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Happy 10th Birthday Digital Tonto!

2019 August 11
by Greg Satell

To be honest, I didn’t have much in mind when I started Digital Tonto in my apartment in Kyiv, Ukraine ten years ago. We were in the middle of an enormous financial crisis, I was looking to change my career path and I had some things that I wanted to get off my chest. I never dreamed it would really amount to much.

Yet here we are, ten years later and still going with two books under my belt. The latest, Cascades, just came out in April and is going gangbusters! I’ve been working with my partners throughout the spring and summer to develop a workshop series based on the book, which we should be ready to launch this fall.

The best part about Digital Tonto, however, is YOU, the readers. Over the years you have become a true community and a sounding board. Your support invigorates me and your ideas and feedback enriches me. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support. So, as in the past, I’m posting my favorite articles over the last year. Happy Birthday Digital Tonto!


If You Want To Change The World, You Need To Start With Small Groups, Loosely Connected But United By A Shared Purpose

All too often, we think creating change is about charismatic leaders and catchy slogans. People see Martin Luther King Jr. and “I have a dream” or Obama and “Yes, we can!” and think that you need a heroic leader to bring change about. In a similar way, they see CEOs like Steve Jobs or Elon Musk thrill audiences on stage and think that’s what entrepreneurship is all about.

Yet that is a trap. As I explain in Cascades, it takes long chains of influence, propagated through networks, that drives transformation. We need to reimagine the concept of leadership from that of driving planning and execution to empowering small groups to connect through inspiring belief in a shared purpose.

Read it now


Why The Future Isn’t Digital

Over the past few decades, we’ve been in the midst of a massive digital revolution. Today, the average teenager with a smartphone has more access to information than a highly skilled professional working at a major institution did a generation ago. Entire industries have been reshaped or disrupted altogether.

Today, however, we are in the twilight of the digital age. While advancement in computer chips has slowed, and will likely end altogether over the next decade, newer, more powerful technologies will rise to the fore. We are entering a new era of innovation that will change how we need to compete. The time to prepare for it is now.

Read it now


How Amazon Innovates

It’s no secret that Amazon is one of the world’s most innovative companies. Starting out as a niche service selling books online, it’s now not only a dominant retailer, but has pioneered new categories such as cloud computing and smart speakers.

The key to its success is not any one process, but how it integrates a customer obsession deep within its culture and practice. I spent months interviewing top executives at the company to find out how it all works. Amazon’s principles won’t work for everybody, but learning how it innovates was fascinating and enlightening.

Read it now


If You Want To Change The World, You Need To Start With A Keystone Change

Every change effort begins with a sense of grievance. Sales are down, shifts in technology are reducing competitiveness or maybe a serious injustice is being perpetrated. Yet transformation can only begin when that sense of grievance is replaced by an affirmative “Vision of Tomorrow” that promises a better alternative to the status quo.

However, that vision can rarely be achieved all at once, which is why every successful transformation I researched in Cascades identified a “Keystone Change” that represented a clear and tangible goal, involved multiple stakeholders and paved the way for future change.

Read it now


How To Prepare Your Kids For a Post-Digital Age

An education is supposed to prepare you for the future. Traditionally, that meant learning certain facts and skills, like when Columbus discovered America or how to do long division. Today, curriculums have shifted to focus on a more global and digital world, like cultural history, basic computer skills and writing code.

Yet with massive technology shifts coming over the next decade, the challenges that our kids will face will be much different than we did growing up and the ability to collaborate will be key to a successful career. The truly important skills of the future will be things like understanding systems, empathy, design skills and communication.

Read it now


How Blockbuster, Kodak And Xerox Really Failed (It’s Not What You Think)

Go to just about any conference today and you will hear how a  once great corporation, which had dominated its industry, failed to adapt and descended into irrelevance. The protagonists of these stories always come out looking more than a little bit silly, failing to recognize business trends that seem obvious now.

Yet this stories are rarely true. In fact, because they often promise simple, easy answers to complex problems, they cheat us of the opportunity to learn the truly important lessons. This article takes a closer look at Blockbuster, Kodak and Xerox and I think you’ll be surprised by what you find.

Read it now


Digital Transformation Is Human Transformation

As noted above, we’re nearing the end of the digital revolution, but that doesn’t mean it’s over. In fact, because digital technology has become so mature, it’s more important than ever to use it effectively to drive business value. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. In fact, research by McKinsey found that fewer than one third of digital transformation efforts succeed.

The problem is rarely with the technology itself. There are plenty of qualified vendors who can implement a system for you. Overcoming the cultural and organizational challenges that need to take place is another matter though. Read this article and find out how to overcome the challenges.

Read it now


It’s Ecosystems, Not Inventions That Truly Change the World

It’s easy to see history through the lens of great inventions. The steam engine ignited the first industrial revolution, then electricity and the internal combustion engine created a second one. The transistor, then the microchip, kicked off the digital revolution. It’s hard to argue against the impact of technology.

However, what’s curious is that it usually takes about 30 years to go from the initial invention to a measurable impact on the world. The reason is that takes that long for ecosystems, including  infrastructure, support networks and secondary inventions, to form and create real value.

Read it now


How IBM, Google And Amazon Innovate Differently

Many believe that there is one “right” way to innovate, but that’s not even a little bit true. As I explained in Mapping Innovation, innovation is really about solving problems. So there are as many different ways to innovate as there are different types of problems to solve.

This fact becomes especially clear when you compare IBM, Google and Amazon. All have great innovation track records, but choose different problems to solve and pursue innovation innovation in very different ways. What’s really important isn’t exactly how you innovate, but how you align your innovation practices with your strategy, capabilities and culture.

Read it now


Image: Pixabay


6 Responses leave one →
  1. August 11, 2019

    Congratulations Greg!

    Persistence is often its own reward. I have enjoyed all of your ten years and look forward to much more.


  2. August 11, 2019

    Great things always start from somewhere unexpected, over in the corner, usually at odds with the status quo, and offering unique value to someone, then a few, then many.
    Your insights offer such value, and I have been a ‘fanboy’ for a considerable time, to my considerable benefit.
    happy birthday.

  3. August 12, 2019

    Congratulations. It doesn’t seem like it has only been ten years because the depth of your writing combined with your insights, has always produced valuable content. I look forward to following your post for the next ten years if you choose to continue for that long.
    – Don

  4. August 12, 2019

    Thanks so much Allen. I appreciate your support!

  5. August 12, 2019

    Thanks Donald. You’ve been here almost from the beginning I think. Thanks for staying with me!


  6. August 14, 2019

    Thanks so much Robert!

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