Leaders who are at the helm of the Fourth Industrial Revolution must understand the difference between change and transformation.
Change is constant. Transformation is disruptive. Many leaders have not yet grasped these concepts in meaningful ways.
Who are these leaders? They are you and me.
Looking around for someone else to lead the way is officially a waste of time. We are all empowered with democratised technologies, knowledge, support and access to global audiences on a scale never before known to humankind. The time is now for leaders to own digital transformation.
Change Is Constant
Change can be a moderate shift from a present state to a new state, such as making tweaks to parts of an organisation or redeveloping a product in well-defined phases. Traditional change management is one way to navigate moderate adjustments. If you have been paying attention over the past decade, then you are aware that this pace of change is too slow, and it has caught many businesses and leaders by surprise as they now find themselves on the sidelines – or they have gone away completely.
Transformation Is Disruptive
Transformation is the wholesale disruption of previous norms that have been replaced by new ways of doing and being that can change anytime at right-now speeds with significant impacts across all parts of an organisation, its technology and its culture simultaneously. Transformation sounds chaotic because it is. Traditional methods of handling change fail under these extreme conditions, and new ways of thinking, doing and being must be rapidly adopted.
Modern Industrial Revolutions
Modern industrial revolutions have been defined as shifts from rural and agricultural societies to urban and digital societies driven by technology innovations starting in the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe and North America. Today our universe is engulfed in digital transformations across every part of our lives. Technology has enabled humans to reproduce miracles from the “God particle” to intelligent machines that can teach themselves.
Building Blocks Of Digital Transformation
Patterns of success have emerged amid the chaos of digital disruptions. To successfully implement digital transformations, leaders must act on fundamental principles such as transformational awareness, liquid learning, human-centred design, empowered employees, intelligent technologies, continuous cycles of innovation, new business models and sustainable growth.
Taken together, these eight building blocks make it possible to capitalise on digital transformation at the speed of now.
1. Transformational Awareness (Cultures): Every person everywhere must open their eyes to the awareness that everything has changed or is in the process of transforming more rapidly than expected. Gone are times for speculation about whether digital transformation is necessary. It is a must, and transformational awareness is the first step.
2. Liquid Learning (Organisations): Digital transformation requires liquid learning (previously known as lifelong learning) to overcome knowledge deficits that are created within three years after formal instruction has occurred. Micro courses, badges, certifications, micro degrees and nano degrees are on the rise as the war for talent and innovation rages on.
3. Human-Centred Design (Customers): Human-centred design guides leaders by helping them to discover what customers want right now instead of relying on the leader’s own musings. Deep listening to customers and end users may seem obvious, but many leaders are still trying to force their own ideas and solutions onto customers. This backward approach opens the door for disruptive competitors who are actively listening and responding in real time.
4. Empowered Employees: The patriarchy is dead or dying, so leaders must stop telling their employees what is best for them. Instead, leaders must empower employees to figure it out for themselves. Distribution of decision making power throughout organisational structures moves the business closer to its digital transformation goals amid creative magic and mayhem.
5. Intelligent Technologies: Intelligent technologies increase efficiency, expand capabilities and create new opportunities to transform how we live, work and connect. Unique combinations of machine learning, artificial intelligence, facial recognition, 5G, IoT (internet of things), 3D printing, the blockchain, smart manufacturing and edge computing have become a reference for digital transformations.
6. Continuous Cycles Of Innovation (Agility): Innovation is a fundamental human trait. Iterative learning, development, improvement and growth are required to inject agility into collaboration and customer co-creation. Continuous cycles of innovation uncover previously untapped solutions where there is potential for transforming entire industries or launching new ones.
7. New Business Models (Revenue): Anything as a service (XaaS) and other creative transformation models have flipped revenue generation on its head by converting capital expenses to operating expenses with offerings from freemium (basic) to premium (advanced). Leaders must define new ways to capitalise on digital transformation since historical economic guidelines no longer apply.
8. Sustainable Growth (Long-Term Impact): The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a blueprint for creating long-term positive impact and prosperity in the world. Digital transformation opens channels of innovation and access that improve lives on and off the beaten path. Green growth with a low carbon footprint and equal access should be considered a part of every leader’s decision making process.
Starting with transformational awareness at the head and ending with sustainable growth at the foot, parts of the digital transformation anatomy include cultures, organisations, customers, employees, technologies, agile practices, revenue and long-term impact. As with the anatomy of a human body, all systems must work together to produce results. Companies that are just beginning their digital transformation journey are better late than not at all.
Change Ambassador | Veterans Advocate | TEDx Curator | Founder and CEO of the Institute for Human and Leadership Excellence.