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Digital innovation unpacked: the secret to business longevity

Thriving businesses must be ready to reinvent themselves for success – over and over again

Microsoft’s panel of experts discusses the importance of innovation

Today, successful businesses need to have a strong innovation culture running through their core. Digital transformation, far from just being an aspirational goal, is critical to business success.

Essential business processes and interactions with customers, partners and employees increasingly depend on tailored innovative digital solutions. The cloud, for example, has changed the very fabric of business.

The rise and fall of companies that once seemed indomitable, like Blackberry or Blockbuster, reminds us that businesses can – and regularly do – disappear. In 2020, the average lifespan of a large company on Standard and Poor’s 500 Index was just over 21 years, compared with 32 years in 1965. Indeed, McKinsey forecasts that by 2027, 75% of today’s S&P 500 will have ceased trading. 

Curiously, this is the antithesis to the story of humanity – our life expectancy continues to increase due to our creative problem solving, adaptation to changing environments and our harnessing of technology. Declining corporate longevity is not an inevitability for those organisations that are capable – and willing – to adapt in similar ways to humanity. So perhaps it’s time for organisations to look at the assets, people and technology they have and think about how they apply thoughtful (and rapid) change to what they do, to adapt, grow and make the most of every new opportunity.   

Microsoft recently teamed up with Dr Chris Brauer, director of innovation at the Institute of Management Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London, to produce three films, each with a panel of preeminent experts, to discuss how company culture, business models, leadership and skills can be harnessed or adapted to drive digital innovation within organisations. You can see a preview of the discussion below:

Creative destruction leads to agility 

The first video in the series looks at the concept of creative destruction: the ability of organisations to transform and adapt to bring agility to their operations and business models. Agility, these days, means bringing together people, systems, and operations in creative new ways to take advantage of opportunities that emerge in the marketplace.

This may sound simple enough but to do so, businesses must also ensure they have the right digital tools in place and are prepared to create innovative, scalable solutions to problems as they emerge.

“Right now, we’re in an inflection point on the pace of change and the level of disruption we’re seeing,” said Michael Wignall, Azure business lead at Microsoft. “So now, more than ever, [organisations] have to put in place strategies to adapt.” 

Indeed, said Mike McGee, chief creative officer at Framestore, “establishing a culture of experimentation and exploration” with technology was critical to his business. He argued that the biggest successes come when you take the biggest risks. 

Click here to watch the video now

Developing a superculture 

The second session in the Microsoft Digital Innovation series looked to visualise the interplay between organisational and cultural factors in stimulating the innovation process. The discussion explores how leaders can create a collaborative culture that encourages decision autonomy and empowers their workforce.  

People are now recognising how much culture can drive not just the change and transformation in how organisations operate, but performance itself. 

Creating that “superculture” of digital innovation refers to getting the most out of your people and technology simultaneously – by creating a diverse group from varied backgrounds with different perspectives, that utilise the varied points of view produced by cognitive diversity and then augmenting that with getting the latest smart technologies. 

Culturally, if you want to drive innovation, you’ve got to get your people to try new things. Hugh Milward, general manager at Microsoft highlighted a key mechanism for leaders to take to nurture this approach, by being willing to be challenged – publicly. “You must inculcate a culture where it’s OK to push back, to challenge, probe and understand more,” he said. “It’s OK to fail and not to know all the answers. It’s OK to learn your way through this. This creates a culture where people are able to try things for the first time and leaders can drive new levels of effectiveness within the organisation.” 

Click here to watch the video now

High-velocity leadership 

Ultimately, a leader must drive both the creative destruction mindset and sow the seeds to create a superculture. The third video in the series investigates how effective leaders drive performance and communicate a vision that everyone can identify with, especially in contexts of volatility and crisis through leveraging untapped potential within their business and talent – particularly with regards to digital skills and how technology can create a positive impact on the performance of the organisation.

One such example is how leaders can democratise innovation within the organisation by enabling their teams to access low and no-code development tools. The more you open up your organisation and allow different viewpoints, the quicker you can innovate and the more successful your business will be. Having a developer community that consists not only of core developers who understand the coding inside-out, but also individuals who understand the business and can bring that together in terms of fusion teams – that’s the key to success. 

Click here to watch the video now

Agility, culture and leadership are three of the crucial elements needed within any organisation looking to drive innovation. By letting go of the past and embracing the future – in all its messiness, complexity and changeability – businesses can use digital innovation as the way to unlock corporate durability.

You can find out more about how Microsoft is helping businesses to innovate by visiting Digital Innovation or downloading the eBook 

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