Workplaces Built for Innovators

Use Design Thinking to Get Customers to Buy More

May 26, 2020

Introduction

CEOs all over the globe are trying to figure out what is next. 

Many are thinking, how do we go back?  There is no going back. 

We have experienced a dramatic shock that has caused many changes. Some firms see an advantage and are accelerating into it (e.g., Facebook).  For other firms, this may be the end (e.g., Hertz).

It remains to be seen whether the changes are permanent.

I think it is like resuming a friendship after there has been a significant fallout.  It is never the same as it was before. 

The Big Challenge

How do CEOs know what to do? Covid-19 has not provided any answers.  It has only revealed weaknesses. Many of the gaps identified.

Many will attempt to create business plans. Others will look for new products to sell.

Smaller firms are even more susceptible. 

You do not know what you do not know.

That is what I did four years ago. 

I found out as I looked for a new career in business.  The premier technology firms of the 1990s and 2000s were all undergoing significant digital transformations. Digital what? Exactly.

The innovators that I knew, Microsoft, Dell, IBM, HP, and Cisco, were all transforming. Dell had just made a colossal misstep. It had bet against the cloud and was now pivoting back.

I soon realized that the business world had changed dramatically.  Many CEOs are now finding out the same thing.

The Rub

Small business has very little room for mistakes.

Many have cut their employees and done all the things they know to do.

Yet, they still have no idea how to restart their businesses.

Most economists would agree the recovery will not be quick.  

For most of us, it is like we went to sleep on Earth and woke up on Mars.  What you need to survive, let alone thrive in this environment, is different.

The Need

Most CEOs that I talk to will say, “I need to rethink my whole business.”  Yet, they do not have the slightest idea of where to start.

That is where I can help.

Exactly ten years ago, Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur wrote a book called Business Model Generation. The book’s purpose was to give the world a universal language to design new business models.

A business model is how a firm creates value and earns money for that value. Business model design is a process.  Startups sometimes use it, and some large enterprises now have units that use it.

I have talked about it in previous newsletters.  But other than that, you may not have heard of it.

It is not a process known by many people outside of the innovation ecosystem, especially not CEOs older than their mid-30s.  

Applying Business Model Design

Business model design starts with value proposition design.

Let us analyze Panera using two different concepts from opposite sides of the spectrum: product and value proposition.

Product

Here is the marketing message for a product-based approach applied to Panera.   

We offer salads, sandwiches, baked goods, and other specialty food items for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The product-based approach sounds like, “I sell [insert product here].”  You see this all the time.

Value Proposition Design

We help health-conscious individuals and families eat affordably with our selection of nutritious and high-quality alternatives for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

We see that with the product-based approach, the focus is only on the product—nothing about the customer or what the customer values are mentioned. 

With value proposition design, we can see who the customers are (i.e., health-conscious individuals and families), what they value (i.e., healthy, and nutritious food), and how Panera helps them to eat affordably based on those values.

Better Outcomes by Design

Panera has made particular products, services, and marketing choices because they focus on delivering tangible value to a target customer attempting to eat affordably. There are no high-calorie burgers on the menu.

If they were only focused on products as they try to increase revenue, they might try burgers or maybe pizza.

Their marketing would simply push more of their products, possibly some different ones.

Instead, Panera uses its sophisticated marketing automation system to customize interactions based on each customer’s profile.  Its operation is responsive to make specific offers based on customer profiles.  Panera does not just offer me salads, bread, and cookies arbitrarily.

Panera has launched several new digital products this year and a few during the pandemic.

  • Subscription-based coffee
  • Family meals
  • Groceries
  • Curbside Pickup

By focusing on me and what I value, they can make many digital products to offer me for relatively low cost, testing to see which offer appeals to me until I buy, and then learning from that.

None of these new products change their business model. But each creates an opportunity for new revenue and lower costs.

Without value proposition design, none of that works effectively.  Smart Insights says, 50% of firms use digital marketing without a digital marketing strategy, let alone value proposition design. 

Want a business transformed to win? 

Start with value proposition and business model design.

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3 Tools to Help Your Personal and Business Transformation

May 12, 2020
Hello there!
 
This past weekend, the Trump administration admitted that they expect the unemployment rate to exceed 20% soon. Those are devastating numbers. 
In an interview on Friday, May 8, 2020, Mark Cuban, the billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks, appeared on MSNBC in an interview with Stephanie Ruhle where he said that the way businesses used to operate is “gone forever.” “We are not going back to the way things were.… Companies need to be agile.” I could not agree more.   
The future is uncertain. But this much I know. We need to see the mobilization of resources toward business transformation on a massive scale. This means coordinated public and private investment in entrepreneurship and innovation.   
 
My vision is to help small business CEOs and their teams to transform their businesses. I believe equipping and training these resourceful and resilient people is the key to an economic renaissance for all. I do not have all the answers. But I believe that I have a role to play. 
 
Last week, I participated in an MIT webinar on innovation where Steven Spear, author of The High Velocity Edge, explained how the U.S. Navy transformed itself for modern warfare at the turn of the century.   
 
In 1904 during the Russo-Japanese War, the U.S. found itself operating with outdated technologies and strategies. Japan was a rising threat in the Pacific and the U.S. Navy was in no way prepared. Civil War-era Ironclad riverboats were totally inadequate for the Pacific threat.   
 
The Navy’s solution, however, is instructive. Developing new technology was just the first step. They needed to rethink warcraft using the new technologies, retrain sailors to use it properly, and commanders to lead them in battle. All without precedent. Rather than command and control, their solution was to empower their commanders and sailors to “experiment” in real life naval exercises. 
 
They ran different scenarios with commanders rapidly relaying information back to command for analysis. Strategies and operations were adapted and refined with each exercise. This process went on for years until the Navy had modernized for the battle came that they all knew would one day come.

That battle was Midway, and it was the turning point in the war.

Today, we battle Covid-19 and global economic depression. We must all learn to use new digital technologies. There is no definitive guide forward because there is no precedent for our present circumstance. We must, however, work together to retrain, experiment, lead, and innovate our way toward a brighter future.
 
Preparing for Digital Transformation

In Digital Leadership – Overcoming Fear and Anxiety in the Covid-19 Crisis, I listed 5 things that leaders could do to increase their capacity to manage uncertainty. Now, I am recommending 3 tools to use.

1. Personal Productivity System Book – Free to Focus – A Total Productivity System to Achieve More by Doing Less TM by Michael Hyatt
 
What is it? Although Michael Hyatt packages Free to Focus in book form, its a total productivity system.

