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Be digital. It may seem trite, but the key to remaining competitive in a digital world is to be digital.
You can look at technology as a threat or the means by which you can create new opportunity.
Digital technology has lowered barriers to entry. It has opened-up new business opportunities and it has changed existing industries out of recognition. And in the case of industries that have not been changed out of recognition, just give it time.
It is tempting to say that the key to staying competitive in a digital world is to listen to the customer. With big data there is plenty of opportunity for you to gage what your customer thinks. It is just that in a world that is changing so fast, that sees digital technologies offer functions that a few years earlier no one had even considered, how can a customer know what he or she wants?
This is one of the lessons of innovators dilemma, the theory of disruptive technology that explains how large, market-dominant companies, fail. Sometimes customers are not in a position to know what they want because they are not au fait with what is possible. As popular mythology has it, Henry Ford said: “if you ask people what they want they say faster horses.”
So, if the customer doesn’t know, and if technology changes fast, what do you do?
The answer is to use technology to change fast too. Use digital technology to experiment.
The Cloud makes it possible to ramp up and down with IT. Other tools make it possible to recruit and manage freelance staff to advance a one-off project, and collaboration tools enable staff to work together on projects.
The lean start-up is a child of the digital era, creating and then rapidly testing ideas, and if they fail, dropping them.
It is often said that digital firms like failure. They don’t; they are just not afraid to see projects fail. The key is to fail fast, learn and try again.
Another key to remaining competitive in a digital world is to collaborate with other companies. It’s vital to learn and this can be achieved by working closely with others, contributing in conferences, for example, taking part in forums.
Many large companies respond to the threat of digital technology by setting up internal corporate venture capital arms. By doing this they hope to either create businesses they can absorb in the future, create future partners, or just learn.
Another way to stay competitive in a digital world is to try and look forward, and second guess what products could disrupt you.