Einstein quoted a great saying, “If I had an hour to save the world, I would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem and remaining five minutes to actually save the world”. This quote does illustrate an important point: before jumping right into solving a problem, we should step back and invest time and effort to improve our understanding of it.
The definition of the problem should be the focal point of all your problem-solving efforts. As such, it makes sense to devote as much attention and dedication to problem definition as possible. What usually happens is that as soon as we have a problem to work on, we’re so eager to get to solutions that we neglect spending any time refining it.
What most of us don’t realize — and what supposedly Einstein might have been alluding to — is that the quality of the solutions we come up with will be in direct proportion to the quality of the description of the problem we’re trying to solve. Not only will your solutions be more abundant and of higher quality, but they’ll be achieved much, much more easily. Most importantly, you’ll have the confidence to be tackling a worthwhile problem.
What is digital confusion?
Digitalization is on the top of the agenda. But what does it actually mean? CIOs today tend to take a very technical approach to digitalization rather than focusing to matters that are essential for the survival of the company (leadership, governance and people) in the digital era. In the Web 1.0 era, digital transformation was originally a descriptor for aspiring to paperless offices, and a useful term to encourage senior executives to stop having their emails printing out to read. The breathtaking revelation was that they should read them off the screen. The result? A digital confusion where expectation and ambitions are not aligned in the company.
Meanwhile, on-the-ground usage of the word digital -- and a whole lexicon of words that collectively represent it (blockchain being a current prime example) have been mangled beyond recognition. We currently live in a world dominated by winner-take-all platform companies: FANG (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Google) in the Western world and BAT (Baidu, Alibaba, and TenCent) in Asia.
The application of practical digital thinking has largely been sadly lacking beyond targeted social media network marketing -- accessing you and your data trails through your smartphone and then attempting to influence you has dominated spending on and understanding of the word digital in the last eight years. Much noise and hype has surrounded broader transformation attempts to remake legacy businesses as digital entities, with the old-line IT services companies investing heavily to reposition themselves as digital solutions providers while distancing themselves from their past, despite that past continuing to be their main revenue stream.
How to end digital confusion:
- Opening more routes for customers to INTERACT with the brand, ideally through channels they control, so the variable costs of each interaction are minimal, and the customer sees better ways of pursuing the journey they desire
- Those journeys (to buy something, learn about something, experience something) are what a brand has to get done and deliver on. Getting that stuff done requires AUTOMATION that digitizes the end-to-end process, facilitating real-time and traceable interactions that can scale at a low cost
- That automation generates an exhaust of information to fuel PRO-ACTIVE INTELLIGENCE that can optimize these interactions, anticipate needs, respond faster, and personalize the experience
- This intelligence becomes an accretive asset on top of which you can INNOVATE by establishing fast feedback cycles. This innovation leads to the creation of new experiences and businesses that add value to the user, leading them to interact with the brand even more, and uncovering new journeys they can pursue
- Supporting this process is an organizational culture and operating models that encourage a cross-functional, fast-cycle approach needed to make this happen and find the talent that is attracted to this sort of iterative impact.
- Adding more interaction points (social, mobile, and sensors) to support the customer – both in person and online – leads to a more complex digital cycle. Therefore, you need to ruthlessly prioritize the journeys you want to enable, and invest in the infrastructure for analytics and process execution.v
When traditional companies try to make the pivot to become more digital, they tend to pursue many of the four elements of the cycle, but they do so as a list of independent parts. They have all kinds of projects going on to automate some processes, build a new analytic data warehouse, create an innovation lab, or roll out mobile apps.
BUT too often, it really is a list of disconnected endeavors, so it is impossible to get the scalability and network effect from growing one’s interactions and data assets. “Digital” should be a deliberate strategy to build the cycle. This requires more design-oriented thinking that looks to enable the complete customer journey. Building value for the business is based on building value for the customer as a cycle of growth.