What do you love about it? Personal productivity has always been important. However, because speed is rewarded in digital business, being an effective leader is non-negotiable. The Free to Focus system is not a grind it out system. It is the anti-Elon Musk, sleep under your desk for 1 hour a night, work 200 hours per week model. (There are only 168 hours in a week.) Michael Hyatt’s is an energy management system that encourages you to focus only on the things that matter, where you are operating in your Desire Zone. (See the picture above). Getting to your Desire Zone requires both a self-assessment and acknowledgment that this is a journey, not a destination. Remember, you are moving from being overwhelmed to being focused. It starts slow. But it builds. Stick with it to see lasting results. Rome was not built in a day and your productivity transformation will not happen overnight.

Where can I get it? Here!
 
2. Handbook – Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur 
 
 
What is it? This is a handbook for the business model generation. New digital technologies and digital strategies make it possible for anyone willing to learn how, to build an audience, create value for them, and reap the rewards. 
 
What do you love about it? The book was published in 2010. I bought it on January 2, 2015. Because of Amazon, I can tell you the exact date. Its contents were so foreign and complex to me that when I started reading it, it sat on my bookshelf for several months without much use. I had started down a rabbit hole that would lead me to the intersection of my passion and proficiency (see the Freedom Compass above). Analyzing business models helps me to understand business. It may not have the same significance for you. But it will be useful for you to think about your business through the business model lens.    
 
Where can I get it?  Here!
 
3. Project Management Tool – Asana 
 
  • What is it? When I talked about Asana 6 months ago, Asana was my new best friend. I am happy to report that Asana and I remain close. In fact, when I finish writing this newsletter, I will open Asana to begin planning the next several months of activity for my business (which I am happy to say is growing). I am so glad that you are a part of this journey.
  • What do you love about it? In many ways, Asana is the quintessential application for business transformation. It centralizes information to help reorient teams around projects and goals. That is great for unlocking organizational silos. In the picture above, you can see how subtasks, tasks, and projects roll up to teams and then the organization. This is a great way to visualize how a digital tool, like Asana, can help reorganize relationships to flatten out a hierarchical environment. It does not complete the puzzle, but it is an excellent step in the right direction. When you layer vision, mission, and goals on top cross-functional collaboration, you get a powerful application helping drive your success.   
 
 
We are working every day to help CEOs leading small and mid-sized organizations to navigate their digital transformation journey. One way that you can help us is to let us know where we should focus our content.   
 
What do you need to understand better to take the next step in your personal or business transformation? 
 
Let us know, We'd love to hear from you!
 
-- Lenwood
 
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Digital Leadership - Overcoming Fear and Anxiety in the Covid-19 Crisis

Apr 28, 2020
Hello there!
 
The Covid-19 pandemic and resulting interruption to our daily lives has created unprecedented uncertainty for families and organizations on a global scale. 
 
What does the world look like post Covid-19? Will I have customers? Will I be able to raise the funding for my non-profit? How will we operate given the new normal? How will our team respond to continued business interruptions and the inevitable loss of coworkers, friends and family? Will we even survive? 
The Leadership Gap

There are more questions than answers.

When there is a seemingly insurmountable challenge, we begin to view the world through the lens of the pain being caused by that challenge. We become so focused on the pain, that we lose sight of what we need to do to overcome the challenge.

This may sound like complaining, negativity, pessimism, gossip, doubt, frustration, depression, anger, or any combination of the above.

For leaders, we can lose sight of our most important leadership responsibilities.

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to step up as a leader. But I failed.

The Chairman and CEO of the public company that I worked for, as well as our General Counsel, were under investigation. Because of my role in the company, I was right in the middle of it.

Uncertainty was high.

People across the company were on edge. There was management infighting and hundreds of tense board meetings.

For me, the crisis lasted for five years.

I was overworked, scared, and suffering financially. Insider trading rules prevented me from exercising stock options while my coworkers profited. I was under tremendous pressure.

The pain caused by the challenge obscured my vision and I lost sight of the people that I needed to lead.

I failed to communicate allowing fear, anxiety, and rumors to run rampant in my team and coworkers.

I had never experienced that kind of pressure. I was unprepared for the moment.

My lack of character and leadership development showed.
 
The Call to Empathy

SNL's Darrell Hammond made us laugh in the 1990s with his over the top impersonation of President Bill Clinton’s lip biting, “I feel your pain.”
 
Today, “I feel your pain” must be your mantra. This is where leaders seize the moment and thrive.

Listening to your struggling customers will help you to deepen your understanding of them.

You will be able to develop a customer experience that alleviates their pain, helps them accomplish what it is that they want to do, and create more value for them.

The same is true for your employees. Fear and anxiety are undoubtedly impacting their productivity. Listening to them will help to craft an employee experience that attracts, retains, and intensifies their loyalty to you and your organization.

My lack of empathy did the opposite.

I could not address a problem that I could not see.

Overcoming Fear and Anxiety in Uncertain Times

Uncertainty is the root of fear and anxiety.

A collapse in the illusion that we are in control feeds it.

The greater the crisis is, the more important it is to manage this uncertainty.

The four most important factors for the leader managing uncertainty are character, resourcefulness, team, and tools.

We see these factors at work in the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated expedition to the Antarctic. He and his entire crew were stranded for almost two years from 1914 to 1916.

In a life and death struggle, Sir Ernest’s leadership skills saved the lives of all twenty-seven of the men stranded with him.

I recently completed Shackleton's Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer by Margot Morrell and Stephanie Capparell as part of Michael Hyatt’s leadership book club, LeaderBooks.
 

The story is miraculous.

Shackelton’s empathetic character developed from his experiences in prior expeditions was an essential ingredient in his selection of each team member, the development of his innovations in provisioning and packing, and his resourcefulness when the team was thrust from the comforts of their ship into the Antarctic’s elements.

Today, the ability to manage uncertainty is what separates entrepreneurial and managerial leaders.

The study and practice of entrepreneurial leadership have gotten much more focus during the last 10 years. The lessons of Internet 1.0 and 2.0, and the work of Eric Ries, author of The Lean Start-Up, and Steve Blank, co-author of The Start-Up Owner’s Manuel, Clayton M. Christensen, as well as others taught in business schools have prepared digital leaders for Internet 3.0.

Entrepreneurial leadership will be much more important in the post Covid-19 world.
 
 
Build Digital Culture Right Now

Leaders today can increase their capacity to manage uncertainty by building digital culture. Here are five things that I recommend beginning immediately if you have not already started.

