Navigating Infinite Change


Building the Innovation-Ready Enterprise

According to management guru Gary Hamel, innovation is a fundamentally emotional act – one that starts at the heart and is motivated by a desire to improve the lives and work of those around us.

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It’s hard to argue otherwise. To illustrate the point, let’s look at Apple, widely considered to be among the most innovative companies worldwide and – not unsurprisingly – one of the most profitable, too.

Apple didn’t invent the iPad by listening to customers, or by putting them first or even by delighting them. Instead, the company aspired to create products that were magical, and went beyond pleasing customers to amazing them.


Digital happiness


It’s an instructive example. To be truly innovative, organizations must be motivated to do whatever they can – within physical and financial limits ¬– to raise human happiness and to optimize amazement.

Many leaders will agree with this idea, but quickly point out that strategies must also be pragmatic and focus on what can be done. This might be true; but too often, organizations are so conservative, utilitarian, process-focused, data-driven and obsessed with meager efficiencies that they scarcely dream of doing something “insanely great” (to borrow a phrase from Steve Jobs.)

The future is no longer what it used to be

The key to digital transformation is simple: to work obsessively to preserve or increase stakeholders’ happiness.

‘Customer obsession’ – the term Forrester uses to describe this idea – goes far beyond ‘customer-centric’ or ‘customer-first’ thinking. Obsession means starting by defining customers’ needs, hopes and aspirations and working backwards to design the experience an organization must offer to fulfil those needs, hopes and aspirations. Only then should an organization consider the products, services and processes needed to deliver this experience.

Too often, digital transformation starts in the opposite way. Businesses define the best possible experience they can offer, given their existing products, services and processes. This self-limiting strategy is the exact opposite of customer obsession. Focusing on what exists today and what worked well in the past is like creating a strategy for future success by looking into the rearview mirror.

Most of us know, however, that tomorrow will be radically different to today; determined by new technologies, values, behaviors, customer expectations and systemic risks. These developments are hard or impossible to predict. And the time available to organizations to respond to such changes is constantly compressed further.

Planning for the future by examining the past – at the expense of customers’ needs – will no longer work. Instead, the burning question for organizations is how to organize for unpredictable, continuous change today.

Ready for Tomorrow

Organizations must invest in their agility by building a future-fit strategy that enables them to change continuously, without friction. This strategy must nurture three key aspects of their organization:

  • Adaptivity: the ability to create or adjust core business processes and concepts
  • Creativity: for injecting emotion and engagement into digital customer and employee experiences
  • Resilience: for delivering on social, sustainable product visions and brand promises consistently – regardless of prevailing crises


New Normal Drives Future-Fit Strategies through three core drivers and three strategies. Core drivers: Platforms (Technology platforms and bundles will accelerate time-to-value), Practices (Practices will align teams on outcomes, not strict processes), Partners (Co-innovation partnerships will emerge as a critical advantage). Strategies: Adaptive (Accelerating the ability to recreate core business concepts), Creative (bringing emotion and engagement into digital customer experiences), Resilient (delivering on product vision and brand promise no matter the crisis)
Click to enlarge image New Normal Drives Future-Fit strategies

New Normal Drives Future-Fit strategies
Enable Customer Obsession With A Future Fit Technology Strategy, Forrester, August 11, 2021


These three values must shape the three technology elements that form the backbone of the innovation-ready enterprise:

  • Platforms: reusable, scalable, composable software and industry platforms; marketplace; data exchanges; Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Supply Chain Management (SCM), Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Application Programming Interface (API) systems; integration busses and more – all for accelerating time to value
  • Practices: new ways of working, including shifting to fusion teams of technology and business, and aligning teams on outcomes over processes
  • Partners: hyperscalers, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) providers, System Integrators (SIs), startups and value chain partners – all co-innovating towards common goals

One final essential factor ties together platforms, practices and partners. This is talent, without which any future-fit strategy will fail. Our experience shows that many organizations struggle to attract and retain the right people, especially in times of scarcity. In addition to finding the right talent, equal attention must be given to implementing a leadership style that empowers people to do the right thing and focus on outcomes over processes.

As legendary management consultant Peter Drucker put it: “culture eats strategy” for breakfast. Strategy is important, but a powerful and empowering culture is a surer route to organizational success. Building an innovation-ready enterprise requires skillful and talented people, led by visionary leadership in an agile structure focused on business outcomes.

Rethinking ‘Assets’

To instill adaptability, creativity and resilience across their platforms, practices and partnerships, and to become an innovation-ready enterprise, organizations must focus on seven key imperatives:


Future Fit Technology Strategy - Meet future customer, business & employee needs with a future fit technology strategy to increase adaptivity, creativity and resilience.
Click to enlarge image Future Fit technology Strategy

Future Fit Technology Strategy
Forrester blogs, Forrester Decisions: A Future Fit Strategy For Tech Execs, May 2021


To achieve these seven imperatives, most organizations must rethink how they view their assets.

Most of us understand ‘business assets’ as resources with economic value that an organization owns or controls, and deliver benefits by generating cashflow, cutting expenses, improving sales or otherwise. Assets are usually reported on a company’s balance sheet and bought or created to increase a firm’s value or benefit its operations. They can be tangible – manufacturing equipment, for example – or intangible – such as a patent.

Leadership teams often think differently about digital assets.

Digital assets cannot be seen, touched or felt and therefore often don’t receive the same attention and investment as physical assets.

This is a mistake. Innovation-ready enterprises rely on ‘digital’ assets to provide the maneuverability and resilience needed to respond to sudden, systemic changes. Digital assets are the key to organizations’ future-fit strategy: the means by which they instill adaptability, creativity and resilience across their people, practices and partnerships, to respond to continuous change.

This whitepaper explores the five digital assets that every organization must implement to become an ‘innovation-ready enterprise’.

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