Digital Transformation and Innovation: Is It Working?

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When I was at Gartner my colleagues and I advised many companies to focus on innovation and digital transformation as a core mechanism for achieving growth. It is fantastic to see so many companies in so many industry sectors seizing on this.

So why are business leaders still up at night?

What is your number one fear?

“Will it work?”

How do you know that all this change, this innovation and digital transformation activity, will deliver on your greatest business need  – growth. Without this change and growth, you fear your company will be in grave jeopardy.

Overcoming the Fear Panoply by Crossing the Threshold

This overarching fear keeping you up at night is an existential one, the fear of becoming obsolete.

One moment you are.

The next you are gone.

Perhaps remembered for doing some great things, but more likely forgotten as quickly as a shoreline sandcastle washed away on a relentless tide.

Perhaps an even worse fate awaits, that of being remembered for not having reacted to an obvious, changing situation. Forever known as the company that got blindsided before it could change.

This is the fear that is being exploited to drive you to take up the change mantle.

“Innovate or die”

Given that your company does not operate in isolation your fear of becoming obsolete is exacerbated by two competitively-driven, change-related fears. The overarching one is the fear of not growing. This is a foundational fear. Growth is seen as the marker for continued relevance, for being able to stave off obsolescence.

This logic drives the second of these fears, that of missing out. This fear is predicated upon the thinking that if your company continuously misses out on opportunities for growth it will accelerate the early onset of obsolescence.

The fear of not growing and of missing out have become key drivers for companies initiating digital transformation and innovation programs. But to do so they require sufficient change impetus in order to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

No company wants to waste its valuable resources or suffer the loss of face that results from failure. Failure, particularly continued or massive failure, can also lead to obsolescence.

The tension between tackling change and the fear of making mistakes has been reduced somewhat by the startup-inspired hypothesis that failure is not in and of itself so bad as it provides fuel for learning.

Be that as it may, in order for your company to successfully undertake digital transformation and innovation it must sufficiently cross the obsolescence threshold.

This threshold is crossed when your company’s fear of becoming obsolete is driven more by the fear of not growing and missing out than the opposing fear of making mistakes.

This is an important distinction as the nature of your company’s digital transformation and innovation initiatives is predicated on the velocity at which your organization crosses the obsolescence threshold.

Ultimately, the success of such initiatives will be determined by what type of digital transformation and innovation your company undertakes. Depending on the groundswell of industry change within which your company is encapsulated, these initiatives need to have more or less impetus to succeed.

Too little activity that matures too slowly produces lacklustre results. This is a level one transformation failure.

Too much activity that matures too fast leads to burn out. This is a level two transformation failure.

Both levels of failure can be fatal for your company and it is crucial to find the right transformation cadence.

Currently there is sufficient impetus in the fear of becoming obsolete and enough of a herd mentality in most industry sectors for many companies to be initiating a digital transformation and innovation program.

And this leads to the pivotal question. How do they know these programs will work?

Is there a commodifying effect at work? If everyone is innovating and has a lab in Silicon Valley what does this mean? Does it reduce the effect of such activities to a common baseline? Do you then need to be even more disruptive or more of a digital business? What do you change, what should stay the same?

Are there warning signals such a program is working or not working? What are the leading and lagging indicators? How can you spot these and course correct before it is too late?

How can we help?

The EXOscalr team brings 30 years of digital transformation and innovation wisdom to give you peace of mind.

We ruthlessly analyse your capabilities, we benchmark your activities against our success modelling and we give you discrete, honest advice on what is working and what isn’t.

We then double down and guide you to be fiercer with yourself, your people and in your activities so that you can eradicate this panoply of fears.

6 Hacks for Gaining High Achiever & Elite Performer Status

StepUpThe media loves to trumpet overnight success, but there is always a back story of blood, sweat and tears. The journey from amateur to professional and the path to elite performer can be daunting. How can you ensure you succeed in your quest for success? We provide six hacks you can use to gain elite performer status and become a high achiever.

1. Set a guiding principle and just start

As daunting as your quest may seem, you need to take the first step or you will never get closer to your destination. You may not have mapped out the entire journey. You may not know exactly where your quest is taking you.

But just start.

Take one small step forward, and then another.

Before you know it, you will have established something unique that the world has never seen.

As you start on your quest, ask yourself a transformational question. This will become your guiding principle.

It will kick start your passion and give you the impetus to take that first step.

For Odysseus the question was, ‘where is true home?’

     What is your transformational question?

2. Aim for regular milestones, achievable annually

There are no overnight successes. Nor will the answers to your transformational question just arrive out of the blue. It will take hard work, long hours and persistence.

Your focus is on answering that big question, on achieving your goal. Yet many things can intervene and sway you off course. To ensure you remain in pursuit of your goal set some smaller milestones you can achieve each year.

Every year you want there to be two to three things you feel you’ve made progress in. This prevents you from getting stuck. Some years will be better than others. By constantly moving yourself forward you will smooth out the years. You will come to view yourself as a success. This will give you the motivation to continue on your quest.

Doing this year in, year out will lead to some big wins. That’s when you will be referred to as an overnight success. At that point smile and nod, knowing that it was the little things, the small milestones that got you there.

     What is your first milestone?

