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Why every organisation’s future is bound up in four key areas of digital potential.
Potential is the currency of the global digital economy. Markets are built on it. Businesses now need to recognise and exploit it to power…
Potential is the currency of the global digital economy. Markets are built on it. Businesses now need to recognise and exploit it to power their own innovation and growth initiatives.
By Mark Wilson, Founder Partner, Wilson Fletcher
Potential is the single thread that binds together every project we’ve worked on at Wilson Fletcher. In many ways, it’s the currency of the entire digital economy. On a macro scale, potential underpins the valuations of companies around the world today more than at any point in history (including the dotcom boom). Those upstart giants and a host of unicorns bear testament to how potential, more than profit, is what’s traded in global markets.
We’re more interested in the micro scale: the unrealised potential that is bound up in every organisation. Over the last 15 years, we’ve probably never worked with of our hundreds of clients whose digital potential didn’t exceed their current digital operations. Every organisation, of every age, in every sector is sitting on a wealth of latent, unrealised potential — potential that is constraining their ability to compete, grow and succeed.
This latent digital potential is always locked away in three basic areas: the under-performing; the untapped; and the unknown.
The first is probably the easiest to address: existing services that are performing poorly, or aspects of a business that are operating below their best. Under-performance can span large-scale organisational issues through the brand to a specific interface of a single service: most often we find it bound up in misconceived or outdated services. All too often, organisations sit on underperformance for far too long. Sometimes they don’t recognise the issue, sometimes they’re ignoring it, and frequently they just become paralysed because they don’t know what to do. Data is at its most powerful here.
Untapped potential usually lives in areas that are already in-play in some way: services that can use existing assets in new ways: new services that can increase value to and from existing customers; existing services that can be adapted to address new audiences; and many more. Untapped potential can be identified by actively searching it out as part of strategic programmes, but it’s also often identified proactively by customers or people close to them. The latter is the most common fuel for startups: an enormous amount of untapped potential is lost to organisations when it is recognised and then realised elsewhere.
Potential buried away in the unknown is perhaps the least tangible, but frequently proves to be the most potent. This type of potential is usually uncovered using research methods that actively seek to generate insights from customers, staff and partners. These insights will often uncover what should have been blindingly obvious but never has been; or they may simply identify potential for new ways to offer value to whole customer segments based on a comment made by a single customer discussing his or her business’s future. Uncovering the unknown typically requires very human-centred research methods — operational data is of occasional use here at best.
The digital age has also brought a fourth area where potential lies to the fore; and that’s in the new.
New, or emergent, potential lies in the new technologies that are being developed and introduced at an ever-increasing rate. Identifying this potential requires us to think with technology: creatively combining the organisation, its purpose and its services with emergent technologies to see what potential might lie in the fusion of the two.
The key here is to think opportunistically, not pessimistically. For example, “what might machine intelligence allow us to create — or become?”, not “how will machine intelligence impact our business?”. We find ourselves in this role more and more: helping to imagine how emergent technologies (or new customer behaviours) might be combined with a company’s assets (in the broadest sense) to innovate.
It’s increasingly clear to us in our work that the future success of every organisation depends on realising its potential across these four areas.
New approaches to strategy, research and design are helping us identify and realise more potential than ever, and organisational leaders should be actively exploring how to capitalise on digital potential to provide the fuel for their future growth. Potential remains largely hidden in most organisations, even today: releasing it can provide the new opportunities for innovation and growth that are essential to success in the digital economy.