‘Dual Transformation’: Gilbert’s Playbook for Leveraging a Business’s Unfair Advantages

It was interesting to see The New York Times’ Farhad Manjoo boldly assert that Snap was going to get eaten alive by Facebook and its new emphasis on augmented reality. Facebook has a major headstart with users, partnerships and sales channels.

We’ll see about that – the Snap team has proved to be an agile one and it is a hot brand that has developed real loyalty in a core audience. But Facebook is certainly in a position to leverage some “unfair advantages” over the disruptor.

Those unfair advantages are the theme of “Dual Transformation,” a new playbook for corporate leaders wanting to build a new business while shoring up their existing, disrupted business. The book was written by Scott Anthony and Mark Johnson, two of the Clayton Christensen disruption disciples at InnoSight; and by Clark Gilbert, a faculty colleague at Harvard Business School who has gone on to leadership positions at Deseret Digital Media and the Mormon Church.

The authors’ new emphasis on using corporate leadership to reinforce new business growth areas reflects a maturation of the digital transformation, which now is deeply integrated into many companies and segments. In this maturation, wholesale disruption of industry segments — Uber, Airbnb — may be less common. But companies seeking to keep their edges had better be prepared to adjust everything – from their reporting systems to their sales forces to their market research — to keep rivals at bay.

“Disruption opens windows of opportunity to create massive new markets,” note the authors. “It is also the moment when the market also ran can become the market leader.”

The new game – also explored in last year’s Digital Vortex by The Cisco Institute — is to take stock of what’s working in existing models, and leverage that as companies switch business models. Successful antecedents include such companies as IBM, in the 1990s, and more recently, Netflix with the successful move to streaming from DVD rentals. And of course, Amazon, all the time.

There is a definite sense of urgency in doing so. “Innovators should address risks that have the highest impact on their business as soon as possible,” note the authors. Do you think it can’t happen? TV networks once cockily dismissed YouTube’s impact. “If you add up every video that anyone has ever watched on it, it is less than the lowest ranked prime time show on a Tuesday night,” they’d say. “That was true in 2005. Less true in 2010. And certainly not true in 2016.”

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