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Happy 11th Birthday Digital Tonto!

2020 August 9
by Greg Satell

In many ways, 2009 seems like a prelude to 2020. A global economy that many thought to be roaring just a year before, all of the sudden just went up in flames. It appeared that the world–or at least the world as we knew it—was ending and, in some sense, it was. Nothing would ever be the same after 2009.

2009 was just as much a turning point for me personally. The founder and chief shareholder of our media company in Ukraine had decided to sell it to a chocolate tycoon named Petro Poroshenko and I decided to leave my position as Co-CEO. Without much else to do, I started a blog in my Kyiv apartment and Digital Tonto was born!

That seems like a lifetime ago. In 2009, the mobile web really wasn’t a thing yet and artificial intelligence wasn’t even on the radar screen. I had no idea that my little blog would turn into a new career, complete with two books and over 50 articles in Harvard Business Review, but that all happened! As in past years, I’m celebrating with some of my favorite articles.

Why Change Management So Often Fails

Clearly, the Covid-19 crisis demands that our organizations change and, for decades, the practice of change management promised a structured way of producing transformation. Teams of hardened change consultants would arrive at headquarters armed with PowerPoint slides and a plan, which they would execute with paramount professionalism.

Unfortunately, they rarely succeeded. In fact, McKinsey suggests that only about a quarter of organizational transformations succeed. That’s abysmal. Imagine any other service provider selling a 75% failure rate and remaining in business. Yet with few other options, clients continue to hire change consultants in the hopes that they may be among the lucky 25%.

This article explains why the failure rate is so high and what we can do about it. The truth is that change fails because people want it to fail. Any change that is important and has potential for impact is bound to encounter fierce opposition. That’s why anticipating and overcoming resistance to change needs to be the primary design constraint for any transformational effort.

Read it now


The Digital Revolution Is Ending. Here’s What You Need To Do Now:

Digital technology has come to dominate our lives. From the time we wake up till the time we go to bed at night, much of our interaction with the world, whether that be sending and receiving information, conversing with others or making a transaction, is done through digital technology. 

Yet, as hard as it may be to believe, the digital revolution is now coming to an end. That’s not a prediction, but rather a simple observation that with the end of Moore’s Law the underlying technology is no longer improving the way it used to and the next 20 or 30 years will look very different than the last 20 or 30.

The end of the digital revolution, however, will not mean the end of digital technology, any more than the end of the Industrial Revolution meant the end of industry. What it will mean, however, is that we are going to need to rethink what it will take to compete in a post-digital world. This article will get you started. 

Read it now


These 4 Major Shifts Will Drive The 21st Century

I wrote this a bit more than a year ago and, reviewing it now, I’m amazed at how much more relevant it seems, even with all that’s happened. The basic premise is that we are undergoing 4 major shifts all at the same time: technological, resource based, migrational and demographic, that is unlike anything we’ve experienced since probably the 1920s.

That was an era of great prosperity and promise, but was also one of great tumult and, ultimately, tragedy. While new technologies, such as electricity and internal combustion, finally began to take hold, the 1920s also saw the revival of the Ku Klux Klan in America and heightened anti-Semitism in Europe. Global trade diminished while hostility toward immigrants increased. 

The decade would end with a severe crash which would lead to the Great Depression and World War II. Yet the past is not merely prologue. We are not, as Marx argued, at the mercy of historical trends. We have the power to choose our path. I hope we choose wisely. 

Read it now


How Inflection Points Define The Future

The fundamental assumption of strategic planning is that the future will look like some version of the past extrapolated forward. Yet we know from experience that’s not really true. It is the things we don’t see coming that tend to reveal our fate. Covid-19 is just the latest in a series of such unforeseen events that have made a mockery of our best-laid plans.

The mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot called this phenomenon “Joseph effects” and “Noah effects.”  Joseph effects, as in the biblical story, support long periods of continuity. Noah effects, on the other hand, are like a big storm creating a massive flood of discontinuity, washing away the previous order.

As the article above shows, 2020 was already shaping up to be a pivotal year. Covid-19 will undoubtedly accelerate many of those nascent trends and tensions, as well as have some long-lasting consequences arising from second and third order effects that we are unable to grasp yet. 

Read it now


4 Questions That Will Make You A Better Innovator

We tend to think about innovation as coming up with better answers and, of course, that’s part of it. However, far more important is to learn to ask better questions. While answers tend to close off possibilities, good questions open them up and can take us in completely new directions.

This article features four of my favorite questions to ask about innovation that you’ll want to put into practice right away. So take a current project or one that you’re planning, apply them and see how they take you in new directions. You’ll be amazed how effective they are.

Read it now


How To Build An Ecosystem Strategy

It’s become increasingly clear that the key to competitive advantage in the 21st century is not dominating value chains, but leveraging ecosystems. The better you are able to connect to ecosystems of talent, technology and information, the better you will be able to innovate, adapt and bring products to market.

Unfortunately, too much of the talk about ecosystems is nebulous and vague. It’s all too easy to invoke networks and ecosystems, but much harder to build an explicit strategy around them. This article helps show the way.

Read it now


The Truth Behind Netflix’s Incredible Success

Today, it seems like Netflix can do anything. Having vanquished Blockbuster, it has gone on to dominate home entertainment over traditional giants such as Warner Media and NBC Universal. With such success, it shouldn’t be surprising that so much about the company is shrouded in myth. 

No, Reed Hastings didn’t start the company after a $40 late fee and, no, Netflix didn’t launch with a successful business model. In fact, the company got almost everything wrong it could get wrong. What made Netfix so successful isn’t that they were smarter than anybody else or knew more about the entertainment business, but that they experimented more and learned faster.

That’s the true lesson of Netflix. 

Read it now


How to Overcome Resistance To Change

Organizations are famously resistant to change. Many like to think that there is some kind of “corporate immune system” that automatically rejects new ideas. That’s a dangerously misleading fiction. There is so such thing as a corporate immune system, there’s just people who don’t like your idea and want to kill it off as soon as possible.

The truth is that if your idea is important and has potential for real impact, some people will hate it and work to undermine it in ways that are dishonest, deceptive and underhanded. So the first step to creating a true transformation is to anticipate and mitigate the efforts of those who oppose you. 

Read this post and learn how to overcome that resistance and drive change forward!

Read it now


What Amazon’s Entrance Tells Us About The New Era Of Quantum Computing

At the end of 2019, Amazon announced the launch of its Braket quantum computing service. What quickly became clear, however, was that the company was not developing its own technology, but offering the technologies of other companies to its cloud computing clients. 

What makes the story even stranger is that quantum computing has little immediate practical value. In fact, for all of the hoopla, there hasn’t been shown to be a single practical application for quantum computers. Customers want access to them not to do anything useful, but to experiment with them and learn about them.

That’s pretty incredible when you think about it. The technology is considered so potentially valuable that profit seeking corporations are willing to pay for the privilege of helping to develop the technology, just to ensure they won’t get left behind. Read this article to find out why.

Read it now


So those are some of my favorite posts over the last year or so. Thank you all for your continued support. See you next year!

– Greg


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