“The most adaptable of the species survive,” said Charles Darwin. For Bill Coutinho, the same goes for companies that want to survive in the digital world, as long as they abandon their last century way of doing things.
It is a harsh but true statement: companies that are not willing to constantly change will die. As if the speed of business transformation were not sufficient evidence, the pandemic came and blatantly showed us that the predictable world in which long-term planning could be done no longer exists. The coronavirus has exposed the weakness of the model that reigned during the 20th century.
Since the beginning of the 21st century, we have been working on the idea of digital transformation and have come to the conclusion that companies need to adapt. Then the concept of digital acceleration came up, born from the realization that the market is changing very quickly and companies need to accelerate their digitalization.
This is where the British naturalist Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution comes in: the species that best adapt to the environment are the ones that survive. In digital transformation, however, the market used to leave the impression that there was a final objective, that is, the process would end for those who were “transformed”. But time has shown that the speed of change is as great as it is continuous.
Add the current pandemic to that, and a new concept is born — Digital Evolution. Those companies that used to put transformation off, still insisting on maintaining last century’s model, found themselves facing the unknown. Even the executives who claimed to know the market and the customer had to deal with uncertainty when the crisis came.
The model in which we all get off our high horse, admitting that we know little, is the one that allows us to understand any scenario and adapt. This reminds me of Socrates, the Greek philosopher, and his maxim: “All I know is that I know nothing.”
The process of evolving digitally
It is clear that the 20th century model played an important role. The companies’ agenda was based on the concept of efficiency, of lean, “doing more with less”. It worked really well. But when you are extremely efficient at something, the ability to adapt decreases. As digitalization of business has progressed, corporate empires as traditional as Kodak, for example, became so fragile that they collapsed. No one was more efficient at making and selling photographic films — until no one else needed them.
Still, the “doing more with less” agenda remains common. But in an ever-changing society, the fundamental question arises: doing more of what? Digital Evolution makes us realize that it is more important to continuously discover what the market expects from a business than the most efficient way of doing it.
It can therefore be concluded that digital transformation is no longer sufficient. A company that is satisfied after “transforming” will soon be left behind again. It is an endless and dynamic process, which requires a new way of doing things supported by digital technologies.
What determines digital evolution?
It is mainly the ability to create and evolve digital products in much faster cycles than in the past. At Cinq, we have a set of methodologies that support us in this objective, and that I intend to detail in an upcoming article.
The purpose of these methods and practices, which are driven by the concept of Digital Transformation, is mainly to make organizations able to adapt and face the existential risks that come after them – and which will never cease to exist.
By Bill Coutinho, director of innovation at Cinq.