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How to build a digital mindset to win at digital transformation

By Dr Inken Braunschmidt, Chief Innovation and Digital Officer at FTSE 100 technology group Halma plc

Digital transformation was already a priority for most forward-thinking organisations. Now, due to the impact of Covid-19 on our workplaces and consumer habits, its importance has been accelerated to warp speed.

But what does a digital transformation in today’s business world actually look like, and how do you make it a success?

Winning in the field of digital transformation is not just a matter of technology. When digital transformation is mentioned by business leaders, they often resort to talking about IT infrastructure, technologies and applications.

While these are important considerations, digital transformation can never realise its full potential for your business unless the other, equally vital, half of the equation is taken into account – your innovation and digital mindset.

Mindset over matter

At Halma “how” we approach digital transformation is just as important as the “what” (technology, solutions, services) we are putting in place.

We made the conscious decision to cultivate an innovation and digital mindset within Halma to support our digital transformation.

How a global technology group like Halma can be innovative

Halma is a global group of 45 life-saving technology companies, operating in three broad market areas of safety, health and the environment. Our technologies are used in life-saving applications all over the planet, from fire detection to blood pressure monitoring. As a group operating in the technology space, digital transformation is critical to our growth, and we recognise how important it is to get the “how” right, as well as the “what”.  We also have a unique business model that empowers our company leaders to make the right judgements for their business based on what their market needs. As a result, changing our leaders’ mindsets about digital transformation had to start with them. The number one principle of cultural or mindset change is: “People support what they create”

Build the digital and innovation mindset

To begin, we brought our leaders together to shift their thinking about innovation. We began a group-wide innovation and digital transformation programme to change the way we thought as a business. We ran leadership programmes which focused on agile methods and experimenting and developing outside-in thinking. We took our leaders to start-ups in the fastest-growing innovation and digital ecosystems in the world including Tel Aviv/ Israel, Bengaluru/ India, Shenzhen/ China and London or Berlin. We established an innovation network to accelerate the exchange of ideas and to build partnerships.

As the mindset shifted, a pull effect was created which meant that our companies wanted to innovate and to experiment more and they wanted to go digital.

We have now set up incubator and accelerator programmes where our companies can connect with each other, as well as external partners, to generate new ideas and develop new business models in an agile and lean-start-up process.

In India, we have been leveraging the expertise of our India Hub to encourage our companies to think differently about how they can reimagine their products for a digital world using the innovation ecosytem. Two examples: Volk, which makes clinical grade lenses and cameras for vision care specialists, and Fortress, which makes customised safety equipment for hazardous workplaces.

Volk’s mindset shift was to start by listening to the customer. In India there are millions of people who live in remote locations who have to travel for days to get an eye test. The need was bring the eye test to them. Volk solved this by developing a handheld device – the Pictor Plus – that could be taken into the field and operated by non-specialists.

Fortress’s mindset shift was to integrate the customer into the problem-solving process. They partnered with Flipkart, India’s biggest e-commerce store, to identify potential opportunities. By working closely with them in an open way, they discovered there was a specific problem they could help Flipkart solve. This was to provide controlled access using Fortress technology to an area of Flipkart warehouses where high value goods were stored.

We know we are still learning how to foster an innovation and digital mindset as an organisation. As part of our journey so far we have identified three critical barriers to overcome and shift mindset to give you the best chance of success.

First. You need to overcome the technical skills barrier. For that you need the right people. There is a difference in developing hardware or software as much as selling a one-time sales product or a service with recurring fees. Yes, you can train people to a certain extent to do so. But what we’ve realised at Halma is that diversity, equality and inclusion are just as important to digital & innovation success as every other aspect of business performance. At Halma this approach to diversity is in our DNA. Attracting and recruiting people with diverse viewpoints as well as diverse skills, mean that you will be able to see new opportunities and imagine new solutions.

Second. You need to overcome the business model barrier. You need to think differently about how your business generates revenue. Fixed mindsets in your team that don’t have an outside-in approach to your market and are hooked on business as usual need to be changed. You need to take a bold and visionary approach to doing business differently, and helping your team reimagine their old business model.

Third. You need to overcome the business structure barrier. Often the biggest barrier to cultural adaptation is the organisation itself. Using the same tools and strategies that built your business today isn’t going to enable the digital transformation of tomorrow. It requires a fundamental shift in the way your organisation works.

At Halma we’re working on our technology and on our innovation & digital mindset at the same time to ensure our sustainable long-term success.

A technology shift not backed by an innovation and mindset shift will put any digital transformation at risk. If you want to give yourself the best chance of success, you must first change the minds, not just the machinery.

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2 Comments

  1. Hi Inken. Valuable insights. You nailed it on the how and what. What is the why message that went along with it?

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