The transition to the digital economy is changing the rules of the game for most organisations. If your platform does not appear to be burning, I suggest that if you look more closely you will see traces of smouldering.
The business mantra of ‘disrupt, or be disrupted’ is accurate. You could blithely proceed with your business model, and perhaps the digital vultures will fly past you, as they go in search of richer pickings. Unfortunately, disruption is often happening at a sector scale. And the exponential nature of disruption, not unlike fire, is such that it can progress from smoke to towering inferno in next to no time. Putting your disruption defence plan together, once the attack has begun, is unlikely to yield a happy ending.
I propose a mechanism for measuring your disruption readiness / digital aggression. There are nine levels. Here they are in ascending order of aggressiveness:
1 Asleep: Your organisation is oblivious to what is happening in the market. You are unlikely to have invested in analytics technologies. It is likely that your business is so good that your sales staff can merrily take the orders from the comfort of their hermetically-sealed office.
2 Distracted: You have the analytics tools, and maybe have even invested in Internet of Things (IoT) / sensor technologies. However, your leadership is too focused on internal matters. Or worse still, it is overly paying attention to the strategic plan. Yes. Strategic planning in the traditional industrial-era sense is now considered a new genre of fiction.
3 Yoga: At this stage, you are very tuned to the market. Your organisation is mindful of the threats and opportunities. As well as having great attention skills, it is impressively agile. Unfortunately, the market clock speed has accelerated somewhat from the good old industrial days. Agility and attentiveness are of no use if you do not have the speed of response.
4 Parkour: This is also known as free running. Exponents have all the traits needed to survive on the Savanna or in the urban jungle. If disruption looms, they can retreat at speed, no matter what the terrain. They can even approach the threat at speed with the view to hopping over them, so that they are unable to engage. This might be considered a digitally-defensive posture.
5 Aikido: This is a martial art that uses the energy of the opponent to ‘restore harmony’, should they launch an attack. It might be considered ‘yoga at speed’. Practitioners can deal with attacks, but philosophically cannot bring themselves to inflict pain on the attacker. So once restrained, the attacker is released. Of course, they may attack again. But the aikido practitioner will happily repeat the process until the attacker, in a bewildered state, simply walks off. Again, this is a digitally-defensive posture.
6 Striking martial arts: Aikido has no strikes, so it is very difficult to get a fight going on a Saturday night in town; aikido practitioners would have it no other way. But there are a number of martial arts that are resplendent in their striking armoury. Think Karate, Jiu Jitsu, Boxing and Muay Thai as examples. In broader terms, think mixed martial arts. As a casual brawler, you don’t really want to mess with these guys. They are both defensive and offensive artists. That said, unfortunately, on the street, there is typically no allowance given by the attacker in respect of the need to warm up first. And similarly, the attacker does not perceive the transaction as a sporting event, and so does not feel obliged to adhere to the rules, rest every 3 minutes, or even announce their intention to attack. Thus, these arts have their limitations.
7 Street thug: At this level, you are playing offensive. You have the skills to look after yourself on the streets. In fact, you love violence, so that becomes the end in itself. Such organisations might attack competitors for the fun of it. Such organisations are feared, and generally cause other businesses to simply stay out of their way. This is great for the street thug. However, their lack of focus in respect of their corporate goals, usually means they do not capitalise on the market conditions they have created. Eventually after a brawl too many, they will enter a steep decline.
8 Mobster: On the face of it, the mobster is simply a more organised thug. However, they recognise the power of ecosystems / platforms. Taking control of a money supply, be that of a drugs, prostitution or ebooks nature, is the primary objective. It’s business, pure and simple. If necessary, alliances will be formed, if they reinforce platform dominance. Violence is considered a waste of resources, but if threatened, full capability will be deployed, and no mercy will be shown.
9 Ninja: These sneaky organisations do not advertise. You look down, and your lunch is no longer there. They are pure-play offensive. Skilled assassins. Such organisations target their prey carefully. Unlike a thug, they are not noisy and confrontational. They are already in your camp watching how things work. They are laying contingency traps, should the assassination not go to plan. You will be unaware of the strike when it happens. It could be fatal, or it might just be enough to deliver corporate unconsciousness (think acquisition). Ninjas are skilled healers so they will quickly help the organisation to recover. But that is when the interrogation begins, and they have a variety of questioning techniques, not all of which will be of a civil nature.
Business is moving from the manicured business park to the digital Savanna. Like it or not, nature isn’t a Walt Disney subsidiary. It is selfish, and often malevolent. Your organisation is either a predator, or prey. Your first job is to assess which one you are, and to then tune your approach accordingly.