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Transformation is a natural phenomenon, as old as the very existence of this universe. So why has it seemingly become so important today?
Since the beginning of life, we as humans have evolved to what we are today, and in a similar manner, everything around us has evolved too– time has a record of all that has changed. Today, change is the only constant: it is much faster, very hazy, extremely ruthless and dynamically transforming.
Contextually, transformation is a change or alteration, especially a “radical” one; it takes an “act of transforming,” or a “state of being transformed.”
With a variety of definitions across business (process, strategy), technology (analog, digital), math (logic, algorithm), science (medicine, genetics), and many more, transformation is a result of evolution or metamorphosis or atavism- all of which can be defined as follows:
- Evolution is a long, but slow biotic process of gradual change and growth in a certain direction, relatively peaceful social or political or economic advancement.
- Metamorphosis is a biological process by which a living creature physically develops after birth or hatching, involving a conspicuous and relatively abrupt change in the body structure through cell growth and differentiation.
- Atavism is a biological process, reversion of growth, an evolutionary throwback, such as traits reappearing that had disappeared generations before. In social sciences, atavism is described as a cultural tendency of reversion, e.g. people in the modern era reverting to the ways of thinking and acting of a former time.
Evidently, nature undertakes creativity, innovation and change to achieve transformation, and this analogy is suitable to all definitions of transformation including business, technology, math, science and many more.
Transformation is all around us, and it occurs every moment- for instance, energy changes from one form to another, a mirror reflection transforms an image, a moth transforms into a butterfly, a tadpole transforms into a frog, transactional data transforms into information, and so on- this list is endless.
To contain and limit the scope of this article, let us focus on transformation in context of business, technology and people- it already has an infinite scope for debate, management and governance. Since the dawn of the internet and access to free information, the magnitude of “change” is enormous, in the last 10 years or less, many industries, enterprises and governments have been grappling with forces of disruption and the threat of extinction, and many changed to newer methods of conducting business.
Consider the likes of music stores, camera and film roll makers, print media, payphones and bookstores, who have realized this threat and have transformed into new ways to doing business. As for the future, the next few industry sectors near extinction are small-scale retail outlets, pharmacists, insurance brokers, real estate agents, car rentals and similar businesses. With this being the case, major reform and transformation activity is currently underway across agriculture, manufacturing, automotive, textile, education, utilities, renewable energy, medical, healthcare, and governments.
At the end of the day, it must be remembered that transformation is not limited to the periphery of business and technology; it scales deep across people (culture, beliefs, society), process (system, methods, procedure) and strategy (plan, policy, rules)- hence, all aspects of making business happen. Until date, automation was by choice, but today transformation is fundamental, with process alignment, removal of redundancy, performance analytics, digital marketing, artificial intelligence, wearable devices, augmented reality, internet of things, benchmarking and blockchain– the race is on for moving from analog to digital!
Notably, transformation, be it business or digital, is one of the most revered, extensively researched, read, written and spoken subject matter. To each one of us, it is an unnerving quest undertaken individually and collectively across a variety of enterprises, industries, social organizations, government agencies and many more.
On the other hand, fostering creativity, research, innovation and development has been a primary prerogative of the government or its coveted agencies. It involved huge investment of resources, time and money– it also has a state of uncertainty, useless results or a total loss of time, money and effort. Now however, it is a task undertaken by many commercial organizations and new age startups– to ignite creativity, exhibit innovation and pronounce leadership. It is today a creed, the culture, and the court.
As a consequence of this, the time-to-market has become shorter- it is high speed, hi-tech, research is ongoing, products are evolving, while impact on society and its users is unknown and perplexing. So, it continues to be a work in progress, lacking in maturity, security, scalability, sustainability, while regulatory and administrative controls are missing or are evolving. At the same time, the inventors of these creative and innovative products are themselves puzzled by the variety of use cases that evolve by use and adoption of these products– hence it is a continuous improvement process, an ongoing effort to improve products, services, or processes. These efforts can result into an incremental improvement over time, or achieve ‘breakthrough’ improvement and supremacy all at once.
It is also baffling to note that transformation is a ‘result’ of trauma or an ordeal or a disaster, a condition known as post traumatic growth, e.g. industrialization, tsunami, famine, these factors fortified mankind to recreate, increase efficiency, produce more, reduce average cost, marvel engineering, and a lot more. Thereby, transformation is still a natural phenomenon, undertaken by most or all constituents of this universe. It can just happen, not only by choice, but also by force, sometimes beneficial and at times, lethal or disruptive– under all of these circumstances, change is the principal common factor.
In order for it to succeed, transformation needs creativity, innovation and leadership, where leadership is the character that fuels creativity, nurtures innovation and has the ability to inspire people. It is essential to note that in business, the core disruptive and transformative force is the customer, i.e. people, while technology is just an enabler. Hence, business or digital transformation is not just about systems or software; it is about people and how people connect, relate, interact, perceive, and use technology. It is about customer engagement, contextual intelligence, behavioral analytics, value delivery, while achieving digital excellence and customer delight.
Without change, there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. As William G. Pollard said: “Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change, which is inevitable.”