Imagine you are an alien nanobot driving a caterpillar …

28th February 2017

Bear with me … I do have a point … so imagine you were an alien nanobot driving a caterpillar. You’ve spent the last month pottering about inside your larva state, successfully getting your caterpillar to chomp down his 5-a-day, protected by the isolation and darkness of the vegetation surrounding you – but you know you can’t live like this forever, the vegetation you used to thrive on is becoming harder to find these days.


So one day you go into a state of transformation with the intention of expanding your horizons, developing the ability to fly, becoming faster, more agile and more liberated from being a ground dwelling 16 legged furry wrigglebot. As the driver of the caterpillar you know it’s an important transformation, and everything in nature is telling you that this transformation is needed in order for you to survive.


Behold, one day you emerge from your pupal stage, you press the new shiny ‘Unfurl Wings’ button on your metaphysical control panel and watch in amazement as your beautiful, brightly coloured wings expand around you. The possibilities that have just opened up by your new transformation are limitless, you can feel the power of life fill your mechanical alien nanobot lungs! As you manoeuvre your butterfly towards the edge of the leaf and prepare for your first flight into a brave new world of wonder and discovery, a giant bird swoops down from the sky and eats you alive. Didn’t even blink.


In truth, any number of animals could have eaten you alive including wasps, ants, parasitic flies, snakes, toads, rats, lizards, dragonflies, frogs, spiders and even monkeys (at least that’s what Wikipedia says). The point of the story is that transformation is often seen as a destination, not a journey; that somehow by digitally transforming, or culturally transforming, or becoming more innovative, your business is somehow suddenly going to enter a brand new world without predators or competition. In fact, your need to remain relevant and survive will be exactly the same as it was before you entered the transformation process.


Organisations that are designed for change will be more successful and relevant in a digital world than those that experience change. It’s a subtle difference but an important one, because one is a cultural mindset and the other is an activity.


As an example, let’s say you have gone through a digital transformation process, you are now collecting data from all points of the business, your technologies are connected, your tech is so streamlined its almost invisible. What now? How do you decide what is insight and what is data; how do you decide what is valuable and what is not; how do you use the data to inform innovation in your products; are your team of a mindset that can embrace rapid iteration and release and not fear failure; does everyone know why you transformed in the first place and what it means for them; how is your transformation affecting customers or influencing their behaviour; how has it changed your position in the market or opened new opportunities in new markets; how are you attracting talent that will drive your new digitally transformed business forward?


These are likely to be exactly the same problems you had before the digital transformation process, or if not the same, then at least a whole set of new problems to deal with!


The moral of the story, if you’re going to be an alien nanobot driving a caterpillar, make sure you understand that survival is not about transformation as an activity, it’s about transformation as a state of mind.


Richard Botting

Strategy Partner