Book Review: 'The Digital Helix' by Michael Gale and Chris Aarons
The Digital Helix: How to Transform Every Aspect of Your Organization to Win Now and in the Future Michael Gale and Chris Aaarons Greenleaf Book Group Press (October 2017)
How and why almost any organization can – and should – develop a digital-first DNA for itself I agree with Michael Gale and Chris Aaarons: “More than 80 percent of organizations are attempting to digitally transform the way they operate in the twenty-first century as they try to take advantage of the digital DNA that drives success in high-growth organizations. Research, however, shows how tough digital transformations can be, with less than one in six organizations truly succeeding in their vision. To yield the true promise of digital, organizations must change the fundamentals of how they think, act, and behave.”
Here’s an example (not cited in the book) that I have frequently observed while working closely with the C-level executives in hundreds of companies. There are constant references to an “IT problem” or a “marketing problem” or a “customer service” problem. Each of these is in fact a business problem and must be addressed as such. The question should be “What is the best answer or the best solution?”
Gale and Aarons provide an abundance of information, insights, and counsel that can help prepare leaders in almost any organization— whatever its size and nature may be — to understand the underlying tensions and opportunities presented by a world rapidly becoming digital. They also explain how various leaders are using new thinking, new behavior, and new analytics to achieve high-impact result business problem and must be addressed as such.
“A cornerstone of this approach is using a new framework we have entitled the ‘Digital Helix.’ It integrates all parts of the organization sales, marketing, communications, product [or service] design, customer service, and human resources to make digital transformation far better than the sum of its parts. This comprehensive structure [thoroughly explained within the narrative] provides the perspectives and tools needed to use digital to outmaneuver the competition across seven key areas [listed on Page 3] that will transform the business.”
Broad and deep research suggests that there are seven key elements that describe that on which most thriving digital organizations focus and how they prioritize. Here are the first three:
1. The executive is not simply the navigator and mapmaker for the organization. “The executive needs to go beyond and become an active explorer of the new frontier to discover all the possibilities,” not only those already identified.
2. In formation flows in connected ways in both horizontal and vertical motions between and among all levels and areas of the given enterprise. “Knowledge is gained from constant interactions with customers and the market. This sharing and transfer of in formation enables value and creates opportunities that are often left by the wayside in traditional organizations.”
3. Marketing has seen that customers have various and differing interactions as well as different expectations. “Some customers can be directly driven and guided but others require the ability to react. Some even focus only on listening, learning from, and utilizing those interactions throughout the organization.”
Although the Digital Helix’s seven components serve as its foundation, success ultimately depends on how well they work together. “The secret is to balance the importance of the seven components and to plot the right course.” Hence the importance of the construction process of what is inevitably a work in progress. Also, it is imperative that that balance is modified to accommodate a global marketplace today that is more volatile, more uncertain, more complex, and more ambiguous than any prior time that I can recall.
In this book, Michael Gale and Chris Aaarons provide an abundance of information, insights, and counsel…just about everything business leaders will need when transforming their organization’s DNA to thrive in the digital age. Their book is a brilliant achievement.
Editor's note: This review was written by Robert Morris and has been published with his permission.Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.