Ville Tolvanen // February 01 2019

Digitalist Era

We are living an era of companies dividing into two groups defined by the way they utilise technology in their business. Disruptive such as Spotify, Airbnb, Google and Amazon and disrupted such as manufacturers, banks, construction companies and so on. The strong companies of analogue time. You either change or you will be forced to change together with a turning point.

What’s happening to the disrupted ones?

The consensus seems to be, that we are at the beginning of an end. It took two decades to bring the smart devices and working networks with functioning first generation services to almost all the users. Now there is an understanding of technology coming everywhere and thoughts on the next chapter of reacting to it. Quite a few understand that in the 2020s leadership, organisations, work and growing value will continue to revolutionise. Right now there is a scramble for models. Faith and courage to change, before the change is forced upon. It is challenging to compare traditional companies to platform companies. It is also unfair to suggest ”just do what Google does”. Still, every leader should start or at least acknowledge this change that rattles the whole business and and start to build a comprehensive change of the company.

The smartest ones are already looking for examples and learnings on revolutionising the leadership models, operations and way of working.

Big vessels turn slowly

Except when they turn upside down. In the Digitalist Era you need to have tentacles faced forward and the ability to change before you are forced to change. The best companies create customer needs or teach better ways and habits to those who are the payers. That’s why every company should talk more about where they are heading and less about what they are known for already. An interesting example is the Wärtsilä website. Wärtsilä communicates this turning point, discusses blockchain and sustainability. Pretty good for an old elephant like that.

Small creative revolutions

It is easier to create new for something small than for something big. The big ones have the burden of carrying the old, the changing of the culture and the slow pace in everything. The more agile small and midsized companies can change more quickly, look for differentiation and find the innovative customers that fit the company. Digitalisation is the possibility for the small, agile innovators to make themselves more valuable than their size.

Start the change from the way of thinking

I heard from one client, that after I visited them, they started talking about business as a platform. I encouraged them to consider the possibilities of platform economy, ecosystems and new business functions. Maybe the best way to face the Digitalist Era is to change the words and concepts of the direction of the business. A vision is therefor needed, a vision that can be the status of everything in a thousand days. It is easier to aim for the destination, when you have a map to get you there. When you know your goal, you can dig up the site for the works, bring out the ladder and start hammering away. This makes change desired, wanted and understandable.

It is great to witness a time, when energy, health, construction, movement, learning, food etc. are revolutionising. Let’s call it the Digitalist Era. Any other term will do just as fine, as long as the thinking is strategic and fresh.

As always before, words together with actions, is what counts.


More from Ville Tolvanen