Source from:
January 2017 Special Issue Business SCAN

Researchers from London Business School emphasise the significance, especially for established firms, of developing a new digital mindset to stay competitive. They describe it as a ‘fast/forward’ mindset. Fast, in this context, means alert, agile, experimental and capable of decisive action. Forward means proactive and searching, and it also means seeking to create a meaningful connection with customers and other business partners.

Leading Digital Transformation

These qualities may seem obvious for a digitally minded company to possess. But the reality is that many established companies are the exact opposite. Research shows that people in established firms tend to fall back on a bureaucratic or meritocratic mindset, both of which are slow and internally focused. To thrive in a digital world, an organisation and their leaders need an adhocratic approach, which means to privilege action-taking over knowledge or rules.

Adhocracy - Experimenting and making things happen Bureaucracy - Gravitate towards rules and procedures Meritocracy - Attracted to argument and logic, and getting to the bottom of a problem
Coordinating activities around opportunities Coordinating their activities through rules, procedures, and routines Coordinating through adjustments, based on flows of information
Making decisions through experimentation Making decisions through hierarchy Making decisions through argument and discussion
Motivating people by giving them a challenge, alongside the resources and freedom they need Motivating people primarily through extrinsic rewards. Above all, money Motivating by giving people interesting work and enabling them to achieve personal mastery
The heroes are the people who make something happen The heroes are the people who oversee the biggest budgets The heroes are the people who come up with the cleverest ideas

Examples of how to use the fast/forward mindset in practice:

  • Faster decision making: Simplify structures dramatically, especially to find shortcut routes for small or low-risk projects.
  • Clear accountability for digital: Enhance proper accountability. For example, have someone who owns the digital agenda.
  • Experimentation: Use design thinking to conduct business experiments around your digital offerings. For example, experiment in the early stages with very small groups of live users, to figure out how customers and clients behave.
  • Immersion in the digital ecosystem: A key feature of any evolving system is its openness to new ideas and its tolerance of diversity. What this means for established firms, in practice, is to build mechanisms where you can work with start-ups.

Action Point

Consider how your department could, in practice, improve on ‘faster decision making’, ‘clear accountability for digital’, ‘experimentation’, and ‘immersion in the digital ecosystem’, inspired by the given examples of a fast/forward mindset.

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