Systems Thinking and Digital Transformation

Happy Mid-October! Grad school is in full-swing and we are in the midst of systems thinking. From my macro-level New Economies class, I’ve been thinking about systems thinking and resilience. We studied Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s ideas of Antifragility this week and my team is discussing how the idea of preparing for randomness/unexpected events is essential to be designed into the system.

So thus lies the dichotomy: do we align more with our systems? When do we break from our processes (systems) when faced in random events? If we keep breaking from the system, we don’t have a system and every situation becomes unique, custom. But if we adhere too much to our systems, our systems become fragile and unable to adapt to changes. We need a resilient system that can adapt.

Let’s look at this in terms of design, design thinking, and technology in legacy systems. Design thinking is a hot buzzword that companies like right now. Consultants are brought in to drive innovation and change as outsiders. But after this digital innovation system, what happens when the consultants leave? Legacy organizations may revert to their “systems” -or what has worked for the last 100 years. Is the “digital transformation” ever effective? Are the changes sustainable? What effects sustainable digital change?

Digital transformation isn’t just cool new Macs or ping pong tables. It’s a mindset, and a framework that’s socialized across stakeholders and C-level decision makers. That’s why digital transformation is so difficult to implement in legacy systems –things have worked so well so long, why change them?   

But these same stakeholders also often have children or family at the Generation Z (or whatever you’d like to identify them as) and see these changes at a micro level. Personal lives are affected by the acceptance of iphones at the dinner table, or snapping a picture of your meal. So digital transformation is understood as a need, a driver. But how do we move this from a micro level to the macro level?

My question is: How do we scale systems effectively?