UNO May 2016

We are all Startups. Genuine transformation: myths and keys



Apparently a few days before the momentous night on which Obama won his first presidential election, a journalist approached Chris Hughes. At the time, the co-founder of Facebook and brains behind Chicago’s social networking phenomenon (MyBo) was 25 years old. His question was simple but packed a powerful punch: Why, on the candidate’s website, had they placed a big button that said ‘Donate’ instead of the usual ‘Vote’? “Can you vote on the Internet?” answered the digital native (the millennial). “No, of course not. Can you donate? Yes. That is the only reason.”

The term “Digital Transformation” has given rise to a number of myths that make deep reflection necessary in order to avoid false expectations

We have used it so often and maximized its potential so much that we are going to wear out the concept of “transformation.” The fact is, from our experience helping companies take advantage of the power of technology to support their plans and objectives, we know it has two meanings that sometimes confuse those who use it. It can be understood as “changing the shape of someone or something” or as “turning or converting something into something else.” Chris did not change the shape or the appearance of Obama’s electoral campaign; he profoundly changed the way in which a political team can establish a genuine symbiosis with its thousands of communities of supporters and voters. That is the kind of “transformation” that interests us, isn’t it? It is the one that can help us build an adaptive advantage that is difficult for our competitors to beat. The aesthetic kind, “let’s do the same thing in a different wrapper,” has proved it is useless and uses up a lot of resources. We are all tired of putting on a facade. Throughout history, all power structures have been built around a monopoly of information and control of communication. A number of technological advances have gradually eroded that reality. Each one of them has constituted an extraordinary social revolution. Books were one at the birth of the Greek and Roman civilizations (one idea for a small few). Printing in the development of the modern world (many ideas for many). The Internet (all ideas for the majority) is generating the same effect, which leads to the many upheavals we are experiencing and that will continue to occur for decades and probably centuries. Certain organizations have been able to take advantage of these revolutions for their own benefit. Others have perished (and many have been born with the instinct to ride the wave). The main difference is that some trusted in being “transformed” and others were “transformative.” We believe the latter approach, because ultimately it is an approach, offers greater guarantees of success.

The emergence of the term “Digital Transformation” has given rise to a number of myths that make in-depth reflection necessary in order to avoid false expectations and help organizations face these paradigm shifts in a strategic manner and not just through fleeting trends. These are our 5 myths about digital transformation:

018_1Digital transformation forces companies to reinvent themselves: This is not true. Organizations must generate new thought scenarios in different ways and explore new territories outside their comfort zones, but in doing so not forget what the essential bases and foundations of their businesses are. We must not try to be something we are not. But what we must do is question all our pillars and preconceived assumptions.

Digital transformation is all about technology: Obviously the companies of the future will inevitably have to exploit technology as a source of competitive advantages, but that does not mean it is only about technology or technology companies. The new digital revolution and industry 4.0 will come to affect any business model and any business and social sector.

Digital transformation can be managed with good positioning and multichannel digital identity: The innovation model opening up for us for the future goes far beyond simply managing our presence on digital channels and affects such fundamental aspects of our organization as its business models, people, structures, customer experience and organizational models.

I can manage a digital transformation process using my own means and resources: Companies that do not understand a new talent and knowledge distribution model often fail in digital transformation processes because they are not able to cope with changes with the speed and flexibility offered by leveraging external opportunities based on talent or links with startups, which have a high potential to disrupt the market.

Digital transformation is an expense I have to provide for in the budget: It seems obvious, but it is necessary to promote the culture of digital transformation as an investment and not as an expense. Many organizations embark on this adventure with a feeling of having to provide specific budgets, especially for development, which have no benefit or return in the short term. The short-term requirements for digital innovation processes often significantly divert initial objectives. It is necessary to remove innovation from the current agenda.

The speed of digital society is dizzying. Organizations cannot deal with these changes without a distributed talent approach

By this point, the reader will surely be wondering about the keys to digital transformation. In this article we will also share what we believe to be the 3 keys that enable a company to become transformative:

1. ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE: This is, without doubt, the first step. We need organizations that are more innovative, more agile and more flexible, with greater capacities to learn from risk and failure and, above all, more accustomed to thinking outside their comfort zones. It is necessary to influence the culture of innovation and digital competences.

2. ORGANIZATIONAL METHODOLOGIES AND MODELS: We need to be able to guide our structures, methods and models with methodologies and ways of working that are bringing success to the best companies in the digital economy and are truly able to change the rules of the game. We have to introduce into our agenda words like “agile methodology,” “lean startup,” “design thinking,” “scrum,” “holocracy,” etc. and new ways of working based on “concept tests,” prototypes and minimum viable products, etc. All these words are familiar to the great innovators of the digital age.

3. OPEN ECOSYSTEMS OF INTERNAL/EXTERNAL TALENT: The speed of digital society is dizzying. Organizations cannot deal with these changes without a distributed talent approach, both external and internal. It is essential to empower workers by promoting models of intra/entrepreneurship, since all employees are sources and engines of innovation and new leadership may emerge. On the other hand, the solutions and opportunities are often out there in the form of new startups, creative entrepreneurs, innovators and people with talent who can help our organization to be much better. It is essential to learn how to interact with these talent ecosystems and be aware that we are all startups and we are all millennials.

The adventure and art of being a startup is one of the great challenges facing large companies at present. That art of being fast, flexible, adaptive and innovative. Rethinking and creating the future is an exciting task, and the changes that are coming invite us to dream.

Adolfo Corujo
Partner and Chief Strategy & Innovation Officer of LLYC
He is a specialist in reputation and business management based on digital disruption. Over the twenty years of his career, he has collaborated in designing and executing construction projects, and in defending or promoting the identity of different multinationals in Spain and Latin America. In the academic world, he collaborates with business schools and universities on both continents, in both research and training in the fields of strategy, innovation, digital identity and management of change. He recently published his first book, entitled “Comusicación”. [Brazil]
Sergio Cortés
Partner of LLORENTE & CUENCA and Founder and President of Cink / Spain
He is Partner at LLORENTE & CUENCA and Founder and President at Cink. An influential tech entrepreneur, Sergio’s areas of expertise are digital innovation, prototyping and digital transformation. He develops, manages and implements projects of high strategic impact for organizations in the areas of innovation and communications, providing technical assistance and helping large companies adopt the innovation model used by the market’s leading startups. Currently, he also works as a consultant for various organizations, including banks, businesses and charities. He is an industrial engineer and has completed his studies at ESADE. He has also completed the Executive Program for Growing Companies at Stanford University in California and graduated from the MIT Entrepreneurship Center (Massachusetts). [Spain] @sergiocortes

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