Go Boldly or Fade Away

Go Boldly or Fade Away Image

A Choice for Our Times


Crises and deadlocks when they occur have at least this advantage, that they force us to think.  Jawaharlal Nehru


As we practice social distancing and replace our meeting rooms with Zoom sessions, we yearn for the return to normality and the routines of a pre-COVID past. Our impatient embrace of daily rituals masks the real anxiety: today’s crisis takes us to something unknown, something new. 


Crisis begets change and transition, and consequently, opportunity. In the past two months, we have witnessed extraordinary adjustments at a global scale. These adjustments have extended telemedicine to deliver more than just cost savings; forced Universities to address their value proposition in the absence of country club amenities; and exposed the real need for global and transparent coordination between public health agencies from Wuhan to Milan. Every one of these adjustments represents an opportunity for renewed relevance and growth. 


So much has changed in just a few weeks. These rapid-fire changes starkly contrast against years of organizational inaction despite a digital transformation preparing us for this moment. Why have so many organizations tiptoed through their own adoption of new processes and customer interactions in the face of massive change? In a new economy that demands digital mastery for survival, biding your time in crisis is digging your head in the sand. Keep digging and get comfortable. You’ll be there for a while.


With some dead time on my hands, I’ve been catching up on some good briefings provided by McKinsey consultants Simon Blackburn and Jeremy Schneider et al. on Digital Strategy in a Time of Crisis. The article served as a catalyst to write this blog because it articulated what I had been thinking for the past few years: If you thought the speed of change was accelerating, wait until a pandemic deliver’s Mike Tyson’s proverbial punch to your mouth. It was tough developing strategy then, what’s it going to be like now? Blackburn and Schneider give us a peek by noting: 


The COVID-19 crisis seemingly provides a sudden glimpse into a future world, one in which digital has become central to every interaction, forcing both organizations and individuals further up the adoption curve almost overnight…. A world in which agile ways of working are a prerequisite to meeting seemingly daily changes to customer behavior. 1


Welcome to a brave new world where digital channels may be your only way to interact and engage customers, constituents and donors. It’s a new context that rewards the designer of processes that are both agile and transparent. It’s also an arena that offers advantage to the owner of automated processes that enable marketing operations to scale with speed and efficiency. These advantages are no longer the realm of hypotheses but rather early returns from a global market that has seen early digital transformation projects deliver more value to stakeholders than their hesitant peers.


Although we’ve always espoused support for tortoise-like, incremental wins for managing complex projects, Kaptivate chose the path of the hare for its own digital transformation. Our conviction to go “all in” was driven by what we witnessed in our client engagements: the power of data to reveal, real-time opportunity and the profound disadvantage our clients experienced when they chose incremental improvements in their digital journey. Choosing to be the hare in our digital transformation meant more than technology acquisition. Frankly, with partners like Salesforce, that’s the easy part of the journey. Kaptivate’s challenge was changing our mindset. This adjustment required a shift to design thinking where we used digital channels to iterate our communications campaigns with an objective to: focus on the customer’s journey; challenge our legacy assumptions; deliver insight to ALL stakeholders; test new ideas fearlessly; and ultimately, rebalance our campaigns as we assessed our failures and successes. 


Eleven years ago Kaptivate was founded in the midst of the Great Recession and the unprecedented change it introduced. We believed then as we believe now: change signals opportunity. Whether you can see the opportunity and quickly seize it, depends on your preparation. Don’t hesitate. Prepare and position your organization now and for the post-crisis world. Don’t depend on month-to-month adjustments or the even more damaging campaign cycle. Introduce the analytics, processes, and metrics across channels that enable quick movements, adjustments, and reallocations of resources. Accelerate your digital transformation in your core business activities then test, learn, and act. 


In times of crisis, the marketplace rewards the bold. In its aftermath, these more agile competitors control new markets and set the terms for the rest. Don’t go gently into the night. Skip this week’s third virtual Happy Hour and get your team on a Zoom call that commits to a bold, new journey.