Prognosticators continue to point to massive shifts in the aftermath of COVID-19. In this recent Article, author Bhaskar Majumdar explores an aggressive convergence of the physical and digital worlds. Pointing to the domains that have already converged – education and entertainment – Mr. Majumdar sees this phenomenon overwhelming all aspects of our lives. In the near future, he sees it impacting banking, medicine, trade, shopping, dining and sports. As we come to terms with social distancing in a post-COVID world, some level of change is inevitable.
The final polls from our virtual roundtable hosted by C-Level are included below. You can view a video of the virtual roundtable Here. I posted the results of polls One, Two, Three, and Four earlier. You can participate in those polls by visiting the posts. The fifth and sixth polls launched during the session probed the questions of digital learning and the resilience of supply chains.
It’s easy to view the current crisis as a catalyst for change. Lying beneath the surface are signals that major change is required, and when crisis emerges, hope for that change emerges with it. In most cases however, that change never materializes. The last two months have brought countless predictions of what is to come. While we need to consider the low percentage of successful post-crisis predictions in the past, two trends look likely to materialize: accelerated digital transformation, and a rapid path to automation.
COVID-19 continues to expose pre-existing issues. While our human development has undeniably advanced through each phase of the industrial revolution, more work remains to be done. The first industrial revolution delivered mechanization – and yet 600 million people still do not benefit from it. The second revolution brought us sanitation, clean water, and electricity, and yet 3.6 billion people still lack one or more of those innovations. The third revolution brought us the internet and all things digital – and yet 3.7 billion people do not have access to the Internet. This Article by Douglas Broom states that the majority live in poorer countries, where the need to spread information about how to combat COVID-19 is most urgent. The issue was there, now it is likely to get more attention.
This recent Article describes those things that will change forever according to 30 top experts. Before I dive into that, a significant word of caution. In an Article authored by Rob Walker, he states that most post-pandemic predictions will be totally wrong. While he stresses that thoughtful speculation about the future helps us cope with the present and identify potential challenges and opportunities, history tells us that most predictions will be wrong. In looking back at predictions post 9/11 and the great recession, Mr. Walker provides supporting evidence for this statement.
A changing of the guard has been in motion for some time. In 2020, Millennials will be the dominant workforce on the planet. The five generations in our workforce introduce a leadership challenge, alongside disruptive forces swirling around society. The truth is that millennials are likely the generation tasked with solving this broad set of societal challenges. This recent Forbes Article says it well. The challenges likely facing this generation include: technologies like AI, shifting business models, the implications of near zero marginal cost, the resources of the planet, the nature of house ownership, transportation, healthcare, work, education and families.
Fundamental questions about Why and how we Educate will have to be addressed for the first time since the introduction of high school. Additionally, this generation will have to deal with an Aging Society. As Michael Gale – the author of the above article – describes, one in four millennials are already directly managing a parents’ ill health on a daily basis. The added burden of college debt could create additional obstacles to success.
There has been a negative stigma associated with this generation. However, they are not the problem but part of the solution. As 72% of the Global 2000 continue their digital transformation journey, millennials offer a perspective that helps realize intended outcomes. The Forbes Article describes five things that you can do to enable this – take a look.
Dr. Micah Altman – Director of Research, Center for Research in Equitable and Open Scholarship (CREOS) at MIT – recently made me aware of a Survey that probed several questions about the future of our Digital world. The survey was conducted by Elon University and the Pew Research Internet and Technology Project to imagine social and technological evolution over the next 50 years. The respondents were technologists, scholars, practitioners, strategic thinkers and others.
A recent Article describes how Target transformed from a Retailer with stores in disrepair and leaders that struggled to adapt to changing consumer behavior, to a company that is thriving. Their first quarter results for 2019 beat analysts’ expectations, the store’s private-label lines are exploding, and the stock price is trading at an all-time high.
Target CEO Brian Cornel made a huge announcement in March of 2017 that it planned to invest over $7 billion in a turnaround strategy – Wall Street was not impressed, as Target suffered its largest stock plunge in almost a decade on the day of the announcement. But Mr. Cornel took a page out of Jeff Bezos book and pushed forward on a plan that included:
I recently authored an article on ecosystems and digital transformation along with leading platform strategist Simon Torrance. Here is a brief abstract of the article. You can read it Here on the TCS website – along with other perspectives on digital transformation.
As Frank Diana and Simon Torrance explain in “Defining Your Digital Ecosystem: The First Step in a Machine First™ Transformation,” many leaders are no longer looking at strategy and industry structure in the ways of a non-digital world. Instead, they’re analyzing how emerging ecosystems—networks of stakeholders, including business partners, suppliers, customers, and competitors that interact digitally to create value are supplanting traditional industries as the organizing construct. For example, in a mobility ecosystem, automakers no longer just make cars; they must redefine the very notion of automobile ownership and how people get around.
On June 19th, I participated in a VoiceAmerica Talk Radio program focused on digital ethics. VoiceAmerica is the leading producer, distributor, and online broadcaster of original live and on demand talk radio programming worldwide. Joining me on the program were Gray Scott, Jack Shannon, and Dan Wellers. The show was hosted by Bonnie D. Graham.
Issues like digital ethics must come to the forefront – and awareness is key to achieving that. Shows like this are a great vehicle for driving awareness. You can listen to the rebroadcast Here. A description of the episode follows.
