Paradigm Shifts

A presentation: Reimagining the Future

What was the most transformative period in all of history? The folks at MIT set out to answer that question. Through their research and analysis, they determined that the invention of the steam engine ushered in what is commonly viewed as the most transformative period in history. Over two centuries later, we are likely on the verge of supplanting that transformative period. Unlike the industrial revolutions, when a period of stabilization allowed companies to retrench and exploit the disruptors of the day, this coming period promises no such period. Several key drivers have positioned the next several decades to deliver a staggering – perhaps unprecedented – amount of change. The exponential progression of science, technology and innovation, the accelerating pace of business, the growing impact of digital, combinatorial innovation, and several other major indicators suggest that a next generation enterprise is on the horizon. Perhaps the biggest driver of the coming transformative period is the maturation and convergence of Social, Mobile, Analytics, Big Data, and Cloud technologies. This third IT platform is massively disruptive, but when combined with innovation accelerators like Renewable Energy, Robotics, Cognitive Computing and the Internet of things, it takes on a different dimension. The result is likely a general purpose technology platform that transforms the world. Multiple disruptive scenarios are emerging, and leaders will be hard pressed to understand their implications, and generate potential responses.

Other indicators suggest a highly disruptive period is upon us. The level of societal change is impacting everything from governments, to business, to war. In the business world, the implications can be seen in our employees, where for the first time in history, four generations of workers are in our work force. The associated challenges are coming into focus, as some of these workers are digital natives, but the vast majorities are digital immigrants. We are living and working longer, and the sciences are focused on healthy life extension and reversing the aging process. Urbanization is driving more people to cities, and three billion more consumers are expected by 2025. With customers, the shift of power to the individual has changed their role forever and placed them at the center of the company ecosystem. Other indicators include an intense focus on growth, which increasingly requires collaboration within and outside the four walls of the Enterprise. This growth agenda drives a new type of value ecosystem, enabling growth that in many cases is outside a company’s traditional business.

With this as a backdrop, the evolution of business is not just likely, but critical. Our businesses were structured for a different time – a time dominated by linear thinking. As the world shifts to exponential thinking, imagination and creativity come front and center. Leaders will search for effectiveness. Whereas the goal of efficiency is doing things right, effectiveness will focus on doing the right things. In parallel, and after hitting an efficiency wall, companies will focus on creating next generation efficiencies. As commoditization across industries accelerates, companies will differentiate by creating consumer-like experiences, specializing, and effectively using insight and foresight. Perhaps the biggest indicator is the realization that future success is tied to Digital DNA – or those characteristics that enable companies to operate in a rapidly changing business environment. Internet Companies and start-ups have the DNA advantage and the barriers for new market entrants continue to collapse. But most companies are traditional companies and have a considerable gap to close. To do this, enshrined organizational policies, practices, processes and structures that inhibit Digital DNA will change. When we look back, this structural change will be viewed as the catalyst that enabled the future of business.

The underlying driver of all of these indicators is Digital, and it has massive implications for the Enterprise of 2020 and beyond. Companies must focus on the Digital DNA required for the Enterprise to succeed in 2020. The key premise that supports this focus is the one certainty that likely drives future executive agendas: that is, in 2020, companies of all sizes must exhibit these key characteristics:

  • Purpose-driven
  • Relationship-based
  • Autonomous, lean, simple, asset-light
  • Emergent, adaptable and resilient
  • Effective and efficient
  • Insight and foresight-driven
  • Entrepreneurial and innovative
  • Open, agile and collaborative
  • Experiential and engagement driven
  • Responsive and adaptive
  • Fast, iterative and experimental
  • Powered by knowledge and Ideas
  • Powered by creativity and design

No other bet has this degree of certainty, and making that next big bet is difficult for Executives today. Compressed technology cycles make it difficult to keep pace with innovation, and obsolescence is generally just around the corner. Planning cycles are struggling to keep up, and imagination and experimentation increasingly replaces planning for many visionary leaders. As a result, traditional businesses are beginning to understand that viability in the next decade drives the need to evolve. As companies transform over the next several years, enabling these characteristics should be at the top of the transformation agenda. The disparate initiatives pervasive in most enterprises must come together holistically if these characteristics are to be realized.

6 thoughts on “Paradigm Shifts

  1. Frank, great work, particularly when seen in context of the following posts.

    Have you developed a capability maturity framework to use to benchmark an enterprise’s level of Digital performance?


    • Dear Frank,
      this is really great work and fantastic food for thought. Ist the digital maturity framework publicly available?


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