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Unprepared for Digital Transformation

by Akiva Beebe, Director Business Development: Sub-Saharan Africa, Center for Creative Leadership

Most executives are unprepared for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. According to International Data Corporation, by the end of 2018, over $1 trillion will be invested into “digital transformation” initiatives – namely, transforming an entire business so that it succeeds in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics, etc.). Forbes estimated that over $900 billion of these digital transformation investments will fail.

Choose either:

Option A: Quickly become irrelevant, in your career path and industry
Option B: Create a successful future, today

The shocking truth is that most of us choose option A.

Indeed, we fail to recognize the opportunities presented by the Fourth Industrial Revolution and we quickly become irrelevant. The Hays Global Skills Index report calls this the talent mismatch, which gets increasingly worse every year. According to PwC’s report Adapt to Survive, the talent mismatch was already costing our global economy an excess of $150 billion per year in lost revenue in 2014.

To shift from option A to option B requires experimentation. "To invent you have to experiment, and if you know in advance that it’s going to work, it’s not an experiment".  - Jeff Bezos, CEO, Amazon.

How to enable option B:

  1. Appoint a strategic task team
  2. Embrace strategic agility
  3. Develop learning agility

Appoint a Strategic Task Team 

Andrew Ng, the AI guru who co-founded Google Brain, recommends establishing a task team that reports directly to your board of directors. This team will upskill your C-suite executives by designing and building your digital organization in ways that achieve previously unimaginable results. The task team should consist of experienced executives in digital transformation, skilled at: 1) digital strategy; 2) culture change; 3) implementation of the latest emerging technologies. 

A common mistake is to have the task team operating and reporting into traditional hierarchical reporting structures. This mistake reinforces corporate silos and turf wars across business units. It creates a fragmented organization, unable to leverage the power of AI or IoT.
The task team provides strategic integration and underpins the entire organization’s digital transformation journey, from strategy to execution. They help large organizations move faster.

Embrace Strategic Agility

Strategic agility is the ability to adapt your organization’s strategy to sudden market changes. Strategies are no longer five-year plans, but rather tested every day against reality. John Doerr, Silicon Valley’s leading venture capitalist, developed a method that codifies strategic agility called OKR – Objectives and Key Results. The likes of LinkedIn, Facebook, Amazon and Netflix use OKRs to achieve exponential results, with scale and speed.

OKRs create clarity, focus on what really matters and align daily work to accelerate the achievement of your organization’s strategic objectives. The results are faster time to market, increased operating efficiency, higher revenue and more engaged customers and employees.

Develop Learning Agility

Learning agility is the ability to continuously learn, embrace new challenges and effectively adapt to change. The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) identified the following learning agility characteristics:

  1. Innovate: challenge the status quo
  2. Perform: remain calm in the face of difficulty
  3. Reflect: create time to reflect on their experiences
  4. Take risks: purposefully put themselves in challenging situations
  5. Be open to learning: faced with adversity, they are not defensive

Digital transformation demands new ways of working, thinking and constantly adapting to radical market changes. Learning agility is the antidote.

Tools, tactics and habits for option B:

 

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