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Charles Darwin – DIGITAL GURU

"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives... it is the one that is most adaptable to change." Charles Darwin.

The conventional approach to business transformation – including Digital Transformation – is to treat it as a ‘Project’. This entails a number of assumptions. Firstly, it assumes that the current reality – the starting point for the transformation –is known and well understood; secondly, it assumes that the required future state can be clearly defined; and thirdly, it assumes that a set of clearly specified, pre-determined actions can be defined and undertaken in order to achieve the transformation from one to the other, such that achievement of the desired end-state is simply a case of following the plan.

All of these are of course heroic assumptions in the context of the continuing tumult and uncertainty of the digital revolution. In the first instance, given how rapidly our world is changing today, and how different this is from the world in which many of us grew up, the current reality is not at all well understood. Secondly, in the context of rapid change, and the unpredictability and uncertainty that accompanies this, it is unrealistic to believe that a desirable future end state can be clearly defined. Equally, the idea that it is possible to identify the actions required to plot a course with confidence between a poorly understood present to an uncertain future amidst the ever-intensifying digital storm is likewise extremely implausible.

Digital disruption necessitates a very different approach to Transformation. As Charles Darwin is reputed to have pointed out (although in reality he doesn’t seem to have actually said this anywhere), ‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives…it is the one that is most adaptable to change’. Fundamentally, therefore, against the backdrop of rapid change and uncertainty, the objective for organizations as they undertake their transformations is to make themselves more (and more) adaptable, so that whatever form the changes take, they are able rapidly to adjust to the new and continuously evolving environment.

Learning sits at the very core of this. Learning provides the ‘antennae’ to detect what is happening in the environment, enables organizations to make sense of this, and helps them build the capability, the knowledge, the expertise they need to respond effectively. Instead of a project, this is best approached as a ‘journey’ – an ongoing and iterative process of learning, using this learning to undertake informed actions, and learning from the outcomes of these actions – and from all other available sources of knowledge – to inform further actions: in fact, a ‘Learning Journey’.


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