Transformation and long-term strategy

“The key to longevity – and immortality, in a sense – has to do with transformation”

(Marylin Manson)

The latest issue of Abstrakt, a fantastic magazine published by Zurich-based think tank W.I.R.E., is dedicated to the topic of longevity. When I read the introduction I felt as if I was reading the motivational chapter of my – not yet written – dissertation. But it captured in a very precise and dense way what I am interested in, when I research digital transformation. Technology is changing fast and it forces businesses to rethink their business models, change their processes, adapt their culture and their way of working. They need to develop new capabilities and strategies for the digital age. They need to transform their business. And it a rather radical change, not an evolutionary one. However, because development of new technologies is so dynamic and fast, it is easy to get caught up in short-term activities, “me-too-projects” and loose the long-term strategy out of sight. Sometimes companies do not even think about their long-term vision, they just want to stay ahead of the game right now.

But in the end, all businesses aim for longevity. You do not only want to survive right now, or be an innovation leader in your industry today, but the ultimate goal is to create a sustainable and long-lasting business.

This is something that I’d like to include in my dissertation: How do you prioritize short-term and long-term activities? Is it more rewarding to be the innovation leader or follower? And how do you measure the success of your digital projects if they are part of a long-term strategic vision and do not have an immediate financial return?

It also fits nicely into the idea of a podcast, that I discovered quite a while ago (actually when they aired the very first episode) and that is dedicated to this exact idea: Longevity in business. The folks of Basecamp have launched “The Distance”, a podcast that takes a storytelling approach and features businesses that have been around for over 25 years. One episode covers exactly the walking distance from the institute to my home (18-20 minutes) and it is nicely produced with a mix of interviews and background information. To look into case studies, like the ones in this podcast, talk to the people who design and carry out business transformations and explore their situational context and strategic choices, will be my next project in my dissertation. Can’t wait.

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