Why digitization in companies really fails so often

Picture of Tobias Adam

Tobias Adam

March 16, 2018

At the end of the 19th century, the spread of electricity made it possible to overcome the limitations of the prevailing central drive trains. Nevertheless, it took many years for those responsible to recognize this potential and for new arrangements of machines and production steps to become established. The understanding of processes based on central drive trains was too firmly anchored in people's minds. Similar phenomena are reappearing in the wake of the internet and today's technical possibilities. These are currently subsumed under the term digitalization: Decades of experience, thought patterns and concepts that were and often still are successful in the "old analogue world" are preventing us from recognizing the potential of new types of technologies and translating them into business benefits.

The (missing) prerequisite for success

As with the spread and correct use of electricity, success through systematic function depends on the willingness to act comprehensively and make far-reaching changes. As sitting out or waiting is not a sensible option in most industries, it is advisable to systematically and provocatively question established thought patterns and forms of value creation. In this way, new service offerings or business models can be developed, for example.

The futile search for the right approach

The question arises as to why well-trained and experienced people are not, or only to a limited extent, able to utilize the diverse possibilities and resulting potential of new technologies. to recognize and use. Admittedly, the answer is frustrating, at least to some extent. because they are well trained and have extensive experience!

A simple example illustrates this point: as part of a research project, several groups of children, teenagers and adults in a room with only one pair of shoes were successively asked what they could do with this pair of shoes. Unsurprisingly, the children generated the most ideas. However, the fact that they generated over 100 more ideas than the adults clearly shows how much knowledge and experience affect our creativity.

How digitalization doesn't work - and how it shows

The extent to which this is the case can be seen, for example, in our use of language. We have certainly all heard typical phrases in the course of our careers, such as:

  • But that's not how we work here.
  • We've never done that before.
  • But we've always done it this way.

Behind these formulations are established and accepted thought patterns that have become unwritten laws in the company over time. There may certainly be cases in which the current situation is optimal. Nevertheless, it is worth examining this, especially when new options for action arise.

It is precisely these established thought patterns that mean that in many cases digitalization does not represent any real change. For example, analog processes that have been in place for many years are often merely electrified and people are then satisfied with the fact that PDF files are now sent instead of paper documents. Unfortunately, the fundamental structure and the underlying interdependencies are rarely challenged. At this point, it is worth remembering the old IT adage that a bad process that has been transferred to an IT solution may run faster - but at its core, it is still a bad process.

Defying the mindset: how digitalization can still succeed

But as the saying goes: insight is the first step to improvement. Ultimately, it is precisely this realization that enables companies to implement the systematic innovation approach. This approach can be used to revive supposedly lost creativity, Cooperation promoteddusty thought patterns can be replaced and long-term corporate innovation created. In order to make it easier for you to break through the existing thought patterns, the second part of this article introduces the concept of systematic innovation, illustrates its approaches and its sticking points and also provides some valuable implementation tips. You can find out what these look like in concrete terms and how to find exactly the right pivotal points in Successful digitalization through systematic innovation.

Event information

The TCI partners are pleased to announce two seminars on this topic: A two-day seminar on innovation management will take place in Mannheim on April 13-14, 2018. The speakers are Gisela Zweck and Dr. Tobias Adam, the authors of this article. Another two-day seminar by the two speakers, which you can also attend in Mannheim on 8-9 June 2018, is entitled "Systemic innovation for successful digitalization". Further information can be found here by clicking on the respective TCI event.

(Cover image: © fizkes | fotolia.com)

About the author

Picture of Tobias Adam

Tobias Adam

Dr. Tobias Adam has been involved in the implementation of innovation methods for many years. The innovation expert supports clients in developing innovative concepts and solutions for a wide range of business challenges.

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