“Digital Disruption” by James McQuivey of Forrester Research is most often the first book I recommend to client executives preparing for digital journeys at their organizations. That is because the book most of all emphasizes what it is to have a disruptor’s mindset. I for one think this mindshift is the all important first step. Once you get into the right ‘frame of mind’ to embrace the power and possibility of digital technologies to create value to your customers, you the right preparation for the journey. It helps that the author’s broader research interest in Innovation.
‘People + Infrastructure = Disruption’ forms the key sections of the book. The discussion rallies around a few guideposts in drawing up a digital strategy – the following is a list I gleaned (not necessarily in the order in which they appear in the book) that I found myself adopting into my consulting practice :
1. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking about the incremental product features but ask yourself what the adjacent benefits the customer derives from your offerings. The book presents an alternative framework to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs– Comfort, Connection, Uniqueness and Variety that people desire. Map the product experiences to these needs.
2. In the digital environment, practices for establishing and maintaining barriers to competition matter little and are counterproductive. What matters is ability to deliver value to the customer. Such value comes from seeing what customers need.
3. The discussion on infrastructure includes my favorite topic of the power of digital platforms. Digital Platforms are what the railways or highways were to businesses in the last century. They facilitate one to innovate the adjacent possible; by providing the opportunity for rapid innovation cycles and learning from the inevitable failures. Digital platforms are available to everyone; and are perfectly suited for large companies to exploit without exorbitant investments.
4. The excitement of the developments in digital technologies is that the distance between an idea and the digital realization of that idea is now shortened. The impact comes from the fact that if ten times as many people can participate in bringing ten time as many ideas each to market, only one or two of those ideas need to succeed in order to completely disrupt your business
5. The case studies in the book span internal incubation and external partnering strategies that one could pursue in their digital innovation journeys
6. The book overall does a great job articulating what you as a leader of the digital disruption journey of your company should focus on doing – rapidly identifying a list of the next things your customers want and quickly giving them the few that are easiest for you to deliver. The key message is - Stop trying to predict the future of your products, focus instead on the next possible thing your customers needs and let the future find you !
While I find the emphasis on finding the ‘next adjacent customer need’ a strong lynchpin for ideas on digital disruption, it is not complete in itself in my opinion. Perhaps the next edition of the book would benefit from it if it included:
- discussions on exploiting hard usage data as an asset for pointing to ideas for digital disruption
- structured analysis methods to get at the 'adjacent possibilities'.
- the challenges unique to larger companies in drawing up their digital strategies – eg., branding, how you put digital at the heart of your business while not abandoning your legacy