1. Begin investing in digital collaboration tools that support remote work and accelerate your team’s productivity.

2. Get going on soft skills development for your leadership team.

3. Create a vision for your organization. Rethink how you will use digital to build customer relationships and create new value.

4. Reassess your partner relationships to determine their value.

5. Invest in new partner relationships that increase your resources as you manage through the crisis.

Moving Mountains

My generation’s journey has included much uncertainty. From the fall of the Berlin Wall, Dotcom Bust, 9-11 and the Great Recession, we have encountered several mountains along the way.

Today, Covid-19 seems like Mount Everest.

But this situation is not permanent.

There will always be uncertainty.

We are not able to control our circumstances. We can only control our responses to them.

Covid-19 isn’t preventing transformation. It’s accelerating it.

We can’t allow the present challenge to obscure our vision.

We may have been caught flat-footed in the present crisis. But the journey isn’t over.

Building digital culture today will begin to transform our organizations to compete and win.

Our teams will adapt more quickly to both our competitors and the rise of the Internet's third wave.

What will you do today to accelerate your digital transformation?

-- Lenwood
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Digital Marketing - The Key to Business Development

Apr 14, 2020
Several years ago, I earned a small business ‘MBA’ through a program taught through the WR Berkley Innovation Lab at the NYU School of Business.
 
The program is designed to help small business owners understand the fundamentals of small business operations.
 
Our program facilitator opened the first class by telling us that most graduates grew their revenue by a minimum of 25% per year using the tools and strategies learned. That was red meat for me.
 
Here are the three most important things that I learned about marketing:
 
1. Business development occurs in stages. 

This was a big eye-opener for me. It was difficult for me to create a plan to grow my business without perspective on the stages of business growth.
 
Experts will tell you that your motivations for owning a business impact on how you approach these stages. If your motivation is wealth building, for example, processes are much more important. Buyers pay for that.
 
Given my ambitions, I needed to reconsider everything that I was doing from soup to nuts. Building a business requires knowing your purpose as much as having a plan to accomplish it.
 
2. Marketing is critical. 
 
I had always heard that CEOs cut marketing first when things get tight. There is no way I would do that today.
 
Customers are constantly connecting with and influencing each other. How we engage them must be consistent with how they discover, evaluate, purchase, and use our products. Our marketing activities should lead to consistent customer discovery and acquisition.
 
We spend 70% of our time on marketing. Granted, we’re just starting up; but, no matter what stage of business development, marketing precedes new product development. 
 
Messaging is very closely aligned with purpose. From what I have seen, a clear purpose helps attract and retain customers.
 
3. Market differentiation matters more now than ever before. 
 
The relationship between customers and organizations is changing dramatically.
 
For an existing business, understanding why your ideal customer chooses you is critical because it helps you to understand the customer’s perspective.
 
For new businesses, the process is different because there are no customers. The analysis still begins with the customer; but, the customer is hypothetical until validated.
 
In either case, connecting with customers through shared motivation, purpose or emotion is key to market differentiation.
 
 
Folks, I’m still learning.

After a few years of additional experience and perspective, these are the three most important lessons that I believe I learned about marketing. I didn't necessarily see them during the course.

When I review my materials now, I still have “aha moments” as I see new connections that I certainly didn’t see before.

As I mentioned, we spend most of our time on marketing. We collaborate constantly through Teams and Asana to use digital strategies, new tools, and better processes to engage and learn from our customers.

We’re always working to make things better.
Here are a few of the tools that we are using right now:

1. Book – Social Selling by Tim Hughes & Matt Reynolds

a. What is it? Social Selling is a book by Tim Hughes and Matt Reynolds about the strategies and tactics of social selling.

b. What do you love about it? I recommend this book for CEOs, marketers and anyone interested in building a personal brand online.

We follow what Tim and his colleagues do very closely. We used his book to develop our social media strategy. We did not follow a specific formula. We used suggestions from the book to develop our social media strategy based on our marketing and business objectives.

Strategies and tactics will differ by organization and objectives. Using Tim’s book and our other marketing tools, we have seen exponential growth in the first phases of our strategy.

Before buying the book, I met Tim Hughes on LinkedIn. I was just learning the platform and observing influencers. In that time, Tim and I became friendly. I have never met him in person. We engage exclusively on social media.

Tim is based in the UK along with most of his team. I have also engaged with several of his colleagues on LinkedIn and Twitter. Isn't social media amazing? Tim is one of the leading authorities on social selling and so it makes perfect sense that I would meet him on a social media platform.

I have started many relationships that are relevant to my business development efforts using LinkedIn. Nurturing relationships on social media is much more effective in the long term than InMail blasts soliciting 15 minutes of a prospect’s time.

c. Where can I get it? Click here to grab it!

2. Marketing Automation - VBout

a. What is it? VBout is a new marketing automation platform that focuses on using social media to build an audience.

b. What do you love about it? VBout is an awesome platform because social media is central to the platform's operation. Older marketing automation platforms, like Active Campaign, are great; but social media is not necessarily central to their value proposition.

With VBout, social media is central to building your marketing list. Building your list is your primary marketing activity.

Marketers will tell you that writing a newsletter is the best way to start. Once you get the newsletter going then it makes sense to develop a social media strategy.

Social media enables exponential growth when used properly. Because exponential growth can be achieved so quickly there is no need to rush when building a following on social media.

Before amplifying your message on any platform, it makes sense to test your message with a small audience first until it is refined.

c. Where can I get it? Click Here!

3. Canva – Design Tool

a. What is it? Canva is a graphic design company offering excellent tools for scrappy upstarts.

b. What do you love about it? Canva has a huge selection of stock photos that you can use to create original content for your website, social media campaigns or for your newsletter.

Differentiating yourself in the market requires creativity. Your marketing should reflect your values as an organization. If you do not know what makes you different, how will you be able to communicate it?

Canva helps you to be creative so that you can achieve that market differentiation.

c. Where can I get it? Click Here!
 
Start there. Explore those until you're comfortable with them. As with anything, things will work better if you go all in and adapt rather than dabble. Your business will only get better as you skill up and use the resources available.

What are you currently using that I didn't mention? I would love to hear about what's working for you. Collaboration is key!

Let's win together!

Lenwood
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Customer Centric Innovation - The Endgame for Digital Culture

Mar 31, 2020

It's difficult to begin this newsletter without mentioning COVID-19. The sheer magnitude of the crisis unfolding makes business-as-usual seem tone-deaf.

My hope is that you and your teams remain safe while observing the social distancing guidelines of your locality.

I also encourage you to remain focused on emerging from this crisis stronger.
In times of crisis, leaders are expected to focus their attention, energy, and influence on moving the team forward.

