Viva La Revolucion Digital!

A while back I  chaired AdTech London and I got very excited about the great case studies that were presented over the 2 days. We had some very clever people and some very successful brands from the UK and abroad come and share their ideas about the future of digital and show some good old digital best practice. And it was great to see digital in practice. By necessity due to the amazing pace of change there is a lot of theory in Digital I find. What we need more of is practice in my opinion because without it we are fumbling about in a digital darkness. Less concept, more proof of concept, so to speak.

As you may or may not know, we are currently at the ‘end of the beginning’ of the Third Industrial Revolution (as some call it). Otherwise known as the Digital Revolution. I don’t know about you, but at my age, I am kind of surprised to find myself part of a revolution! Flattered perhaps (look mum, a revolutionary at 40!). And there’s nothing like a revolution to get that old body out of bed on a Monday morning.

In fact, everyone at Adtech London can genuinely claim that they too are revolutionaries (Viva! Viva La Revolution Digital!) because right now anyone who is working in Digital and is trying to implement change in an organisation in order to prepare for this digital future is a disruptor. They are seen by others as agents of change (and not always welcome ones).

I am a Digital Strategist, and my job is to help organisations not just to survive, but to thrive in the digital economy. I have worked with many large FTSE 100 companies helping them make sense of the digital change & disruption that is coming their way (like a driverless two ton truck down a steep hill). I go into a lot of businesses and try to help them figure out how to ride the revolution. Mostly I find that the bigger and more established the company the less appetite for change it has. Like lobsters frolicking in a pot of nice warm water who only question the change in temperature once it is too late to act, these large organisations tend to feel that their industry will be immune and business as usual will reign supreme for ever. Unfortunately I disagree.

The Digital Revolution, like all revolutions, will cause major change and disruption in all organisations large and small across all industries. In my experience organisations can be split into two simple very distinct categories in relation to large disruptive change:

Organisations that are comfortable with change… and organisations that are not comfortable with change.

Of course, this is nothing new. It has always been this way. Organisations traditionally chose the markets that suited their appetite for change (and their set up) best. But in the Digital Revolution the importance of this difference of appetite has been amplified a thousand times because the revolution has created the need for structural change at a deep level. Those organisations that are comfortable with change will be able to strategically choose their level of change, prepare for it, and stay in control of their destinies. But those businesses that are not comfortable with change will tend to react against it, ignore it, dig in and eventually lose control of their destinies as they are left behind. There are some very big examples of this already, and there will be more.

Over the next few years organisations have a stark choice. They can either hide from Digital – and wave goodbye to the future as it whooshes by them. Or they can turn and face the future – and make sure they are ready to grab on to it as it comes up behind them (as we all know, the future always comes up behind us, and invariably always surprises us).

The move to Digital in some ways is similar to the move from the First Industrial Revolution to the Second – that is, from steam power to electrical power. There must have been naysayers who claimed electricity wouldn’t catch on and stuck with steam. Indeed, we are all familiar with the look of terror (disguised sometimes as disinterest) in CEO’s eyes when the words ‘Digital Transformation’ or ‘Social Business’ are used. In fact, I still meet some CEOs (fewer and fewer I must admit) who ask me if the internet is not a passing fad and if digital will turn out to be a small niche market. Unfortunately I have to give it to them straight – the internet is here to stay and digital is the future I say. And even though the fear of that future is in their eyes, the more visionary CEOs do their best to get comfortable with the change I tell them is coming. After all, they love their non-regulation iPads, so how bad can the future really be?

There is a quote by Tom Stoppard that I came across the other night. For me it encapsulates something of the confusion the Digital Revolution is causing in the more traditional old school business mind out there at the moment.

‘The days of the digital watch are numbered.’

I have to agree with Tom on this. They are indeed numbered.

(read this blog on Huff Tech – http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/justin-small/digital-revolution_b_1902434.html )

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