Thursday, 31 December 2015

Six things I've learned about Digital in 2015

As 2015 winds to a close I've been reflecting on what I've learned this year. For succinctness, I'll keep this post just to 'learned about the Digital Economy'. Enjoy, and thanks for reading in 2015!

This is taking ages... I've been amazed by the slow pace of change to digital economy cultures amongst organisations in all sectors. Having been thinking about this for years I take for granted that ideas like Lean Startup are the norm in management, but it seems not. I realise that I've been unrealistic. These kinds of massive changes take decades and I suspect I'll be advising on this phase for much of the next ten years of my career.

The fundamental lessons are the same in every industry. This year, my team and I have worked in a huge range of industries, from government departments to construction machinery, snake bites to sportswear, groceries to car manufacturer, appliances to social media, and in most cases we've come in as generalists. And that's just fine because the discipline of setting strategy and building growth ventures using Lean Startup applies in every circumstance, albeit often with tweaks to enable the language and pace to work in a given organisation without being rejected by the corporate immune system. This gives me a great deal of confidence that we're on to something :)

We must be on the verge of another wave of extinctions?! The slow pace of change in organisations, coupled with continued heavy investment into startups suggests that some industries that have hitherto remained secure may well start to suffer in 2016. Retail banking, insurance of all sorts and healthcare providers have all managed to avoid disruption despite inaction. With new waves of challenger banks entering the UK and US market, a glut of data coming from all sides that'll enable radically better risk assessment and health outcomes this must be the year for one of these three titans to feel at least a bit of pinch?

Objectivity is still absent in many businesses. Good metrics are the simplest, yet most fundamental thing that any organisation needs in the Digital Economy. Without them it's impossible to spot disruption and opportunities for growth, nor is it possible to change the organisation with new management ideas or new technologies without having a baseline to work from. The worst culprits? Still Marketing departments.

'Experts' are still very vague about a lot of things! And I include myself in this: many methodologies and ideas about growth and leadership in the new economy are still ill-formed. It's easy for people like me to be defocused and flit between new ideas rather than focus on clear methods that help people without the luxury of time to think about the change understand the concepts, plot a  course and act on advice. Next year I'm going to narrow my team and I's focus and be really clear about what we do and how we do it. The 'miracles of nature' have to go.

It's really hard to find digital strategy talent. I read a report on this for my own team, which suggested that there were only about 1,000 digital strategy professionals in the UK. That could be true, but in my experience the challenge of recruiting is not about finding the needle in the haystack that is the fully qualified, experienced professional, but instead it's about finding the right combination of smarts, flexibility and grit that enables digital strategy people to be trained. It's a funny role, spanning deep intellectual musings all the way through to building and trading startups and you need to have experienced it all to set strategy effectively... needless to say I'll be focusing on building rather than buying next year.

So there we are. Six things I've learned during this crazy year of growth and discovery. I'd love to think 2016 will be calmed... but there's no chance of that. First stop for me will be Las Vegas for CES. I look forward to telling you all about it!

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