In my last post, I explored the evolution of business in the industrial age. This Fourth Iteration of Business establishes resilience on a foundation of automation and intelligence. Resilience may be more important than the productivity gains that are sure to be realized as we progress towards Business 4.0, providing the capacity to recover quickly as the pace of shifts accelerates. This visual represents a strategic foundation for Business 4.0.
To transform is to change in form, appearance, structure, condition, nature, or character. It is an overly used word that can be made to fit several narratives. Yet, given its definition, the dynamics of what is sure to be a volatile and complex future should compel us all to transform. I believe however, that the narrative must change. This is not a technology discussion, and it is not a digital discussion (although digital is the reason we are here). Rather, it is discussion of likely structural shifts that alter our beliefs and intuitions. These shifts will fundamentally change the way we think about organizations.
I had the pleasure of doing a video interview with Kevin Benedict today, where we discussed a number of topics, including the recent book Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future. Kevin is from the The Center of Digital Intelligence. Our wide ranging discussion can be viewed here.
Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson – Authors of The Second Machine Age – wrote a new book which they launched in the middle of this year. Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future builds upon their first book, exploring three big trends that are reshaping the business world:
- The rapidly increasing and expanding capabilities of machines
- The large and influential young companies (Platforms) that bear little resemblance to the established incumbents in their industries, yet are deeply disrupting them
- The emergence of the crowd: the large amount of human knowledge, expertise, and enthusiasm distributed all over the world and now available
Digital transformation means different things to different people. As I strive to change mindsets, I am sensitive to these distinct perspectives and the individual filters applied to terms like digital and transformation. In my view, Digital has been more narrow than holistic, while in some organizations ERP implementations are considered transformation. So, does digital transformation represent the narrow use of digital technology to improve some aspect of our organization? Or, is it the wholesale change of a set of structures, institutions and paradigms built for a different era? Although I have mostly abandoned the phrase, when I do use it, I mean the latter.
Let’s call it what it is, starting with the term transformation. To truly transform means to change from one nature, substance, form, or condition into another. I’d maintain that the pace of change has made the archaic nature of our industrial era structures, institutions, and management paradigms very apparent. Therefore, to transform in this sense means to change from the nature, form and substance of our industrial past, to a state that is viable for our digital future. Digital is foundational: the building block for which this future state is built upon. Therefore, for clarity sake, a better way to describe digital transformation is:
TRANSFORMATION FOR THE DIGITAL AGE: a change in the nature, substance, and form of our industrial past, to a future state that allows us to thrive in our emerging digital future.
I joined another episode of Coffee Break with Game Changers on Wednesday of this week. A very good discussion on privacy and data. Here is a brief abstract.
The buzz: “You already have zero privacy – get over it” (Scott McNealy). We as individuals have welcomed Internet-connected, mobile devices to help us make daily decisions. But when we share data with companies, and they share it with their business partners, are their built-in and bolted-on data security capabilities enough to protect our personal information?
“Digitization has barely started, and so has the accompanying upheaval”
– Jacques Bughin, Mckinsey
That’s a scary thought – but accurate. That thought comes from a recent Mckinsey Insights post titled: Think digital is a big deal? You ain’t seen nothing yet. Thanks to Heidi Schwende for sharing this article.
Their research finds that digital technologies and processes have penetrated only about 35% of an average industry, which says that a third of the products and operations that could be digitized have been. Yet this is more than thinking about digitizing the other 65% – it’s a moving target. The phrase “You ain’t seen nothing yet” captures that well. As the innovation accelerators that I describe in my Anchor Visual accelerate, digital is merely the foundation. A reimagined world is built on that foundation – and without it, organizations cannot participate in Reimagination. Here are other key insights from the Mckinsey post:
In my last post, I described a Sense and Respond model that sits at the heart of several activities, including scenario, opportunity, and risk analysis. As complexity and pace continue to intensify, uncertainty increases. To survive in this Emerging Future, we must embrace a framework for future thinking, and an organization that can adapt as it shifts. In essence, we must see the future, rehearse it, continuously monitor for shifts, and adapt as the shifts occur. A sense and respond model sits at the core of the framework – but represents the biggest cultural challenge.
“The rhythm of technology is changing the rhythm of business, and we’re all going to need to adapt” – Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden, Authors of Sense and Respond
Back in 2013, in a post on sense and respond systems, I talked about the drivers that would push organizations towards a sense and respond paradigm. There are no bigger drivers than volatility and uncertainty, and nearly four years since that post, that fact is becoming clearer. In a recent book by Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden, they elevate sense and respond to a position that is core to achieving an adaptive enterprise. They see feedback loops and a movement away from command and control as the enabling mechanisms that allow us to thrive in the digital age.
Management expert Gary Hamel summarizes the challenges we face as the structures of the industrial age collide with the digital age:
“Modern management is one of humanity’s most important inventions. But it was developed more than a century ago to maximize standardization, specialization, hierarchy, control, and shareholder interests. While that model delivered an immense contribution to global prosperity, the values driving our most powerful institutions are fundamentally at odds with those of this age – zero-sum thinking, profit-obsession, power, conformance, control, hierarchy, and obedience don’t stand a chance against community, interdependence, freedom, flexibility, transparency, meritocracy, and self-determination. It’s time to radically rethink how we mobilize people and organize resources to productive ends”.
The unabated exponential progression of science and technology has driven a staggering pace of innovation. The building blocks are mostly there, allowing creative minds to combine them in ways that attack the world’s most difficult challenges.