By Joe Carella
Associate Dean, Executive Education
For the past couple of decades the holes in Swiss cheese had been disappearing and none could work out why. For an industry and a country that made its money on holes (pardon the pun!), this was no joking matter. The Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology announced on Thursday that they have discovered the reason for the disappearance of the holes as well as the reason why the holes were there in the first place: hay particles. Yes, you read that right — hay particles which form the bedding in barns would naturally end up in the buckets of milk and allow for the cheese to form its trademark holes. The mechanization of the milking process led to increased sanitation but reduced the exposure of milk to the hay.
You could say that new technologies have had a detrimental effect on Swiss Cheese. At a time when business and its leaders are becoming increasingly digital (Big Data, Internet of Things, Robotics, etc), what is the “hay” in your business that you should preserve? What is that trademark advantage that would disappear as you digitize your business?
At the University of Arizona with an increased focus on the keys to success in the digital leadership age, but we are also working to make sure that organizations do not lose sight of what drives their success to make sure that their digital transformation does not destroy this unique source of value. (Check our research and rankings at https://mis.eller.arizona.edu/)
So here’s three areas we recommend Leaders to check when looking for business “hay”:
- Culture – how is your culture formed in your organization? What organizational rituals and points of connection would you lose as you transform your business?
- Creativity – where does the creative process start today? How can you successfully replace the creative venues of today with virtual ones that can be just as effective?
- Connections and Knowledge Transfer – true service centered organizations thrive on the continued informal connections and knowledge transfer that happens among people. How can you make sure that this will continue to drive your competitive advantage?
Our checklist has a few more items on (e.g. decision making, customer intimacy, etc) and we are continuing to develop our insight. So here is us throwing it out there, help us understand this space more and answer this question:
What unique advantage do you feel should be preserved as your business turns digital?
Thank you for reading and any insight you will graciously share.