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There is no shortage of stories about companies that create amazing innovations with digital technology. By using mobile devices, social media, analytics and the cloud, savvy companies are transforming the way they do business. Most of the stories feature companies that are small and young or that operate in industries such as music or high tech, where digital technology has already radically shifted the business landscape. For larger companies in more traditional industries, it’s easy to think that digital transformation can wait and that a follower strategy is a safer route than trying to be a pioneer. That kind of thinking, while tempting, is wrong.
Although the software, media and technology industries get a disproportionate share of the attention, those industries account for less than 10% of the U.S. economy. What about the other 90%? We studied more than 400 large companies around the world in industries including manufacturing, hospitality and mining. We found that in every industry we studied, companies are doing exciting things with digital technology and getting impressive business benefits. What’s more, any organization can adopt their methods.
Companies that lead in using digital technology — we call them “digital masters” — differ not only in their capability but also in the clarity of their vision. They see digital not as a technology challenge but as a transformation opportunity. Rather than incrementally adjusting current practices, they search for ways to use today’s fast-moving technologies to transform the way they do business.
For managers in traditional industries, this can be a tall order. Many assumptions about what is possible and impossible, based on experience with last century’s technologies, are no longer valid in the digital world. How do you move beyond your current mind-set to find opportunities that digital technology can enable?
Start by rethinking four traditional assumptions that affect how you relate to your customers, how you run your operations, how you organize and even how you think about your business model. This assumption-busting exercise will help you to think differently about what is possible.
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Assumption 1: Our customers really value the human touch. Humans have their place in customer interactions. But not all interactions with humans are actually valuable to customers.
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