At the same time, we should be empathetic to the concerns of each team member. I learned this the hard way as a young executive. Managing a crisis without empathy for the team is disastrous for leadership.

As leaders, we are perceived to have more information and more control in the crisis. Even though we may feel just as helpless as the people we lead, that is not their perception. Keeping this perspective will help to increase your influence both during and after the storm.

Generally, if you’re a leader of a team that is venting, let them vent. Don’t try to fix things, just listen. Listening is a critical leadership skill.

You should, however, abstain from venting yourself.

Even though you may share some of the same frustrations and concerns when leaders vent it feeds the team’s anxiety. In my opinion, a leader should remain calm in times of crisis.

When the time is right, focus your team’s attention on the future. Imagine a time after the crisis. As vividly as you can, paint a picture of the future with you and your team in it and focus your team on that.

This crisis is unique, however. I know the burden on many of you is much greater than the typical crisis. Keep the lines of communication with your team open. Be practical. Be real.

Collaboration and Agility

The coronavirus crisis has made it plain that being a digital business helps.

As I mentioned previously, Big Tech and their Silicon Valley brethren were able to respond to Covid-19 very quickly, adjusting to remote working with relative ease.

I argued that because Big Tech had long ago embraced collaboration, they were able to adapt quickly.

This is an important point. Silicon Valley embraced collaboration before Slack, Teams and other collaboration tools existed. Those tools are born out of the necessity for collaboration. They exist to help the rest of us achieve collaboration more quickly.

The truth is we don't pursue collaboration for collaboration’s sake.

Collaboration supports agility.

In the context of creating a digital culture, agility means the ability to adapt to a changing market environment as a result of new or evolving technological or other developments.

We now know that agility also supports business continuity.

For agility, collaboration and communication are essential. We desire agility because agility helps us to master continuous change.

In pursuing digital culture, our goal is a constant state of listening and responding to the market. As we listen and engage, we begin to collaborate with our customers while developing our products and services.

With this in mind, we begin to transform our business processes reorienting them outward.

Your front-line workers are your best brand ambassadors. Home Depot built their brand on this concept (even though they got away from it for a while).

When you visit Home Depot’s plumbing section, you’ll find an associate who knows plumbing. You don’t just ask for what you need, you describe your plumbing issue to him, and you let him help you to solve it.

You get the product and you get advice to solve your problem. That’s a great customer experience.

Speed is Deceptive

In recent years, speed has become a virtue unto itself.

But, speed without a viable business model will take you a long way in the wrong direction fast. That's WeWork.

The co-working empire’s fate is uncertain given its very shaky foundations. WeWork’s publicly traded cousin, IWG (owner of Regus) has seen a 67% decline in value since the coronavirus market rout began. Softbank, WeWork’s largest investor, said it may walk away from part of its bailout plan of the co-working giant.

Social distancing is an apocalyptic scenario for real estate, especially co-working facilities.

In the context of digital transformation, agility is about managing risk and uncertainty when searching for new business models.

Digital transformation without a vision won’t get you very far. I’m not saying that you need the vision before you begin; but you will need one.

Vision gives birth to purpose. Purpose engages and inspires.

No More Command and Control

It does no good to pursue the virtues of collaboration yet at the same time maintain a hierarchical, bureaucratic, command, and control organizational structure. The research shows you will not get the desired results.

Cross-functional teams from a diversity of disciplines and perspectives are better positioned to make decisions that improve outcomes for customers.
This is one of the critical benefits of collaboration.

Flat organizational structures where cross-functional teams make strategic decisions take the pressure off leaders.

Ironically, it’s this pressure that may be stopping some leaders from moving forward with digital.

So, we’re not just pursuing collaboration and speed. We’re pursuing rapid decision making by empowered employees to improve the customer experience.

Customer-Centric Innovation

Innovation is any product or service that makes the current situation better for customers. If it saves time or money, even better. But it can also just alleviate some pain or give some gain.

Every innovation is not a disruptive innovation nor does it have to be. To have a viable business model, the value to the customer must be enough for the customer to buy the product or service and for the business to make a profit.

Any leader with the desire to innovate can innovate. Innovation is not mystical. It does not belong to the young, the elite, or Silicon Valley billionaires.

Innovation is for anyone who wants it.

Here’s the caveat. You can’t innovate alone in a room by yourself.

Why? It’s not about you.

Inspired ideas have their place. But it will take a team to build a business from it.

Digital culture is not about hero CEOs. Digital culture is about your team’s ability to innovate in collaboration with your customers.

As they say, “give them what they want”.

Speaking of giving people what they want, what was it in this article that stood out to you? What topics are at the forefront of your mind right now?

Let’s have that conversation.

--Lenwood

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Digital Culture, Collaboration and Business Continuity Risk

Mar 17, 2020
The last global pandemic was the 1918 influenza or Spanish flu pandemic. It was spread mainly along major transportation routes by troops returning home after the end of the first World War. I’m learning that the best way to stop a pandemic is containment then mitigation. Taking drastic measures to shut down places where people gather as quickly as possible has a significant impact. In 1918, New York City and Philadelphia were shut down completely.
 
There isn’t anyone around that experienced the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. Airlines, movie theaters, amusement parks, coworking facilities, and entertainment venues were nonexistent or completely different in kind.
 
Is the risk of pandemic greater now given the interconnectedness of our world? Troops returning home from war is a relatively unique event. Flights connecting major international destinations occur daily.
 
We noticed the big tech companies were the first to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. In fact, while governments still seemed to be uncertain, these organizations took action to protect their workers and business continuity.
 
Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft and other technology companies in Silicon Valley were the first to close their offices. Their employees are now working remotely.
 
My wife works at an Amazon subsidiary and was among the first people asked to work from home. The next day, she worked from home. No problems.
 
It was easy to see that Amazon could go on without much business interruption. Later in the week, I asked my wife how things were going with everyone working remotely?
 
She said, “it seems like people are getting more done.”
 
So, why was it relatively easy for her and her teammates?
 
Big tech has been using cloud-based collaboration tools for a while.
 
In fact, cross-functional collaboration is a hallmark of digital culture.
 
My wife’s team has both the tools and behaviors that support productive remote work.
 
Big tech still has its challenges with remote work. But the capability is not an issue.
 
Until this crisis, I hadn’t given much thought to cloud-based collaboration as a business continuity issue.
 
But, if it wasn’t evident before, CEOs of smaller businesses now know that it is.
 
It’s arguably more important for smaller firms. Last-minute adjustments can be costly. 
 
