How now-oriented companies survive digital Darwinism

Innovation, Technology

The rapid digital transformation currently unfolding is rendering the world increasingly complex, low-cost and fast moving. Driven by disruptive technologies, it is continuously giving rise to new customer behaviours and revolutionising established ways of doing things. The opportunities for innovation and creating customer value in novel ways are greater than ever, but so are the challenges. Technology and society are evolving faster than most organisations can adapt – causing digitally immature organisations with institutionalised systems who can’t change quickly enough to be replaced by more agile companies that have adapted to the new ways of doing business. In this era of digital Darwinism, which is taking place at an increasingly faster rate, key to remain competitive is having the ability to continuously drive innovation and growth, adapt to the ever-changing conditions of the digital age and make digital transformation a top business priority.

Organisations must look beyond what they know and understand how disruptive technologies shape the customer experience

In our volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world, businesses are forced to look beyond what they know. Those who succeed work in new ways according to a different set of principles. Companies that understand how to navigate the fast moving digital landscape and how disruptive technology affects the customer experience will gain a considerable competitive edge. These digital innovators invest in learning about their customers’ unresolved painpoints and the jobs they want done to create superior, seamless experiences through solutions that address customer needs in radically improved ways.

Moving from a business-driven innovation model to a designer-engineer-driven innovation model

Digitalisation is causing innovation to go from a business-driven innovation model to a designer-engineer-driven innovation model. This is a novel way of seeing innovation which is democratic, bottom-up, chaotic and hard to control. The lower cost of collaboration, distribution and communication, in combination with Moore’s Law is reducing the cost of experimentation and development – giving companies the ability to deploy things into the real world at low cost.

An abundance of innovation is happening in bold and agile companies who, enabled by the possibilities of the new digital world, can do what slow-moving organisations can’t. These forward thinking companies develop disruptive products and services by rapidly bringing minimum viable products to market, gathering feedback and launching improved versions without delay.

A strong compass trumps detailed plans

In order to win in the digital age and successfully shape their future, organisations must update their thinking, models and systems to become more nimble. They need to end the belief that they have to make detailed plans for every initiative and be perfectly prepared. Meticulous planning is resource demanding, imprecise and counterproductive. It’s neither possible nor feasible to plan everything because we can’t control everything and we can’t know what the circumstances and conditions will be when the plan is “complete”.

“It’s neither possible nor feasible to plan everything because we can’t control everything and we can’t know what the circumstances and conditions will be when the plan is ‘complete’.”

Rather than an exact map, winning companies have a strong compass – they know in what direction they need to go to reach their destination. They also accept the fact that they can’t predict every single turn on the way. Instead of trying to come up with a precise plan, they develop and iterate, solving problems as they appear. They focus on continuously learning by being connected, studying how things are changing in the surrounding world and being “now-oriented”.

Now-oriented digital innovators push things forward towards action

These now-oriented digital innovators and their teams focus on keeping things moving in the right direction, not on every individual choice they will make. They execute, remove obstacles and achieve results. Rather than getting paralysed by major decisions, they break these down into smaller ones that will move the organisation towards understanding. They know that every successful organisation must evolve to become successful and that the key to future success lies in the ability to iterate, try new alternatives and figure things out as they proceed. They eliminate delays and push things forward towards action with a trial-and-error mindset where any decision is better than no decision – and if it’s not the right one, they know they’ll find out. To make forward progress, they keep momentum and things moving at all times.

Combining agility with a bold vision of the future

While it’s possible to identify macro trends, when these will in fact happen has much to do with chance and the best way to foresee the future is to create it yourself. Rather than trying to predict everything, now-oriented digital innovators focus on the process that will move their concepts forward – continuously learning as they progress and willing to change course if necessary. They observe how circumstances change, evaluate whether they have made the right decision and adapt accordingly.

“The digital age is full of opportunities with many possible future scenarios. Organisations need to set a direction by choosing one of these scenarios and envisage a desired position in this future.”

Nevertheless, an agile approach to innovation must be combined with an eye towards what lies ahead. The digital age is full of opportunities with many possible future scenarios. Organisations need to set a direction by choosing one of these scenarios and envisage a desired position in this future. Then they must craft a narrative for how to get there by identifying what major obstacles the organisation must overcome and creating the necessary steps to make it happen – moving the organisation closer to the vision. However, as the external environment evolves and the present unfolds, companies must ceaselessly reflect on and revise their view of the future.

About the author

Jesper Nordström is a digital strategist, emerging technology analyst and head of group marketing at 3gamma. With a cross-disciplinary background, he has extensive experience working at the intersection between business, IT and design – helping companies gain competitive edge by leveraging digital technologies. Areas of expertise include digital transformation, innovation strategy and emerging technologies. Jesper holds dual degrees in engineering and business management.

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