The world is in beta
From the moment we wake, to the moment we sleep
Nothing will be untouched by the influence of digital, from manufacturing processes to consumer goods like washing machines and contact lenses. Digital technology will connect every part of every life, from nomadic tribes to space tourists. The predictable world has been upgraded.
In the future you won’t so much have a workforce and a supply chain as a strategic network of employees, suppliers, partners, and stakeholders. In fact, we’re only just beginning to understand the power of digital networks: they’re organic and self-organising, and they’re always ‘on’. They can launch new ideas, and destroy reputations; they can bring down governments and change policy, and for businesses, they can open up extraordinary new opportunities. But you can only seize those opportunities if your business is ‘on’ just as these networks are. What does being ‘on’ mean? It means taking part –joining in conversations and engaging with the right circles, and it means doing that in an active, positive spirit, not just as a silent observer; it means being connected in real-time and 24/7, and using the insights you gain to shape your decision-making; and it means ensuring that everything you do- online and off – is absolutely relevant to your brand, whether Nestlé, Shell or Chanel.
We sum up what businesses need to do to achieve this with the phrase ‘Digital never sleeps’. It’s our shorthand for what you need to change inside your organisation, and how you need to behave differently outside it.
The first of these new behavioural patterns is speed. You’ll need an agile and flexible organisation that makes decisions quickly and efficiently, and can change direction if it needs to, one that maximises the data and insight digital can provide. There’s no aspect of the business that’s immune here: everything from processes to supply chain, reporting to risk management must be made leaner and faster. So how do you do that? The fundamental principles are straightforward enough: ‘simplify, standardise, and share’.
The second is empowerment. You need a culture which challenges convention and encourages experimentation and entrepreneurship, where taking reasonable risks is rewarded, within a framework of values and policies strong enough to make sure the business and its assets are protected. And why is empowerment so important? Because it drives innovation. One thing we’ve learned in the last few years is that innovation no longer belongs to R&D, or lives in a lab, and in a genuinely empowered culture new ideas really can emerge from anywhere – including your customers – whether ideas for new products, or ideas for new approaches or ways of working. This is vital because to succeed in the digital age you need to innovate faster and be prepared to fail, as long as you fail quickly and move on, knowing that there is no longer one right answer, because the world, as well as your business, is in permanent ‘beta’.
Lastly, trust. The winners of the future will be those businesses that understand the value of trust, and place an extraordinarily high priority on protecting it. But before customers trust a business, a business must trust itself, and that depends on having the right information to make the right decisions at the critical time.
Only then will you have the confidence to experiment, to innovate, and to breathe new life into all areas of your organisation.