Summary of Building Digital-Ready Culture in Traditional Organizations

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If your firm isn’t a digital native, you may feel pressure to join the digital wave – and soon. But how do you know how far to take a digital transformation, and how do you tap into the best aspects of digital culture without also absorbing some of its flaws? This research-based article from the MIT Sloan Management Review helps answer these difficult questions, and more. 

About the Authors

George Westerman is a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, where Deborah L. Soule is a research consultant. Anand Eswaran is corporate vice president at Microsoft. 

 

Summary

Some aspects of traditional firms are worth preserving amid digital transformation.

Some companies are “born digital”: Amazon and Uber are prominent examples. Although these digital natives are remarkably swift and agile, they’re not without flaws. Amazon has developed a negative reputation for “uncompromising” behaviors, and Uber has made headlines for exploitative business practices and unaddressed harassment. Thus, traditional firms undergoing digital transformation may find that some characteristics of digital culture aren’t suitable for their local or organizational context. For instance, when Electrolux was cultivating a “digital-ready culture,” executives at the Stockholm-based appliance manufacturer realized that they couldn’t demand that employees suddenly work 70-hour weeks. Moreover, constantly redesigning the company’s core products – long-lasting hardware – didn’t make sense. So Electrolux CEO Jonas Samuelson cultivated the aspects of digital culture that fit and made money – namely, a fresh, invigorating orientation toward “innovation...


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