive technologies such as the cloud and digital platforms, and evolving customer expectations.
McBride is founder and CEO of MyWave, described as the "next generation CRM". According to its website, the software company puts the customer in charge of their data and the experience.
Founding a start-up is the latest career progression for McBride, who finished her zoology degree, but worked instead in information technology. After joining the graduate programme of IBM, she progressed to a series of high profile roles in ICT companies.
From IBM, she moved to SAP, holding a series of executive roles including president and CEO of the Asia Pacific Region and senior vice president and general manager in North America. She moved to Dell as vice president and global head for the Applications and BPO Services business and rejoined SAP as president of its North America region, which delivers a third of SAP's global revenues.
Last year, McBride returned to New Zealand to form MyWave.
Speaking at the recent Gen-i FWD_LIVE in Auckland, her message was: "Adapt or die, evolve or be left behind".
She says from her experiences working in businesses in the United States and the Asia Pacific, "regardless of industry, all companies are in a chasm".
"Your customers know what they want, when they want it, than anytime in the history of the planet," she says. But businesses "still deal with them in the old way".
She asks: "How do we relate to our end users who no longer visit our static website, who make 60 per cent of their decisions not on website information but on social media?"
Get in touch with your customers
"Look at the world through your customers' eyes,' she says. "Build communication and trust, and use different types of technology that enable you to do that."
Think about next generation products and services, she says. "Don't design them from your point of view."
"Customers are co-creating the next generation of products" she says, and they become the best sales force.
Companies are trying to guess what you want by analysing big data, she says. People do not like to be treated as hunted animals. Treat them as individuals, she says, "rather than being spied upon".
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