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How digital destruction will actually save your business

If you look at the Fortune 500 list from the year 2000 right now, you’d probably only recognize about half the listed companies. What the heck is happening here? Let's take a look at 'digital destruction'.

by Jo Foster
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If you look at the Fortune 500 list from the year 2000 right now, you’d probably only recognize about half the listed companies.

Yep. In just 17 years, 50% of the 500 most profitable businesses in the U.S. have gone bankrupt, been acquired by other companies or otherwise fallen completely off the radar.

What the heck is happening here? Ladies and gentlemen, introducing digital destruction.

Digital destruction… huh?

To understand ‘digital destruction’, you first need to get a handle on ‘creative destruction’. In a nutshell, creative destruction refers to the endless innovation of products and processes within the capitalist economy.

Driven by the consumer dollar, creative destruction is actually generally seen as a positive sign of a dynamic, consumer-orientated market.

But plain ol’ creative destruction has gone into overdrive in today’s hyper-competitive, hyper-global, hyper-digital economy.

The last few decades have seen a mass adoption of digital technologies and tech innovations across almost every industry.

The immense change these new digital technologies are having on traditional products, processes and models of business is known as digital destruction.

It’s having such a profound impact on business, the World Economic Forum has dubbed it the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”.

Digital masters

To say digital companies are “revolutionizing” the market is probably an understatement.

Thanks to a mix of artificial intelligence, robotics, cognitive computing and, of course, the interwebs, digital companies can optimise and leverage their business to meet new consumer demands with relative ease.

They can reach massive new audiences immediately and at very little cost; compete in new sectors by collaborating with peers and competitors; and agilely improve productivity, processes and product quality via converging technologies and new data sources.

With all these incredible new tools in the box, is it really any wonder traditional businesses are being crushed by the likes of Uber, Netflix and Amazon?

Destroy or be destroyed

There’s certainly an apprehension among mature, established businesses of the plucky startup coming to digitize and destroy the business they’ve held onto for decades - and one big example of the fallout can be seen in the music industry, a once-untouchable gold mine before the joys of digital downloads took a firm grip on society. There has been a recent upswing in purchases of recorded media, but largely the industry has been forced to adapt to the needs and (digital) wishes of its desired market.

Think your own business is doomed to become another victim of digital destruction? It doesn’t have to be. The wonderful thing about digital destruction (and technology in general) is that any company can benefit with a bit of agility, innovation and collaboration.

Existing companies can adopt digital technologies and dedicate resources to digital innovation within their own markets to avoid being usurped by upstart startups.

Embracing this brave new world of rapid experimentation and optimization allows traditional business to innovate faster than ever before. Success is no longer about changing your strategy, but having the agility to execute multiple strategies at the same time.

People power

And far from replacing everyone with robots (yet), businesses and government bodies can make efforts to support their people in adapting to such rapid change. With digital destruction, automation and the like, it is true that some jobs and businesses in their current form will change or become obsolete… but with new technology comes new jobs and new opportunities - ones we can’t even comprehend yet. A focus on preparing for and utilizing new technology could be the best thing you ever did for your venture.

Successful CEOs need to develop the right leadership attitudes, workforce skills and business cultures to support the new era of digital destruction.

They need to act agilely, identify and run with new opportunities quickly, have the flexibility to adapt to change at lightning speed and foster similar attitudes and skills in their team.  

With the right attitude (and the right data), you can bring the right team together to innovate, conquer challenges and ultimately move your company forward into the digital revolution. Let’s go!

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