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Change is something that is not controllable. To call the process of change change management implies that it can be controlled, that all you need is a sound strategy and a plan to create change. It creates the illusion that managers can come up with that plan and then everything will be changed according to plan. My experience with change is different. Here are some of the lessons I learned from various change processes…

1. Big words don’t change things.

Artificially created senses of urgency in powerpoint decks don’t change things. Stop pretending they do. Big words will come up during changes. Accept that most of them will be bullshit. You’ll laugh at them later and see that change came from somewhere else. Don’t be afraid to use big words that turn out to be stupid. It’s all part of the change process. …


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When it comes to digital transformation, a lot of disciplines need to come together. This is complex. They don’t all seem to come together from the start. There seems so be some kind of evolution in digital transformation in which an organization goes through phases, insights, crisises. There seems to be a ladder that needs to be climbed in which progressive insight leads to new challenges. I look at this from a designer’s perspective. Design can add a lot of value on this journey. But not all steps are equal and if I look at these phases, I see design offering value in different ways in the different phases. But before I dive into the ways design can add value in all these phases, I wanted to check if this ladder of digital transformation makes sense to you. So please have a look at it and let me know if this is an adequate representation of the journey that digital transformation is.

Here is the model I came up with until now:

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Digital Transformation Maturity Model

The digital transformation ladder model consists of 7 stages that are all categorized by a view of the world. It builds up, so you take the insights from one stage with you to the next until you reach the top of the ladder and digital transformation is complete. Let me just quickly walk you through each stage.

Stage 1: digitization

What I see around me is that digital transformation typically starts with the idea that it’s about technology. So the first thing most organization tend to do is focus on technology. Practically this means digitization of existing products and services. Existing platforms or custom built technology is used to create a new version of products and services that can be accessed and or used through digital technology. …


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How can a designer add the most value? That question is one of the questions that occupy my mind. On a personal level, there is a drive to be valuable but also on a professional level. Valuable can be measured in terms of business value. That is the most direct way to add value in a professional context. But I also see it in a broader context. The well-being of humankind is also something that can be increased through business activities. …


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For years, Stanford has been teaching non-designers to think like a designer. They called it design thinking. The term design thinking lowered the bar for people. You can’t teach people to become a designer in a two-day boot camp. That is ridiculous. Designers are people who follow a calling since their early childhood. They were the kids that could draw when everyone else couldn’t. They read design blogs, go to museums, and wear designer clothes. They live and breathe design their whole lives. There is no way one could catch up to that. It’s a lost race. But design thinking is something else. You don’t have to become a designer, you just have to learn to think like one. And since designers do more than they think, this shouldn’t be too hard right? …


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Saying Agile doesn’t work is like saying a pencil doesn’t work. Agile is a tool. And the goal of any tool is to enhance human capabilities. I have seen Agile fail. Failing to deliver. Failing to deliver quality. If the goal is to deliver the best possible product within the best possible budget, Agile is an excellent tool. But not a simple one. There are a couple of underlying concepts that need to be thoroughly grasped for it to work.

Value creation

One is value creation. Building stuff costs money. Ideally the returns are higher than the investments. At the core of any project is the business case. The goal of a project is to maximize business value.

There are two challenges with creating business value:

  • One is that business value is hard to determine.
  • The other is keeping it at the center of all decisions despite the fact that it’s hard to determine.

One thing that should be kept agile is the business case. Most Agile practitioners keep the investment fixed during a project. This is practical but unwise.

First of all, upfront investment decisions are made up out of guesswork and assumptions. So sticking with those decisions as the project advances and knowledge grows and assumptions get validated, is not a smart thing to do. Before you start, you have no clear picture of what your money buys. …


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Design is not an essential service in times of Corona. Health care workers and police and firemen are. But it’s a good time to think about the essence of design, of what it contributes to the world. Now is the time to rediscover and live the purpose of design.

