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Digital business requires rethinking an industry, not just your business

    “If you can dream it, you can do it.”  – Walt Disney

    Digital Business is here

    Digital business is here and it is already clear what an epic shift it is – in how we live and how we work. What is it? It is potential changes in the way consumers and businesses operate in a world in which all things are connected, those things produce data, and that data is available to be analyzed. Though still early days in this digital era, we can already sense a seismic change in our daily life, akin to the one experienced in the 1920’s when electrification, telephony, radio and automobiles hit all at once.

    • Watches that monitor our vital signs, communicating with our doctors
    • Agents that surf the net for us, pointing out things we need to know
    • Cars that drive themselves, available when and where we need them

    This inflection point is a forcing function, raising the bar and the stakes for industry leaders who must innovate or be overtaken by the innovators. Riffing on the quote from Disney – if you can dream it, you better do it.

    Strategy and Transformation in the Age of Digital Business

    Digital business opens the door to the creation of new industries and new business models, leaving little room at the top for players whose innovation efforts focus on only on making what they already do better. Disruptors like Amazon rethink how we shop or Uber how we catch a ride – and in so doing outflank and overtake retailers transforming in-store inventory processes or taxi companies upgrading their dispatch systems. Disruptors take advantage of strategic openings they perceive, openings created by the digital ecosystems in which we now operate – and in so doing transform an industry.

    Can organizations benefit applying the power of digital transformation to existing core processes, those that touch customers and most impact their bottom lines? Of course and in so doing will, as financial institutions who revolutionized their cash collection and payments processes have found – dramatically improve bottom lines and enhance customer experiences. They will, however, run the risk of being sideswiped by companies who drive their digital race cars onto roads not yet taken, as those same financial institutions have found when companies like Apple got into payments.

    Competitive strategy is about being different. It means deliberately choosing a different set of activities to deliver a unique mix of value – Michael Porter

    Further, in a time when consumers can click on an app and see the ratings for your firm versus those of all others in the area that provide the service you do the challenge is to do more than just stand out, but to stand above the competition, offering unique value. Transformation in the digital age is about creating differentiating value for your business – or even creating a different business,one that has never existed – offering a service consumers do not yet know that they need.

    So when you dream, dream big.

    Leadership in Digital Age

    The disruptive power of the combined force of AI, the internet of things, smartphones, big data and predictive analytics represent a forcing function requiring leaders to up their innovation game. leading their organizations through a process of re-imagining, not just re-tooling. Successful leaders in this environment will manifest attributes that have characterized great innovators in every age:

    • Passionate about new possibilities
    • Open to where they come from
    • Collaborative in creating them
    • Relentless in pursuing them
    • Resilient in handling setbacks

    Design Thinking – A way to get started

    To help you get started with dreaming about your business, consider Design Thinking. Often referred to as a creative problem-solving process, it is also a creative opportunity generator, opening a space to play, to imagine different ways of doing things. In design thinking many solutions are considered, allowing the freedom to fully explore the new play space of digital business. Ideas are processed through a series of steps to express and test them for sufficiency in addressing the opportunity.

    Though approaches to design thinking methods vary, a common set of steps would be:

    1. Define
    2. Research
    3. Ideate
    4. Prototype
    5. Choose
    6. Implement
    7. Learn

    Cycling through this process innovators can test many solutions for best fit versus requirements settling on a winner – one that, for example, seizes on the potential of new technologies to transform an aspect of our lives at home or at work. Key to successful use of design thinking methods is letting go of the way things are and imagining, unconstrained by the current state, what a wholly new future could be. Truly transformative ideation requires opening the aperture to let in ideas that may seem crazy at first but which, like having anyone with a car and smartphone operate their own taxi service, may be the next big thing. Strategic plays which flow from that type of thinking will more often than not be the winning plays in the age of digital business.