Forced Transformation and Digital Darwinism

Forced Transformation and Digital Darwinism

Forced Transformation and Digital Darwinism
Australopithecus and Forced Transformation and Digital Darwinism

Taking a step back from the last couple of months of crisis operations brought on by a global COVID-19 Pandemic, the likes of which the world hasn’t seen in over a century. I realized that those last several months reminded me of an article I wrote in 2016 on Technology, Economics & Survival. In that article I made the case that, “digital technology simply becomes what business is and all businesses become technology companies, whether they recognize it, believe it, ignore it or embrace it” (Kleinberg, M. D., 2016).In retrospect that hypothesis is rapidly proving out in today’s environment, but only tells part of the story.

A graph of evolution over time.

As the world rapidly learns to live with the uncertainty of COVID-19 and slowly returns to business. COVID-19 and the ensuring pandemic caused the single fastest redistribution of human and societal needs and subsequently wealth in history. This rapid market environmental change has forced Saltational Evolution (e.g. abrupt evolutionary transformation) (Theißen, 2009) of firms. Where those firms that had been digital laggards prior to COVID-19 have either already been forced to shutter, or are rapidly moving into bankruptcy protections, which are up some 26% domestically since May 15, 2020 (Miller, H., & Berk, C. C., 2020).

A white plus sign on a red background. This is a symbol for medicine.

Across the globe, in every industry, and market segment firms are accelerating or pivoting their strategies and operations to digital. Those firms that had already made material progress towards modern agile digital operating models and supportive strategies, reengineered business processes, consumer and colleague focused agile product development, flatter organizational structures, reskilled and empowered colleagues are not only surviving but thriving.

But even armed with the latest digital transformation plan and actual transformation progress that's so hard to come by, the macro environment has radically changed due to the pandemic. The tail end of crisis operations is being heavily influenced by the financial retrenchment from the ensuring economic downturn. Business to Consumer (B2C) and the burgeoning Direct to Consumer (DTC) markets are experiencing consumer priorities, wants, and needs that have irrevocably changed. The same goes for business to business (B2B) and each firms’ own business to enterprise (B2E) colleague needs. These disruptive forces now need to be taken into consideration updating and informing each firm’s unique enterprise strategies. Urgently doing so with respect to Sales, Marketing and Communications strategies, but also for the less nimble, longer tail Customer Experience, Product, Servicing and Support, Supply Chain, and Colleague Experience Management strategies.

A DNA strand showing that customer intimacy connects to operational excellence, and product leadership connects to cost leadership.

Looking forward, sustainability and resiliency need to become the new normal, in this next normal world. No longer does sustainable market advantage require choosing between Operational Excellence, Customer Intimacy, Product Leadership, or Cost Leadership. To drive real consumer value and corporate outcomes all four need to be a priority and woven into a firm’s DNA at all levels.

Thematically, this means that firms will need to address:

  • Customer & Colleague Centricity
  • Target Operating Models
  • Operational Resilience
  • Accelerating End to End Digital Transformation
  • Radically Increasing Capital & Operating Expense Transparency
  • (Re)developing a Sustainable Operation and Competitive Advantage
  • Reimaging the Future of Work for its employees (Barriball, E., George, K., Marcos, I., & Radtke, P., 2020)

With a sense of urgency firms need to revise their strategy inputs and execute accordingly. The silver lining is that the transformation playbook hasn’t been radically reinvented due to this crisis. It still looks something like the below which needs to be tailored to each firm’s particular challenges, opportunities, and realities, but executed iteratively in weeks or months, not years:

Landscape & Gap Assessment

  • Customer & Colleague Experience Management (Personas, Journeys, Experiences, & Sentiment Metrics)
  • Product and Service Portfolio & Mix
  • Marketing Segmentation, Mix, Price, Promotion & Placement
  • Tools & Technology (Applications, Software, Cloud, Infrastructure, Portfolios, etc.)
  • Front, Middle, and Back Office Processes
  • Organizational Structure, Skills, and Competencies
  • Market & Competitive Intelligence

Strategy (Re)Development

  • Corporate Strategy
  • Sales & Marketing Strategies
  • Product Strategies
  • Servicing & Delivery Strategies
  • Transformation Strategies & Roadmaps
  • Technology Strategies & Roadmaps
  • Change Management Strategies
  • Outcome Management Strategies and Objectives & Key Results (OKRs)

Surviving and thriving in a global pandemic or any market disruptions requires an objective lens of your organization and supporting strategies that are tailored and pragmatically designed for execution in today’s real world. If your firm has been forced into transformation and you’re interested in learning more about how Mesh Digital can help with your Strategy and Delivery needs, please feel free to reach out.

-Stay Well


Barriball, E., George, K., Marcos, I., & Radtke, P. (2020, May 11). Jump-starting resilient and reimagined operations. Retrieved May 27, 2020, from

Kleinberg, M. D. (2016, February 18). Technology, Economics and Survival. Retrieved May 27, 2020, from

Miller, H., & Berk, C. C. (2020, May 15). JC Penney could join a growing list of bankruptcies during the coronavirus pandemic. Retrieved May 27, 2020, from

Theißen, G. (2009). Saltational evolution: hopeful monsters are here to stay. Theory in Biosciences, 128(1), 43–51. doi: 10.1007/s12064-009-0058-z

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