There are several things I like about this book. First, there is its timeliness. Although all businesses eventually need to go through a transformation to survive, there is or soon will be a simultaneous, near universal need for it. As the authors note, the digital storm that has already swept through a number of industries – the retail, taxi, hotel, newspapers, telecommunications, and video viewing, to name a few – is coming to an industry near you. For many companies, the only way to survive this storm will be to undergo a dual transformation – where the core business is rejuvenated while at the same time a new growth business is created that draws on selected strengths of the old business (but doesn’t allow legacy systems and procedures to impede its development).
The second thing I like about this book is its realism. So much of the business press is filled with quick-fix solutions and feel-good bromides. That’s not the case with Dual Transformation. The authors discuss at length the difficulties one encounters in a dual transformation, and they freely admit their own stumbles along the way – as investors in, consultants to, or executives of companies that have gone through transformations.
A third thing to like about this book is that it is grounded in the world most of us inhabit. Books about transformation tend to dwell on the poster children of the digital era – Uber, airbnb, Facebook, Google, and the like. While the book mentions these firms, it dwells primarily on transformations made by incumbents in mundane businesses such as insurance, newspapers, and education. It even gives the example of a developing nation water utility that has been successfully transforming itself.
A fourth strength of this book is that lays out the leadership and organizational challenges of achieving a dual transformation. Most business books are packed with inspiring stories that leave their readers with a false sense of how easy transformations of one sort or another are. Not these authors. The entire second half of the book addresses the issues of how one leads a dual transformation. The authors make it clear that dual transformation is not for the faint of heart – but at the same time they provide much helpful guidance for those on the journey.
A fifth thing I like about this book is its generosity. Two of the three authors are consultants who have a vested interest in keeping their secret sauce to themselves. But the book’s appendix has a number of tools one can use for a self-guided transformation.
I highly recommend Dual Transformation. There is much in it that is stimulating, insightful, and helpful. It could prove to be one of the seminal books for the era we have entered.