 
In an interview on CNBC’s Squawk Box, Catherine D. Wood, the CEO and Chief Investment Officer of ARK Invest, an investment manager focused solely on disruptive innovation, said that “in times of distress we have seen that the disruptive technology companies gain market share. It has happened every time.” (paraphrased)
 
I’m beginning to understand why.
 
We’ve chosen the following digital tools to help us get our work done.
 
1. Communication and Collaboration – Microsoft Teams
 
What is it? Teams is Microsoft’s collaboration platform. It is a hub for teamwork that brings together chat, meetings and calling.
 
What do you love about it? It’s built to encourage cross-functional project-based collaboration. This is different from the analog approach where communication occurs through email-based daisy chains.
 
Whether you use Teams, Slack or some other communication tool, cross-functional collaboration is where your digital transformation journey should begin. The current crisis is demonstrating that now more than ever.
 
Teams integrates perfectly with the Microsoft tools that I have been using for over 20 years. Yes, there is new learning but I’m starting from a familiar place. Like most smaller businesses, I’m concerned with cost. Since Teams is a free add-on to Office 365, the decision for me was easy.
 
The platform and its eco-system continue to develop and improve. I find new features and applications all-the-time that save me time as I work.
 
Whatever collaboration platform you choose, it should work for your organization. Understanding how the pieces of the infrastructure fit together (e.g., communication, productivity, and storage) goes a long way toward building an affordable and simple IT stack.
 
This can be a challenge for smaller firms who are relying on managed service providers that are not experts in digital transformation.
 
When I first started using Office 365, I did not use Teams.
 
Asana, our project management application, has become more important as our team and projects have grown. With projects increasing in number and complexity, Teams grows in importance.
 
More important than what you use is why you use it. We have a vision for our entire customer network to win. So, we focus on learning the tools and adopting behaviors and helping our customer network learn the behaviors and adopt the tools useful to them.
 
Digital culture requires intention.
 
One note. Platforms are designed for lock-in. The more that you use them, the bigger a headache you will have leaving.
 
Freemium is a digital strategy. Don’t choose a platform just because it's free to use. We use Teams because it is strategic for our business.
 
I have the added benefit of being a student of digital transformation and the strategies of technology providers. Constant learning is in our DNA.
 
Our recommendations are based on a variety of factors, including my opinions on business model viability. Remember, eToys? What about myspace?
 
Where can I get it? Accelery is a Microsoft cloud solution provider so we sell the entire Microsoft productivity suite, including Teams and Office 365. We also sell G-Suite.
 
As I mentioned before, we’re launching a Microsoft Teams and Office 365 accelerator in a few weeks. But if your organization needs these products today, our team can support you.
 
2. Video Communication – Zoom
 
What is it? Zoom is a video-first communication service that works well on any device.
 
What do you love about it? We use Zoom because it works well with Outlook. We also use it for our phone service.
 
My external meetings are mostly originating through email so Zoom seems to work better for me under those circumstances. But this is a legacy behavior that I have not yet changed.
 
I am adjusting my work habits to improve cross-functional collaboration. As I build our team, we are organizing our work around projects rather than functions or departments to support this goal.
 
For productivity, I intentionally limit both external and internal ad hoc meetings so Zoom still works for us. Research shows that meeting culture is very important to productivity, so we focus on that.
 
Also, this still works for us now because our team is relatively small. I collaborate regularly with only 32 people.  But we will likely move away from Zoom so that our communications occur in Teams, including our calls. Teams has both video and calling capability.
 
That’s important because we want our teammates to input and extract information related to the project as necessary from the beginning of the project through to the end. With an accurate record, this can be done easily without losing time searching for information or having to bring a new teammate “up-to-speed". We want accurate, centralized, and searchable.
 
Teams is our chosen Hub for communication and Zoom is a legacy application. Decisions. Decisions.
 
Larger organizations may find that people are using different applications for different reasons. Some may be using Slack, Teams, G-Suite, Dropbox, Zoom, and a host of other applications. As your organizations begin to pursue a digital culture, simplifying IT becomes more important.
 
With slightly larger organizations (i.e., beginning around 100+ employees), there will be a greater need for adoption and change management.
 
 
3. Social Media Platform – LinkedIn
 
What is it? LinkedIn is a social media platform primarily for business-to-business communication.
 
What do you love about it? It is the largest database of professionals in the world continuously updated by the professionals themselves.
 
It is mandatory for owners of smaller businesses, CEOs, and professionals of all kinds.
 
Most people aren’t using LinkedIn to maximum advantage, including me. But here’s what I know. If you’re a professional in any industry, you should be on LinkedIn. Your audience is on LinkedIn. Your ability to reach them is exponential.
 
Bringing analog thinking and tactics to LinkedIn is of little value. What do I mean by that?
 
Robo-InMail is the worse use of LinkedIn. Very transactional.
 
People who are using LinkedIn most effectively use it to establish their authority and influence. If you want to be perceived by others as an expert in any field, engage with others who are perceived as experts and their audience on LinkedIn will see you.
 
Share, like, and comment on posts. Engage with influencers and change-makers. Offer your own curated articles (i.e., articles that may be of interest to your audience) and develop your own content. Share your expertise and your journey, authentically.
 
This may be a big challenge for many of you. It is for me. I am a reluctant self-promotor.  I am also private. The thought of a video of myself on LinkedIn is terrifying.  
 
I like encouraging, helping, and promoting others. So, I focus on that.
 
Using your profile as an online resume is more limited, especially for career advancement. The...
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Digital Marketing - Experimentation and the Art of Learning

Mar 03, 2020

In my email "Focus on Your Human to Win at Digital", I argued that digital transformation begins with understanding customers better. I showed how the Kidpik team created a niche retail category leader using new technologies and new strategies applying their customer knowledge acquired over 30 years in the traditional specialty retail industry.

The research shows that today the Kidpik team is the exception rather than the rule.

The authors of The Technology Fallacy offer a few possible explanations for executives failing to act in response to the threat of digital disruption:
C-level and board-level executives tend to report far more optimistic views of the company on important issues than executives ranked lower in their company.
Executives may not understand enough about technology to make the changes or to understand the urgency.
Board members and investors may care more about short-term profits than the long-term viability of the company.
Many leaders may be counting down the years to retirement, and thus they don’t have the energy or the interest to engage in the type of changes necessary to adapt the company for a future in which they will not participate.
Companies are trying to balance too many competing priorities.
It’s difficult to keep the current business running while also preparing it for a digital future.
Regardless of the reason, stasis is not an effective approach. And perhaps, the least compelling argument is that an industry or business is ill-suited to digital transformation. This approach betrays a lack of understanding about what’s driving this massive transformation.

