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.