If you liked the recent acceleration of digital transformation, raise your hand.” I often use this question in opening my keynotes about transformation and innovation. Apart from my ex-colleagues in the Big Tech industry, loving the revenue growth associated with it, most established companies’ business leaders did not. The reason is quite simple, it was forced on them by the COVID-19 sanitary crisis and the successive lockdowns we faced. To complete digital adoption within businesses, what was planned over a period of 5 years or so had to be accomplished in 8 weeks, according to McKinsey! Business leaders had to execute transformations at lightning speed, as a French Post Customer Experience Leader shared with me: “We had to make decisions within days with the advent of COVID, that before could take months if made at all.” Who likes that?

Three revolutions at work – Digital, Customer Experience, and Impact

The world is changing fast as three revolutions are at work today for businesses and organizations to face, all accelerated by the COVID sanitary crisis:

  1. The advent of the experience economy (customers’ and employees’ experiences)
    • customers are in control: significant changes with 60% of consumers changing suppliers and purchasing behavior during the lockdown – which has pushed brands to transform their customer experience, e.g. offering click & collect for retail. More than ever before, the customer experience is the differentiator.
    • employee experience matters: The Great Resignation (or tsunami of resignation in the US), where the resignation rate exploded in March and April 2020 with more than 22 Million resignations, or nearly 16% of the US workforce, in just 2 months, while it is traditionally 2.4%. Now new candidates to be hired top question is “What is the company’s policy about working remotely?”. Unheard of before COVID.
  2. Digital transformation: “Digital adoption has jumped 5 years forward in just 8 weeks of confinement”, says McKinsey. This impacts the strategy and reputation of brands both in their market and as an employer, but also in most of their business process as recent research shows.
    • with the increased importance of millennials (40 years and younger), already representing 60% of decision-makers in my industry (Big Tech), it is about digital natives vs. Digital immigrants like me. And not to forget that 67% of them care about their company integrating Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or ESG into their DNA and business model.
  3. So finally the Impact Revolution: Returns on investments and Risk can no longer be the only two indicators of the value of a company or investment equity. The environmental, social, and societal impacts are now taken into account materially by shareholders and investors as a third indicator to decide and act. If you are interested, Sir Ronald Cohen covers in depth this topic and demonstrates it brilliantly in his book “Impact”. This gives rise to new governance forming the G of ESG (Environment, Social, Governance). The material value of externalities at the bottom of the balance sheet came to remind us of the current conflict in Ukraine for those who still doubted it.

The Impact Revolution is a movement in which we all play a part. It introduces a simple idea, but one that has enormous ramifications for our world: the incorporation of impacts on people and planet into the way we think, make decisions and act.

Sir Ronald Cohen, Co-Founder of APAX Partners,
Chairman of the Global Steering Group for Impact Investment

These three forces combined in a very short period of time must undoubtedly have profoundly changed our relationship with the agility, adaptability, and resilience of our companies and their management: transforming and innovating is the way to go!

Awareness drives responsibility

March ’21 – 16,254 adults in 16 advanced economies

The awareness about climate change harming people, and due solely to our human activities since the industrial revolution, is on the rise. With awareness comes responsibility, so 80% of the 72% “aware” are willing to change lives and work as a result — Source Pew Research. Can you ignore it in your business plans?

After presenting this context with facts, I project my audience into the future and ask them to evaluate how many years they think maintaining the status quo will be bearable for their business to survive. That is part of initiating the desire to change and overcome the expected resistance to the change, as this Beckhard and Harris Change Model explains:

D x V x F > R

Where D = Dissatisfaction with current situation, V = Vision of future possibilities, F = First steps towards the vision, and R = Resistance to change.

This is not a C-Suite marketing campaign but a cultural change

Responding to the triple revolution at work described here, requires a systemic approach from leaders. One cannot expect to embark on this journey with a narrow view coming only from the C-Suite, quite the contrary actually. This is a transformation that should be fueled with innovation co-designed with employees and customers where design thinking can help a great deal. Innovation by the way do not stand only for technology, social innovation and business innovation are also invited to the party.

But as Simon Sinek points out, this is not a C-Suite marketing campaign but closer to a product launch model applied to a cultural change. Think about it with the law of diffusion of innovation in mind, where you want to reach the tipping point of your organization awareness and engagement, usually around 15 to 18% of your workforce.

“The biggest mistake that companies make when trying to make cultural transformations is treating it like a marketing campaign. There’s a model you can use to help make big changes from starting small.”

Simon Sinek – Optimist and Author at Simon Sinek Inc.

It could be a good idea as well to use someone from the outside to deliver key messages to ignite this awareness, like Simon did and that I love to do as well. Storytelling for influence and impact.

It actually starts with the people in mind, your people as they are at the heart of your business. But rather than saying it on slides or through posters about your company’s values at your premises, it’s far more difficult to embody this belief and act upon it everyday.

Another great turnaround CEO, Hubert Joly, that did wonders at Best Buy, wrote about this and tells us the following:

“Purpose and human connections constitute the very heart of business and the necessary and urgent refoundation of business now under way. Employees, customers, and even shareholders expect much more from corporations than a blind pursuit of profit. Disengagement at work is a global epidemic.”

Hubert Joly, Former Best Buy CEO

Learnings from the digital transformation

What did you learn from the accelerated digital transformation? Are you willing to go through what you went through during the pandemic and this sudden acceleration of time? Do I need to remind you about this presumably Albert Einstein quote: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results” 😉

Rather, I’d recommend for you to:

  • Advocate Change & enlighten C-Suite strategy
  • Put Employee Experience & Empathy at the forefront
  • Foster Collective Intelligence & Action

A lot more is to be said about how to address the triple revolution at stake, but I’ll leave it at this for today. Let’s look at it as a fantastic opportunity to make People, Planet and Prosperity congrue to your improved financial performance, with a big smile!

Make People, Planet and Prosperity reunited again

As usual, please share your views, experience and feel free to engage with questions.

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