Hint – its consumers.

Amazon’s Naysayers

A little over 6 months ago, Amazon announced that it had been investing to accelerate from 2-day delivery to 1-day delivery for its popular Prime membership service.

Wall Street analysts balked at this move. How much do consumers really need 1-day shipping, they questioned?

While the value of other technology companies soared during 2019, Amazon’s share price remained relatively unchanged as skeptical investors waited.

Interestingly, Amazon had been offering 1-day, and in some cases, same-day shipping on some products for a few years. Had they learned something prior to launching the multibillion investment that they had not yet revealed?

It turns out they had.

Amazon’s theory of the case was simple. While Amazon would benefit from a 1-day shipping advantage as compared to Walmart or Target, the true power of the move would be to change consumer behavior.

Upon reporting the results of their investment, Amazon Chief Financial Officer Brian Olsavsky would report, speedier shipping is causing Prime members to shop more.”

Digital Maturity

Amazon is arguably the most digitally mature organization on the planet.

By one definition, digital maturity is “aligning an organization’s people, culture, structure, and tasks to compete effectively by taking advantage of opportunities enabled by technological infrastructure, both inside and outside the organization.”

There is a scale to digital maturity with hallmarks for different points on the curve. Organizations move from early-stage to developing to maturing.

Target and Walmart, two of Amazon’s most capable competitors, are developing in their digital maturity. Within a reasonable amount of time, they will be able to respond.

Although Amazon is more digitally mature than Target and Walmart, they are not the competitors that are most vulnerable to Amazon’s push for 1-day delivery.

In fact, Target and Walmart were already responding to Amazon’s move before Amazon announced its billion-dollar investment.

How does a retailer who had failed to make the investments to change adequately in the face of two-day delivery respond when consumers no longer need to go to their store for a last-minute purchase?

To put a finer point on Brian Olsavky’s statement, “speeding shipping is causing Prime members to shop more with Amazon.”

Amazon's newest innovation changed its value proposition using its existing technology infrastructure and partner eco-system to win an even greater share of the Prime customer’s wallet, making the Prime customer even more valuable to them.

Amazon was not seeking to acquire Target or Walmart customers, as Wall Street had speculated. Amazon was acquiring a greater share of wallet from their existing customers. (i.e., retailers getting last-minute purchase from Amazon prime customers.)

The real threat to companies either not pursuing digital transformation or in the earliest stage is an inability to respond as digitally mature organizations create new differentiating value propositions with advances in technology.

An apt analogy would be attempting to tag the base runner out as he’s rounding third when you're standing between home plate and first base.

Score another run for your opponent.

Product versus Value Proposition Thinking

Value propositions aren't the only way to think about market value although some would say its an underutilized method.

I prefer the value proposition method because I have learned as an entrepreneur that no product or service has market value apart from a consumer’s willingness to buy it.

It doesn’t matter how great the product.

Value proposition design takes this into account.

The business landscape is littered with great products that no one was willing to buy.

In The Start-Up Handbook, Steve Blank recounts the story of Webvan. Webvan was a start-up at the end of the late 20th century. They raised $800 million to revolutionize the $450 billion retail grocery business with online ordering and same-day door-to-door grocery delivery.

Webvan’s $400 million IPO and $8.5 billion dollar valuation were astronomical at the time. “Webvan believed this was one of the first ‘killer applications’ for the Internet.”

By 1990s standards, Webvan had done everything right.

Within 24 months of their IPO, they were out-of-business.

In the 2010s, it was WeWork. In the wake of their failed IPO at a $42 billion valuation, investors had to pay founder and former CEO Adam Neumann $1.7 billion just to make him go away.

WeWork has an amazing product. Whether there is a sustainable business model for it, remains to be seen.

The Power and Opportunity of Knowing

Innovation requires imagining a solution without knowing who will buy it or knowing how you will create it.

Value proposition design answers who, what and why. Business model design answers how.

When all of that is done, its still just a hypothesis until customers buy.

By the time Amazon announced that they would be investing billions to move from 2-day to 1-day shipping, they knew it would work.

The real power of digital marketing is the ability to know whether you will succeed before you invest.

Digital maturity enables you to design, test, and experiment faster than your less mature competitors.

Amazon had been testing the impact of 1-day shipping for years before they rolled out the service.

Here’s the opportunity.

It’s still early.

We can develop the mindsets. Learn the strategies. Embrace the tools.

We can win too.

--Lenwood

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Focus on Your Human to Win at Digital

Feb 04, 2020
Two weeks ago, Clayton M. Christensen lost his battle with cancerpassing away at the age of 67.  Professor Christensen’s bookThe Innovator’s Dilemmais arguably one of the most important business books ever written.  He was a Harvard Business School (HBS) professor whose revolutionary theory on disruptive innovation haimpacted billions through its application by entrepreneurs and business executives.  Unless you went to HBS or are somehow involved in the innovation eco-system, you may never have heard of him. 

One of the cornerstones of Prof. Christensen’s 
theory was that the things that make well-managed companies successful are the same things that eventually lead to their downfall.  When The Innovator’s Dilemma was published in 1997, this was radical thinking. 

        
Today, we almost take for granted that innovation is the key to 
sustaining and growing your competitive position in the marketplace. The issue, Christensen argued, was that businesses, having become so skilled at selling whatever widget or service they were offering, focused on shorter-term metrics, neglected to take big risks, invest in longer-term ideasor react to potentially disruptive new technology or business models. 


Christensen focused
 on the X factor of innovation – humans.
  
 

The Innovation
 X Factor

We often talk about organizations or even industries as monoliths doing this or doing that.  It’s easy to forget that people are making decisions and experiencinthe consequences of those decisions.  It’s also easy to forget that even when we talk about business-to-business transactionshuman beings are making the decisions, whether to use, buy, recommend, review, refer, or ignore.   

Since
 human beings are making the decisions, we must focus on understanding their motivations if we hope to serve them.  I use the term “serve” intentionally.  By serve, I do not mean customer service as it is traditionally used. 

 
Customer service is such a small part of the customer’s experience.   

By 
serve, I mean the value that you are uniquely qualified to provide to your customer (this includes internal customers in your organization)? 

What benefit do you offer your customer?  How do you provide that benefit? 

Understand What 
Motivates Your Customer 

Even though I worked in business as a corporate attorney, I had no business experience when I started my entrepreneurial journey.  I thought that I did. 
I did not know what I did not know. 

