To Innovate Or Advance Digital Transformation, Look Outside Your Industry


My good friend and journalist Dan Tynan wrote two exceptional pieces on digital transformation in Adweek, “5 Steps for Digitally Transforming Your Marketing to Be More Responsive to Customer Needs” and “Why Old-School Brands Like Gap Need to Learn New Tricks to Survive in the Digital Age.” If you’re not in marketing, please don’t stop reading yet! This is bigger than marketing. This is about organizational innovation and transformation.

Dan and I spent time together talking through what digital transformation means and explored its promise for modernizing organizations at large. That discussion spilled over into his two recent Adweek articles. Although a portion of what I’ll share with you made the article, the rest is meant to help you in your efforts. I assembled some of the key points for you here in the hopes that it helps you.

Digital Transformation in an Era of Digital Darwinism

Brian Solis, principal analyst for Altimeter, a Prophet company, says every organization looking to transform itself must go through six stages. It starts with business as usual — companies that look at digital as just another line item — then moves into stage two, where orgs have begun to test and learn, but still operate in silos and remain snug inside their own comfort zones.

Over time, organizations become systematic in their efforts, get buy in from top executives, and begin to make long-term investments that eventually result in an organization driven by innovation. But today, most companies have yet to get past stage two, he says.

“Digital transformation is actually an outside-in process that’s being driven by what I call ‘Digital Darwinism,” he says. “Customers are evolving, people are evolving, but business processes, models, and mindsets are not keeping up. They’ve acquired the technology, but haven’t really looked at what’s different about behaviors, expectations, and preferences, or how they can use it to create new value for customers and employees.”

* * *

Companies that have enjoyed the greatest success in transforming usually look for inspiration and innovation outside their core business, notes Solis.

“The companies I’m most impressed by are those that have looked outside for innovation, like Starbucks and Domino’s,” he says. “Starbucks considers itself a mobile technology company; Domino’s wants to be the Amazon of Pizza. They realize that have to think like those kinds of companies to compete at that speed.”

Brian Solis

Brian Solis is principal analyst and futurist at Altimeter, the digital analyst group at Prophet, Brian is world renowned keynote speaker and 7x best-selling author. His latest book, X: Where Business Meets Design, explores the future of brand and customer engagement through experience design. Invite him to speak at your event or bring him in to inspire and change executive mindsets.

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