3. Understand the levels of competence and timing in your industry

Each industry sets expectations of how long it takes to become an elite performer. Form an understanding of what these time lines are.

In most professions or crafts there are three levels of competence: beginner, intermediate and advanced.

What can you expect to achieve in each of these phases?

Beginner – you will be parroting the insights of your influencers. Success in this phase is being able to produce a body of work that isn’t an embarrassment.

Intermediate – you will have a clearer idea of what you are doing. You may feel you’ve changed direction and wasted time. But you are always building on your experience and adding to your skill set.

Advanced – your unique voice will emerge in this phase and you will produce work that has not been seen before.

     Are you prepared for the long haul?

4. Step up from performer to elite performer

Stepping up to the ranks of elite performer requires a psychological shift. This needs to be a threefold shift in you:

1. You need to come across as being relaxed. You don’t have to prove yourself anymore and you don’t want to come across as trying too hard.

2. You need to be deliberate with the things you are saying and doing.

3. You need to belong. You need to be within a space that you own. You need to feel that you are entitled to be there.

You also need to catalyse a psychological shift amongst those you engage with. They need to see that you’re not just trying things out, but you have a reason to be there. They will then take you more seriously.

At this point you’ve achieved a foundational shift. But to truly step up you need to be developing your own material. You need to come up with your own compelling thinking. You may still rely on your old influencers, but you need to be exploring new territory.

Find your authentic and unique voice. Think of yourself as a force.

     Do you aspire to be a great master, to hold the universe in your palm?

5. Avoid the ruts, never feel secure

This is a long-haul. There is a possibility that you don’t push yourself enough. If this happens you will dig a deeper and deeper rut over time. You’ll need to create a breaking point and find your raw groove again.

Keep revisiting your transformational question. Check that you remain in hot pursuit of the answer. You should not feel 100% secure. If you are not somewhat scared, you will become complacent. Your inspiration will wane.

     Is the fear always there?

6. Lift your game and focus

“Nothing contributes so much to tranquillising the mind as a steady purpose – a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye.” – Mary Shelley

This quote sums up the point that if you want to operate at a higher level, you need to lift your game and bring focus.

There are three ways you can do this:

1. Whittle away the things that you don’t need.

2. Create a solid core of who you are both as a person and as an elite performer.

3. Become aware of your compulsions and the rabbit holes that you could scurry down. Initially you may meet these urges. You will need to leave them behind to elevate yourself to the next level.

     What do you fundamentally believe, as a person, is important?

About EXOscalr

We coach for difference. Our clients are influential leaders, high achievers and outliers. Interested in an initial session? Sign up here.

CEO Top Priorities: How to Achieve Growth Using the Universal Rules of Exponential Scaling

SydneyOverwhelmingly, CEOs’ mission-critical priorities over the last few years have been and continue to be dominated by growth. Their focus is increasingly on digital, and if you consider the combination of growth and information technology, what we call GROWIT, this represents a very high percentage of the priority focus for CEOs in 2015.

What is GROWIT?

Growth can mean many things, but for Fortune 500 CEOs in 2015 it mainly means moving into new geographies and new markets. Within the IT part of GROWIT there is more and more impetus around the shift into digital.

More CEOs see digital as having a disruptively deep impact than those who don’t and the vast majority of CEO’s feel that technology innovation is accelerating faster and faster.

Against this backdrop, our focus when working as transformation coaches with CEOs is to help them achieve rapid or hyper growth by utilising the Universal Rules of Exponential Scaling.

We help them focus by keeping things simple, by reducing things down to their essence and making them measurable, repeatable and improvable. At EXOscalr we make use of a very, very simple scaling algorithm – scaling involves adding fuel and removing friction.

  The higher the fuel:friction differential, the higher their company’s growth velocity.

Let’s use talent as an example. Talent is an essential area that CEOs focus on to generate the fuel needed for growth. At EXOscalr we optimise the ability of our clients to attract and retain top talent through the use of the Talent Density Algorithm –  essentially,

the higher their talent density, the less requirement for process, and
–  the higher their process, the lower their top talent retention.

In this respect, top talent becomes a magnet for other top talent, fuelling business growth. In contrast, companies that are too process heavy and too bureaucratically organized contain too many frictions for top talent either to want to work there or to stay working there.

It’s very important to understand that the Fuel/Friction differential will change over time. This is the whole point and we encourage CEOs and other business leaders to get granular with how they measure, monitor and progress their interaction with this differential.

What can CEOs do to improve their Fuel:Friction Differential?

CEOs can take control of the Fuel:Friction Differential by engaging with their executive team as follows:

  • In regular exec team meetings, let’s say weekly*, they throw up on a board all the factors that are holding the company back, and the opportunities they have to push it forward.
  • The team quickly diagnoses the current balance of Fuel/Friction forces, then ranks the items by their impact and ease of execution.  Priority is given to the high-impact, low-difficulty items first, and they spend the next week addressing these forces.  As the Fuel/Friction equation improves, the company is set to grow faster.
  • Repeat. Regularly.

* [We suggest the frequency of these meetings should depend how much growth features as a company’s mission critical priority – if it is imperative and the urgency is being driven by facing corporate extinction because of competitive threat, for example, then weekly meetings may not be the right frequency, daily may be more suitable.]