When I was 
an undergraduate, I had studied Joseph Schumpeter and his theory of “creative disruption” which is the academic antecedent to Christensen’s work, whereby capitalism inherently destroys old industries and economic systems in the process of innovating new ones. 

 
But, that’s pretty much it.  Like many of you, I had no occasion to think about creating value or innovating for my customers.

Why is any of this important? 


When Christensen wrote his book in the 
mid-1990s, technology was mostly purchased by businesses, not consumers.  Today, that’s no longer the case.  Even my mother who lives in “the country” has an iPad.  (For those who don’t know, in the Souththe country” refers to that metaphorical last mile where there is still no cell service.) 

 
The adoption of technology has changed the motivating factors for consumers far beyond the basics of price, accessibility, and performance.   
 
It has also created exponentially more ways to understand customers' motivations. Shotgun advertising (mass marketing) and mass production are relics.

O
rganizations must adapt to the accelerating adoption of technology by consumers and the impact that it’s having on their behavior. 


Consider th
is example from retail.  
 
Kidpik is a fashion retailer for girls that uses digital to deliver clothing of exceptional style and accessibility (i.e., affordability).  Launched in 2016there are no stores. Mix and match outfits based on styles pre-selected by girls are delivered monthly, quarterly, or annuallywhatever is chosen, on a subscription-based model.  Girls keep only what they like.  They may return everything else.  Big discount, if they keep it all.  Girls are thrilled to unbox their outfits when their box arrives. 

A very different experience than a trip to the mall battl
ing traffic, searching for styles and sizes, and dealing with nonsense


Use What You 
Know… 

As I mentioned in my last email, most organizations start their digital transformation journey by focusing on digital marketing as an “add on”.  They do not address digital strategy. 
 
For example, a retailer with stores launches a website where the same outfits found in the store are sold.  Emails with discounts are sent incessantly and millions are spent on Facebook ads to little or no effect.  In a business with tight margins, that’s a recipe for bankruptcy. Hence, the retail apocalypse. 

But consider 
that traditional retailer business model versus the kidpik business model.  Kidpik’s model creates an experience for the end-user (the daughter) and the economic decision-maker (the mom) that’s hard to beat.   

 
But just as important is the way that the value is delivered – the value network, the people, partners, assets, and processes that enable the business to create, deliver, and earn value from the value proposition are fundamentally different. 

This is what is meant by business model
.  Both business models use digital marketing.  Digital marketing is not a secret sauce.  In fact, it turns out that it’s a poison pill without a digital strategy.  
Ezra Dabah is the founder of kidpik.  He has been an entrepreneur in the children’s apparel industry working with his creative team of 30 years.  
 
How have Ezra and his team succeeded in transforming where others have failed? 

The answer
 is mindset and mission.   


…and Grow
 

Retail still requires design, merchandising, sourcingmanufacturing, and marketing.  Without this expertise, all the technology in the world won’t help.   
But Ezra and his team did not get stuck in the competency trap of attempting to work in the same way they had worked in the past.   
 
They had a willingness to grow, to learn, and to take a risk.   

Most important, they recognized that 
their formula for retail success based on their deep understanding of their customer and their passion just needed a new formula for business success (a new business model). 


Full disclosure. I 
have known Ezra Dabah and many of the people on his team for over 15 yearsSo, I want to touch on an important factor, which I know has helped them succeed.   

 
Their mission is their passion. 

At the heart of every kidpik subscription box is our mission to make fashion accessible to all girls and give back to girls in need."

The mission permeates the brandIt captures the heart of the customer (both the end-user and the economic decision-maker) and it motivates the employees.  This combination is critical to success in digital.  Slinging products, digitally or otherwise, just doesn’t work.
 
--- 

I’m thankful to those of you who have provided feedback.  I welcome more.   
 
My passion is to encourage you, my audience, to take advantage of the opportunities presented by digital.  Use what you know and grow. 
 
By overcoming your fears and making the necessary changes, you can thrive. 
 
I know it.  
 
--Lenwood
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Decide to Win at Digital

Jan 21, 2020

Disruption is a buzzword, no doubt. By now, you may even roll your eyes when you see it. But, it’s real and the implications for our organizations are profound. We must remember our objective - create new value for our customers that our competitors cannot replicate. To that end, whether we succeed in the digital era depends on three things:

1. Embrace Personal Growth. We must change. If we’re willing to become better versions of ourselves, we will do just fine. But, we must watch out for competency traps. These are beliefs that the factors of past success will also lead to future success. They can cause us to ignore our need for continued personal growth.

2. Understand New Technologies and New Strategies. It’s tempting to think that new technologies are for the tech guys. But that approach no longer works. We need both to understand new technologies and to understand how they impact the five domains of digital transformation: customers, competition, data, innovation, and value. Technology is changing the way business is done and we need to be on top of it. Our business acumen will help us apply these new technologies and new strategies to thrive.

3. Commit to Leadership Development. Leadership development has always been important. Teamwork and cross-functional collaboration, however, have never been more important. Leading teams of people with technical skills that we do not have will require new levels of empathy and trust. These leadership skills will take consistent effort and new tools to develop and improve. We need everyone in our very lean organizations to engage. Our employees have the potential to be our best brand ambassadors. Bad behavior won’t be tolerated. Our leadership skills must be on point to win long-term.

My life began to change when I embraced these three principles. There are tremendous rewards for executives willing to embrace them. I offer the following additional resources to help you as we continue this journey together.

1. Book – The Digital Transformation Playbook – Rethink your business for the digital age

a. What is it? The Digital Transformation Playbook is the first book that I read about digital business. It addresses digital strategy and how digital technologies have changed the nature of customers, competition, data, innovation, and value.

b. What do you love about it? Digital transformation is business transformation. Executives must understand the strategic implications of digital rather than focusing only on specific tactics, like digital marketing. This is not to minimize the importance of digital marketing. Digital marketing is essential. However, digital marketing will not transform your business to beat your competition.

Note: Digital marketing to date has been primarily in response to FOMO (i.e., anxiety from fear of missing out), much to the benefit of Google and Facebook. Typically, it is the first step in an organization's digital transformation journey. But watch out. FOMO can distort our perspective causing us to think of digital marketing as synonymous with digital transformation. This limiting belief is potentially disastrous to our long-term prospects.

c. Where can I get it? You can get it here.

