Sprouting Reads #2: Wisdom In The Age of Digital Transformation

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Welcome to Sprouting Reads. Every week, I surface interesting reads from the world of technology, whose seeds haven’t fully germinated yet. I hope, dear readers, that these excursions of thoughts would sprout open new doors and possibilities which unlock tremendous value for you.

In the first edition of Sprouting reads, I grazed into the valleys of Digital Transformation, focusing on stream-view of corporation and embryonic trends such as deconstructed work in the world of enterprise collaboration.

In this second edition, I am keen on gazing the skies more than grazing the valleys. Let me start with few existential questions, such as

“What Digital really means?

McKinsey had come up with an eloquent post, outlining three attributes which could help organizations arrive at a common vernacular for “digital”. The article rightly pointed out that digital needs to be viewed through the lens of a “context” — a new way( some may say a very old, and they are right as well)of doing business which changes the way we organize ourselves and run them.

This paragraph caught my attention.

“..[Digital] It’s about implementing a cyclical dynamic where processes and capabilities are constantly evolving based on inputs from the customer, fostering ongoing product or service loyalty.”

The blue-penciller in me was tempted to ask the author- can’t you say here, digital is about building a “platform”?

Although I understand the need to abstract when you start laying down the digital edifice, I began to wonder, if it would have been easier, had the term platform been used for the uninitiated to visualize the “cyclical dynamic” which author refers in this article. Which brings us to another existential question.

What “Platform” really means?

When every new startup on Earth likes to call themselves “Uber for X or Airbnb for Y”, you know for sure that we have a long journey before we come to a consensus on what platform really means.

he strategy folks at Deloitte were clearly annoyed by this and came up with an enraged post, denouncing platforms as the new fool’s gold. The post makes few interesting points viz., a) Many of the commonly used platform businesses are not markets b)Not every market needs a “platform” to function. The article, typical of a consulting pitch involving only the diagnosis, fell short of defining a clear framework to grok the concept of a platform.

Enter Sangeet Choudary, who analyzes the strategies of platforms in his Platform Thinking blog, who had come up with an interesting framework to understand the key value drivers using a platform stack. The crux of his argument is that the diversity we see among platforms arise from the different configurations of one stack.

What sets this platform stack really valuable is the way the author brings in not just platforms dotted with few examples and their evolution,but also some of the emerging technologies such as Wearables and Internet of Things with the gamut of the stack.

Looking at all of this, it is quite evident that the grammar of business has changed completely. How does this affect the way we manage business? Henry Mintzberg, one of my favorite management thinkers, argues that managing doesn’t change fundamentally. He agrees that these digital technologies would drive managing over the edge.

What I really liked in his sagely advice is this part where he unravels the paradox in the way the abundance of information in the digital age have made us extremely biased over action instead of reflection.

Internet connectivity has hardly reduced the managerial orientation to action — and the disinclination to engage in reflection. Quite the contrary: everything has to be fast, fast, now, now. How ironic that heavier reliance on information technology, technically removed from the action (picture the manager facing a screen), would exacerbate the action orientation of managing.

Which really makes me question the religious fervor with which we worship data in the digital age. Although the tone of Mintzberg’s article is quite pessimistic, it raises critical questions which are worth investigating, if we have to retain our sanity amidst the saccharine narratives of our technological age. I would come back to this paradox again, some other time, to see why this occurs and how it can be unpacked further.

I would love to hear your comments. If you would like to recommend any interesting articles for this section, please share in the comments section

Originally published at www.linkedin.com.

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