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The Internet is rife with ads and websites shilling the “one weird trick” you need to lose weight, obtain a lifetime of wealth, or attract the perfect date. While most of these promises are, of course, too good to be true, they do underscore the very human desire for simple solutions to the problems that plague us. And oddly enough, our research suggests that there really is “one weird trick” that may be critically important to successful digital transformation.
As a part of the research for our recent report on Digital Business, conducted in collaboration with Deloitte, MIT Sloan Management Review surveyed nearly 4,000 executives worldwide and interviewed 17 executives to assess the current state of digital business within the enterprise. As with our previous research, we asked respondents to rate how digitally mature they believe their company to be, on a scale of 1 to 10. We then examined how companies on the low end (which we called “early” digital companies), in the middle (“developing” digital companies), and on the high end (“maturing” digital companies) of this digital maturity scale are similar to and different from one another.
This year’s research yielded a plethora of rich insights, but one that may appear to be the least interesting ultimately could prove to be the most important.
This year, we asked survey respondents to evaluate the culture of their organizations on a series of five different scales that captured the company’s appetite for risk, leadership structure, work style, agility, and decision-making style. We then performed a statistical technique called cluster analysis, which groups similar types of responses together. We expected that our data analysis would reveal that companies could be characterized by certain “personality types” — for example, we thought we’d find that risk-averse, collaborative companies exhibit different approaches to digital maturity than centralized, agile companies.
I had hoped to develop catchy names for these differing groups and organize them under a heading like “the four paths to digital maturity.” In doing so, I hoped to move this year’s report beyond our compelling but relatively simple categorization of early, developing, and maturing companies to a more nuanced and variegated understanding of how companies engage in digital business.