The Age Of Exponential – What It Means For Business

“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence, it is to act with yesterday’s logic.” – Peter Drucker

The current and future business reality—also referred to as the 4th Industrial Revolution—is complex; driven by exponential change and digital disruption.

A great explanation of how our business world has changed is with the Cynefin Framework by David Snowden:

It is clear that we have moved from Simple and Complicated to Complex and in many instances Chaos.

Centre to this disorder is the exponential change. According to the Oxford Dictionary ‘exponential’ is defined as:

1.    (of an increase) becoming more and more rapid

2.    Of or expressed by a mathematical exponent.

The speed of change has become exponential and gaining momentum. It is said that we are only 1% into the digital transformation of the world and how we know it!

The biggest impact of exponential change has been on business and the term 'a VUCA World' has become quite common:

To grow and survive in today’s business environment, enterprises need to transform how they work so they can learn faster, adapt quicker and embrace change, execute with purpose” – Hesselberg, Jordan in Unlocking Agility

One can be forgiven for feelings of fear, uncertainty, anxiety, ‘knee-jerk’ reactions, indecisiveness and etc. Yet there is always hope and opportunities that present themselves in times of crisis and turbulence. In the words of Winston Churchill, “Never let a good crisis go to waste ”.

Here are 8 characteristics needed by organisations and businesses to survive and thrive in a digital age:

  • Agile, fast and able to change a course of action in a very short time
  • Client-centric, even client intimacy in the extreme
  • Experimenting, learning, creative and innovative
  • Asset light, lean and mobile
  • Collaborative, cross-functional and integrated
  • Clever, informed and thought-leading
  • Tech-savvy and being seen as digital natives
  • Integration of technology with business strategy

Digital transformation means far more than just technology changes; rather changes to the total business play. Business owners, C-Suite, entrepreneurs and managers will need to invest resources in the continuous alignment of a company’s purpose with an updated business model and strategy. It has become critical for any business or organisation to identify opportunities and be able to capitalise on them with speed and agility:

Strategy and value proposition > Products, services and go-to-market?
Business models and organisational design > Work practices and processes?
Culture and thinking > Leadership styles and competencies, ‘critical future skills’?

In working with business owners and management, we coach, educate and keep them accountable in the following:

  • Cultivating an open and positive mindset
  • Clearly defining a future vision and strategic plan for themselves and their business/organisations
  • Knowledge and understanding of their financial scoreboard, figures and performance
  • Deciding on an effective marketing and sales approach on how to differentiate, compete and grow in their market place
  • Improving efficiency and effectiveness through leveraged processes and systems, and also investing in technology as an enabler of business
  • Developing leadership and teams, and implementing accountability towards performance and engagement

In summary, the following quote:

Being digital requires being open to re-examine your entire way of doing business and understanding where the new frontiers of value are. For some companies, capturing new frontiers may be about developing entirely new businesses in adjacent categories; for others, it may be about identifying and going after new value pools in existing sectors” – Karl Dörner and David Edelman, co-authors of “What digital really means”

Content part-credit to Amanda Jordaan, Founder of Grayfeather Consulting.