Free services

Why do a lot of companies offer their services for free in this Corona Crisis? First I was a little skeptical about this hype. I thought it might be a collective mindless craze where companies just copied each other. There might be some truth in that. Because if your competitor offers their service for free, you have to do that as well or you’ll lose users. I also though it might be a cheap marketing trick to get users used to your platform so they stick even after the free Corona period is over. This is a proven marketing trick. Forgive me for being critical :-) I also saw the humanitarian side. During this period, everyone feels a need to help in any way they can. We can only do this together. But apart from the health crisis, this crisis also has a large economical side. Businesses shut down, projects are cancelled. So if turnover for most businesses drops, why are they giving their services away for free? Have we shifted all of a sudden to a sharing economy? There might also be an ethical side to it. You don’t want to be the company that got rich off of this crisis. …


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How do designers and design agencies get out of this Corona crisis stronger than before? What will the future after the Corona crisis look like? What can designers do to prepare for this possible future? Winter is coming. A recession that’s worse than the 2008 bank crisis is very probable. Projects are postponed or canceled. Marketing budgets are cut. Like many industries, most design agencies can expect a tough year. There is a lot of uncertainty. This causes either a fight or flight reaction in clients. Some flee. They don’t want to invest, they cancel projects. Some have no choice. Others fight and see that now is the best time to invest, to start up innovation projects.

It’s only been a couple of weeks and the world has changed dramatically. There are four things that can be observed in this crisis that might manifest into sustainable trends:

  • Accelerated digital transformation: Globally, humans, society, and businesses have accelerated in their digital transformation.
  • More conscious mindsets: Mindsets and behaviors of consumers have accelerated in becoming more conscious, aware, mindful, humanitarian.
  • More need for innovation: Coming up with creative, outside the box solutions for problems is needed more than ever.
  • More need for agility: adapting to new situations, learning, and changing course is now, more than ever quintessential for survival.

These big boosts might just turn out to be temporary, but it’s dangerous to think that everything will go back to how it was before the crisis.


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The Chinese word for crisis isn’t actually build up out of two characters of which one means danger and the other opportunity. But this faulty interpretation of the Chinese word for crisis has become so widely used that even Chinese people have adopted it as an alternative etymology. Maybe the word crisis should mean danger and opportunity. Winston Churchill was famous for urging people to never waste a good crisis.

What is so good about a crisis? All crises contain the seeds of opportunity. A crisis is a source of energy that can be used to drive change. A disruption of any kind creates a boost of energy in people. Things are going to change anyway. It’s like an ocean that creates waves. Some are bigger than others but everything constantly changes. The bigger the disruption, the bigger the wave. And just like in an ocean, a big wave can take you under or you can ride it like a surfer. …


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We live in challenging times. The Corona virus is creating a new world. Yuval Noah Harari puts it like this in his Financial Times article: “The storm will pass but the choices we make now could change our lives for years.” This is a time of forced reflection, introspection, digital transformation and service innovation. We have created a tool to help businesses think outside the box and find new, fresh ideas with the help of students. The Corona crisis made us speed up our timeline because this service is now more relevant than ever.

A lot of businesses see their workload drop and this creates time for reflection. The changing situation in which most interactions are now digital forces businesses to do some introspections and see how their services translate to the online world. Some businesses are already largely digital but every business is now faced with one of the main questions of our time: how can we leverage the possibilities of digital for our business? How do the services we provide translate to the digital world. Businesses that are not yet focussing on these questions are now also forced to. Nightclubs that are typically offline gatherings of people are now live streaming DJ sets for people at home to enjoy. …


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Digital Transformation is a big theme. It’s such a big theme, that it is hard to get a grip on what it actually means, encompasses. It’s hard to know where to start. Wikipedia tells us that Digital Transformation (DT or DX) is the use of new, fast and frequently changing digital technology to solve problems. Well that’s not very informative. In order to solve problems with new technology, you have to make fundamental changes to your business. There is more to Digital Transformation than just technology.

More than just technology

Most people, including the authors of the Wiki, tend to focus on the technological side of Digital Transformation. But Digital Transformation is not about technology. Technology is going to develop regardless of whether you leverage the new possibilities it creates or not. The first thing that I think is important is to realize that Digital Transformation is as much about people and the way you organize your processes as it is about technology.

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Why should you Digitally Transform?

Everybody is digitally transforming. So there seems to be no way around it. But it’s a good idea to think about what benefits you want from your Digital Transformation. It will take a lot of efforts, so you need a clear business case. Digital Transformation can be undertaken to develop new services, enhance the user experience of services, become more agile and reduce costs / increase performance. …

About

Dennis Hambeukers

Innovation Project Manager @ Zuiderlicht / Design Leadership Forum Member @InVision / Design Thinker / State Secretary of Integration @ Ministry of Design

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