2. Value Proposition Design Tool – Value Proposition Canvas

a. What is it? The value proposition canvas is a tool for analyzing product/market fit, mapping the jobs our customers and prospects are trying to complete with the products and services that we offer or are creating.

b. What do you love about it? One word, clarity. Innovation begins with understanding our customers. The biggest challenge that innovators face is shifting focus from ourselves to our customers (i.e., a customer is an object that serves our interests rather than who we serve). This is a big hurdle. The value proposition canvas emphasizes the relationship between the customer and the product. Value does not exist in a vacuum. Customers determine value. So, it's critical to understand our customers and to articulate clearly the value that our products or services offer to them.

This tool helps to figure that out. Here’s an explainer video for the value proposition canvas ----> Explainer Video Here

c. Where can I get it? You can buy the value proposition design book here ----> Get it here!  (If you want to get the full business model mapping tool, which includes this product development tool, you may want to purchase the online business modeling application with innovation training and other business model development tools. Here’s an explainer video for the business model tool. ----> Explainer Video  If you want to get started with that tool, you can get it here. ----> Join Here

3. Project Management Tool – Asana.com

a. What is it? Asana is my new best friend. It’s a very intuitive project management tool that integrates beautifully with Office 365 and Teams. We can create tasks, communicate, and collaborate seamlessly.

b. What do you love about it? The team at Asana understands the project management value proposition. They use digital technology to distribute that value intuitively through the organization transforming project management from a function into an organizational behavior (i.e., habit). That’s a disruptive value proposition.

Our small team uses the premium version. It gives us all the functionality that we need. By allowing us to prioritize our tasks based on company goals and milestones, it helps us to focus on the activities that matter. I love that we can see how our tasks relate to our company goals. The Asana mobile app is fantastic. The Asana academy also helps.

Here is a link to reviews of Asana. http://bit.ly/2RwDjV3

You can also use this site to compare it to other project management applications, such as Trello and Monday.com

c. Where can I get it? http://asana.com

Which of these resources do you think would be most useful for you?

I have never been more serious about embracing new thinking and new tools.

Please let me know what you’re doing to adapt in the digital era.

As always, I look forward to your comments and questions. Thanks for engaging!

Until next time…

---Lenwood

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Digital Disruption Defined

Jan 07, 2020

In my blog post, Digital Disruption – Finding a Way Forward through Transformational Change, I talked about three areas that I believe should be addressed by each executive to remain relevant in the context of digital disruption: limiting beliefs, understanding new technology, and improving leadership skills.

Today, I’d like to discuss digital disruption in greater detail.

What is digital disruption?

Disruption has become a buzzword. It is used haphazardly by pundits on CNBC, Bloomberg News, and elsewhere to mean any innovation.

In startup culture, the notion of disruption has achieved cult-like following as entrepreneurs are exhorted to “disrupt everything” and many pursue business ideas with that sole purpose in mind.

Yet, the purpose of innovation is not simply to disrupt existing enterprises.

Innovation is about new value creation.

In his book The Digital Transformation Playbook, Professor David L. Rogers offers this definition:

Business disruption happens when an existing industry faces a challenger that offers far greater value to the customer in a way that existing firms cannot compete with directly.

Professor Rodgers goes on to explain the four key components of business disruption:

· Has a Business Impact. First, we are talking about innovations that disrupt business rather than an innovation that merely impacts culture, law, or politics. For example, the wheelchair was an innovation that changed mobility for disabled persons. It had an impact on politics, law, and culture. But it did not have a disruptive impact on business.

· In the Context of an Existing Industry. For an innovation to be disruptive, it must disrupt something else. Social media, generally, and Facebook, specifically, has been tremendously disruptive to the advertising industry. But, Friendster and MySpace, two predecessor social media companies that had no such impact on the advertising industry.

· Offering Greater Value to the Customer. Whenever disruption occurs, it is because the new offering is suddenly more attractive to customers than the offering that the existing industry provides. Google disrupted the advertising industry before Facebook. But it disrupted the industry in a way that is entirely different. Both Google and Facebook offer new value to advertisers but with very different business models.

· That Cannot Be Competed with Directly. This is another key distinction between digital disruption and traditional competition. In traditional competition, two or more companies compete to offer the customer better product features, lower prices, or better service. When innovation is disruptive, the challenger is not selling a different version of the same product or service. It meets the customer’s needs with a product, service, or business model that the existing industry does not, or cannot, offer.

Innovation is not always disruptive, nor does it have to be. However, disruptive innovation causes a seismic shift in the way that customers behave, impacts business models (i.e., how businesses create value, deliver it to the market, and capture value in return), and the future viability of profitable incumbents.

Why does this matter?

For most of the past 40 years, new computing technologies improved processes. These software-enabled process improvements helped businesses be more profitable.

The cost of these software programs gave a strategic advantage to larger businesses because of the significant investments of time and treasure that were required to obtain and implement the systems.

But the products didn’t fundamentally alter customer behavior, value creation, competition, data, or innovation in the industries or markets where they were used.

Digital technologies, on the other hand, are rewriting the rules of business in each of those domains. Professor Rodgers noted,

“If the Industrial Revolution was about machines transforming nearly every physical act of labor and value creation, we are still at the beginning of a revolution in which computing will transform nearly every logical act of value creation.”

Today, even the smallest companies have access to the same tools used by their largest competitors.

Digitally native companies can use these tools to create, market, and deliver new customer experiences or digital products extremely quickly.

Consider, for example, marketing automation software. For the small business owner, marketing automation software is very affordable (I.e., $100 per person per month).

In a matter of minutes, marketing automation software can be launched and integrated with LinkedIn and Facebook providing immediate access to millions of prospective customers.

Shortly thereafter, this same small business owner can be marketing her products and services, locally, or to prospective customers across the globe.

My point is that very powerful technology products are available to everyone. The technology is not a competitive advantage.

The competitive advantage is in a constantly maturing organization

New technologies are an important part of the digital story; but, an infatuation with technology is a big mistake.

In the digital era, businesses that focus on digital maturity will be the winners.

Digital maturity is the process of learning how to respond appropriately to the emerging competitive digital environment.

Digital maturity is critical because the democratization of technology means that disruption is constant. Remember, the advertising industry was disrupted first by Google and then by Facebook.

Today, there are few digitally mature organizations. Amazon is arguably the most digitally mature organization, which is truly remarkable given Amazon’s size.

In studying digital transformation, I had assumed that digitally native companies would be more digitally mature.

However, I have been surprised to discover that digitally native organizations struggle with digital maturity also.

Next month, I’ll discuss digital transformation in greater detail and get into the specifics of why digital maturity is the key to success.

In the meantime, do you think your organization is responding appropriately to competitive threats from digital upstarts?


--Lenwood

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