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Digital and Innovation, not 'or'

New digital initiatives often leave innovation on the shelf

12Jun

“The world has changed more in recent years than it has in the last hundred, possibly ten thousand years before it. Industries that didn’t exist just five years ago are dominating the daily headlines and 21st Century Entrepreneurs are building new multi-billion dollar Empires faster than their older, more established competitors can Pivot. In this article I lay out some basic Digital Transformation techniques that organisations can use to regain their competitive advantage.”

The Digital Revolution has arrived and it’s disrupted the rules of business, not only has it increased the speed of business but it’s facilitated the growth of the Sharing Economy and enabled a new style of business - one that Entrepreneurs and new market entrants are using to disintermediate the established order at a frightening rate. In the last decade 174 start ups have used Digital as their weapon of choice to create new industries worth over $1 Trillion and in doing so they’ve sent shock waves reverberating around the world, from Beijing to London to New York no continent has been left untouched.

To many silent observers today’s new industry leaders must appear like nothing more than shell companies but this simply goes to show the power of the Digital Age’s new Sharing Economy, the B2C business model that digital perfectly enables, and the threat it poses to asset heavy incumbents whose existing business models and processes make it harder for them to react to new market conditions and opportunities. Uber, the world’s largest Taxi company doesn’t own any vehicles, Facebook and Twitter two of the world’s most popular media owners don’t create any content, Alibaba the world’s most valuable retailer has no inventory and Airbnb the world’s largest accommodation provider doesn’t own any real estate.

Digital is the single greatest disruptive force that organisations face today but replacing your organisations existing systems and services with Digital DNA isn’t enough, you need to foster a culture of continuous innovation and remain vigilant to ensure you stay at the forefront of new trends and market opportunities.

Restoring your organisations zeal and competitive advantage though is well within the realms of possibility so pack your bags and DevOps tools and get ready for the journey.

1.Get the Board onside

Very little is going to happen within a business without the right sponsorship, motivation or resources. Changing the DNA of an organisation, including its culture is no mean feat, you’ll need help. It is vital that you secure your Board's sponsorship and that everyone’s agendas, including compensation plans, are aligned.

2.Disrupt yourself

Organisations are always understandably nervous about disrupting themselves because they know it’s akin to letting the Genie out of the bottle and that it can be a fast track to cannibalising their existing business. Today though there are plenty of potential disruptors waiting in the wings to upset your next earnings report and it’s better to be the Genie’s Master than its puppet.

3.Go all in

Todays’ new digital world is built for speed and anything, whether it’s your processes, your assets or your organisational culture that slows you down, is going to impede your ability to adapt and pivot when you need to.

4.Explore the Alternative Universe

Today it’s more likely that your business is going to be disrupted by people and companies from alternative industries who were previously off your radar. Despite this, many organisations still innovate along industry lines, locked into a game of cat and mouse with their existing competitors. Spread your net far and wide and leave no stone unturned when you’re looking for the next great idea or the next great competitor. Your Kingdom is already under siege and you’ll be surprised at just how many people are starting to plant flags on your territory.

5.Design, Design, Design

Today’s customers expect the transition between services and devices to be simple and seamless and the relationship you have with them is the most crucial one you have. Consequently how you treat and service them, particularly in a world where switching is getting easier and easier will often determine how prosperous your company is in the future. Leaving someone hanging on the phone or scratching their head for half an hour is just so… Eighties.

6.Be Brave

Using the word Brave is itself brave because many Boards equate Brave with Risky. Risky makes shareholders nervous, which in turn make the Board nervous. Despite this though you are not going to expose the inadequacies of your organisation or change your company’s long term prospects by always playing it safe. After all if everyone played it safe there would be no need for the word entrepreneur.

7.Foster an Innovation Culture

Innovation is an overused word and if today’s annual reports don’t mention it at least fifty times or so, then share prices fall. Innovation is becoming ubiquitous, but I would argue that the majority of it is often lazy, incremental and blinkered. Digital is providing businesses with a new found sense of competitive advantage but todays ‘Digital by Default’ businesses will only have the advantage for another five years or so. because not only are their Born in the 20th Century competitors catching up and digitising their businesses faster than ever, but the tools used to create new apps and programs are getting easier to use. When the man on the street can create a complex app or program with ease, you’ll find yourself at the trough of another Disruptive Wave. Digital compliments, not replaces innovation.

8.Design for IWWIWWIWI

Today’s consumers are already beginning to get used to the concept of IWWIWWIWI or “I Want What I Want When I Want It” and it’s your company’s role to try to understand your customers behaviours and design your products and services accordingly.

9.Run Hackathons

Hackathons, led by people who are trying to mess up and break the rules of convention to create something new have been responsible for disrupting more industries than I’d care to mention.

Conclusion

Digital has disrupted and changed the rules of business forever and there is no going back. In a world where a competitor can launch a full frontal assault on your core markets by simply adding a new feature into an app, it’s not just enough to be prepared, you need be constantly vigilant, innovative and fast.

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About the Author: Recognized in 2013 and 2014 by the public as one of Europe’s leading Emerging Technology and Disruption Strategy advisers Matthew Griffin is an international speaker and author who works with global Accelerators, Analysts, Entrepreneurs, Investors, Governments and multi national organizations to help them see, lead and adapt to new business, cultural and societal trends.

Click, Connect and Share: LinkedIn . @mgriffin_uk

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