A Guide To Subverting Digital Transformation Hype And Clearing Your Path To Discovery, Ignition & Growth
A Writing Habit
Writing (and rewriting) is a powerful way to clarify your thinking, to clearly communicate your ideas to others, and to serve as a critical feedback mechanism that enables analysis & fine-tuning. It’s a skill that a majority of leaders won’t put into practice so it’s a great way to grow your advantage in any discipline.
This is an expanded rewrite of an earlier series that began to take shape as a how-to guide for HK5 Playbooks: A Framework for Discovery, Ignition & Growth – shared in part 7 and available now.
Amazon is famous for banning Powerpoint decks in favor of narrative-form written memos that are read silently, for context, in the first 30 minutes of leadership meetings. Ex-Amazon exec Marco Argenti just borrowed the idea for his new role as Co-CIO at Goldman Sachs. The practice has applications that stretch well beyond meetings.
Re-frame, Then Rewrite
Transformation is human not digital. And it’s not a standalone category. Anyone with skin in the game understands that the alchemy of change is some combination of leadership + key people/catalysts, culture, creative permission and technology that’s unique in different industries and even across teams withing the same org.
‘Digital Transformation’ is presented as its own category because it’s an easy pitch – like a prescription. Its persistent and lackluster results reveal the inadequacy of positioning DX as the top layer. The name itself, capitalized for emphasis, is a sugary promise that repeatedly gives way to bitter kool-aid. It’s time for tired ideas like org-wide buy-in, generic best practices, and the digital magic bullet to vanish.
Change = Business = Change
Change is the top-level category and digital transformation(s) is one branch. ‘Transformations’ is plural because, in addition to the category snag, the mindset of a singular event is both oversimplified and insufficient. An ongoing cycle of micro-transformations is more tuned in.
Re-frame The Category, Then Rewrite The Game
- Make peace with uncertainty and forever-changing priorities: digital transformation is just a small piece of a big picture that includes everything happening internally, plus changing customer expectations, privacy & trust concerns, advances in technology, unforeseen retreat from globalization… The hysterical urgency is part real, part marketing illusion. Talent is your biggest risk – and some of them may already work for you.
- Digital technology cannot stand up on its own: people are required to build & implement it, provide input, and interpret output in order to extract ROI. Snazzy digital capabilities ≠ value i.e. my ability to do back flips doesn’t offer you any business advantage. “There is nothing quite so useless, as doing with great [digital] efficiency, something that should not be done at all.” — Peter Drucker
- One-size-does-not-fit-all: vanity definitions, prescriptions, someone else’s use cases & best practices all give us a false sense of security where none exists. The one truth I hear from successful people is “I feel like we’re making this up as we go.” You are. Any authentic approach to change is necessarily a creative pursuit.
I’ll unpack important considerations for business change/transformation in slightly more granular articles. Some early drafts (with different working titles) are already available and linked below. They are all getting a rewrite in the coming weeks for depth & cohesion. Hopefully the series delivers some useful approaches for working on your own discovery, ignition & growth engines.
- Part 1: Change – One Person At A Time (1/10)
- Part 2: 3-Card Monte – Play Your Own Game (1/17)
- Part 3: The Catch – Analog Muscle, Digital Steroids (1/26)
- Part 4: The 22 – Stop Chasing, Start Building (2/1)
- Part 5: Context – Ask The Right Questions (2/9)
- Part 6: Cultures – Thinking Small (2/16)
- Part 7: Playbooks – A Framework For Discovery, Ignition & Growth (2/27)
- Part 8: Contradictions – Inversion & Slowing Down (3/24)
- Part 9: Signal/Noise – Talk Less, Deliver More, Listen Better (3/29)
- Part 10: Unseen Progress – The Dopamine Addiction
- Part 11: As Good As It Gets? – Waiting It Out
- Part 12: By Invitation Only – Invert The ‘Buy-In’ Mantra
- Part 13: Growth Tracks – Individual Growth = Organizational Health
- Part 14: Threat Detection – Humans Process Change As Danger
- Part 15: Results vs. Strategies – A Powerful Mindset Shift
- Part 16: Digital – Tools vs. Trends
- Intersection: Digital Transformation & High Context Cultures
- HK5 Library – Articles, Wikis, Podcasts & Books
Thanks for reading and I welcome your questions & critique in public or privately at firstname.lastname@example.org. May the 20’s, once again, be roaring.
Read why digital transformation got positioned as a standalone category and why we need to re-frame our thinking in Part 1: Change
Thomas Irre is the founder of HK5, LLC and an advocate of analog transformation – a common sense approach to sustainable business transformation that emphasizes people & performance first, and arms them with a flexible technology arsenal that aligns to clear-cut business goals.