Digital storytelling

Published May 10, 2015

Digital is no longer a question, it’s an obligation.

Digital can democratise markets with unrivalled pace, momentum and reach. It has no respect for organisational hierarchies, preconceptions or biases. It will blast through all those to create an entirely new market, customer base and league table while you are still spinning up your steering committee.
The willingness (or at least capability) for some organisations to stifle creativity and innovation is outrageous. Incumbent banks too often find themselves paralysed by their own past story.

BCG recently posited “there’s no such thing as corporate DNA“.

“In our globalizing world, market shares are shifting fast. Companies that were hardly known ten years ago… have become not only global challengers but also market leaders in their own right. And once-great companies have slumped, disappearing either into bankruptcy or into the hands of successful rivals. Why? Because for too long, old stalwarts have clung to their company’s so-called DNA when radical change—evolution with a capital “R”—was called for. They tried to protect their heritage when new approaches were required. They emphasized continuity when discontinuity was necessary. As the CEO or other top executive, you are the trustee of your company’s tangible and intangible assets alike—and the steward of your stakeholder relationships. It is your job to develop them and, when necessary, to change them.”


They continued re-telling the old story, when an entirely new one was overdue.

The most effective and engaging CEOs are master storytellers. Telling a story is the most effective way to activate our brains.

For them to initiate a successful digital transformation, they must first have and then clearly articulate an ambitious vision. This is actually relatively easy. But to build momentum maintain focus and effect real, sustainable change, the story must continue to unfold over time. It needs regular deployments and milestones, all forming a powerful and sharable narrative. A story that the team, customers and stakeholders – can identify and identify with.

Digital is a journey, not a destination.

Where are you on your transformation journey? Are you already well into the early chapters, or barely through the prologue? Has your story truly begun or have your digital activities so far been merely helping you explore what you might do?

Digital is not an end point or a ‘thing’. It’s not an asset, it’s an attitude.
As an organisation, you need no longer wait years for a finished product before shipping. Digital transformation, done well, is an invaluable opportunity to deliver incremental iterations – as part of an evolving story that can be shared, debated and reshaped.

Don’t underestimate how alien this is going to feel to your organisation.

Just because your developers now consider themselves ‘agile’ doesn’t mean your sales teams are ready to embrace the new tool they’re going to be given, however thorough the UX research.

No, for the incumbent, the greatest challenge is to adapt organisational culture, mindset and apparatus to embrace and effect the transformation. A fundamental and widespread shift is required to create and sustain an environment where iterative, incremental improvements and advancements can be created and released.

Through these regular iterations, the overall business strategy can be propelled forward. The business can accrue immediate value from this form of digital transformation, whilst also learning from relative successes and failures.

“An organisation’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.” 

Jack Welch

This new approach – which will feel unfamiliar and therefore may too easily be rejected by the organisation – provides a rare opportunity to both celebrate and course-correct. For perhaps the first time, the organisation has the chance to respond to evolutions in market and customer behaviour dynamically. Every piece of feedback, every idea, every success and failure has a place in the story.

In 2013, Sapient published a model for organisations to assess the maturity of their mobile strategy – introducing the journey from “Intrigued” through “Aware” and “Enabled” all the way to “Benchmark” status.

“Few today can question the benefits of mobile. Overwhelmingly, the problem is not that companies are without a mobile strategy; chances are that they have several well-received mobile applications. Rather, companies are lacking an effective mobile roadmap: a plan that realizes where their company is and what point they want to reach in a designated time and budget.”

Hopgood / Ruparelia

Perhaps for ‘Digital’ we might now say:

Few today can question the benefits of digital. Overwhelmingly, the problem is not that companies are without a digital strategy; chances are that they have several. Rather, companies are lacking an effective digitally-transformed business roadmap: a plan that realises where their company is and what point they want to reach.  


In the context of digital, so many organisations are still merely Intrigued or Aware. There’s no shortage of activity – nobody wants to be part of a ‘Kodak moment’ – but is there a sense of purpose, a vision, a compelling story taking shape?

To develop maturity – to survive and thrive – these organisations must urgently immerse themselves in digital – making it a critical part of their narrative.

Digital cannot be bolted on alongside the existing business. It must become the core competency.

Rewriting the story, one chapter at a time.

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