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Leadership and Digital Transformation

News Flash: The #1 thing leaders need to understand is that the Digital Transformation train left the station a few years ago. If you weren’t onboard back then, you need to stop looking for the next train and rapidly go in search of building a rocket ship. Businesses simply have run out of time to embark on multi-year transformation projects – that window has closed. In the text that follows, I’ll provide you with 4 constructs to help you evolve your thinking around digital transformation.

Your business now operates as part of a global digital eco-system where leveling the playing field has become a digital impossibility. Playing for parity by traveling the traditional path of best practices just ensures one thing; you will spend great amounts of time and money failing slowly, publicly, and painfully. The only chance businesses have at longevity, much less sustainability, is to stop trying to play catch-up and get out in front – fast.

The Holy Grail of enterprise sustainability is business model reimagination and reinvention – not digital transformation – at least how many businesses are attempting it. Even the swiftest of fast followers will struggle to not choke on the dust of first movers in today’s world. If you’re stuck in the purgatory of a legacy based business model, don’t transform – reinvent. Put another way, don’t copy – create. The business you’re in today will not be the business your in even a few years from now. If you don’t begin to reinvent and reimagine your business today, your future will be a bleak one.

Don’t chase category leaders – outsmart them and unlock hidden value they’ve yet to recognize. Don’t attempt to compete with those who are more evolved, piggy-back off of them, partner with them, engineer around them, on move out in front of them. The magic happens when you compete on your terms and not simply cede opportunity to bigger competitors by playing according to their rules on their home court. Remember, bigger isn’t better – better is better. Following are four focus points that smart companies use to reframe their thinking around digital.

Focus Point #1: Rethink how you approach digital. Yes, all businesses need to be modernized to remain competitive, but launching a digital chat-bot, while not a bad thing, also won’t solve your problem. Stop thinking about managing the risk of technology, tools, and process improvement. Start thinking about opportunities based on insights, customers, markets, and business models. Beating your competition to the future will be accomplished by those companies with vision, talent, grit, purpose, agility, creativity, commitment and determination – not just those organizations with bigger budgets.

Focus Point #2: Redefine your future and get there first – resist the temptation to chase others in pursuit of their future as already defined by them. This race you should be running is not so much against others as it is against yourself. Your organization must immediately stop processing with dominant logic and an institutionalized approach. It’s not enough to digitally iterate, you must digitally reinvent. Stop thinking about a strategy refresh and start thinking about new business models, wire-frames, jump-starts. The first rule to surviving in a digital world is that action will consistently win against reaction. Smart companies are already cannibalizing aspects of their own business not only as a springboard to the future, but to keep their more evolved competitors from doing the cannibalizing.

Focus Point #3: Reevaluate your talent. Smart companies are already doing two things that legacy based companies are not. They are already retraining large portions of their workforce in next generation competencies, and they are also making big talent upgrades by hiring an entirely different kind leader. They are not filling current openings to maintain the business they’re in, but hiring executives to reimagine the business and lead them into their redefined future. New thinking will not likely come from those who want to protect their creation, but from those who want to engineer a new creation. Think next chapter vs last book.

Focus Point #4Reset the activity. Now that the thinking and planning has been done, it’s time to start doing. It’s the operationalizing of new behaviors by resetting and reshaping of day-to-day activities that will cement change as the new norm. Again, innovation requires deviation from the norm in all areas, but mostly in what you do and how you do it.

The best companies don’t play catch-up – they leap-frog. This is the question every organization must answer… Are you going to act or react?

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