Nick Herbert is the Head of Portfolio for Applications & Multi-Cloud at Fujitsu, assisting senior leaders to modernise and optimise.


Transformation is not a new term. In fact, it’s been commonplace since well before the industrial era.

However, the key challenge facing today’s businesses is speed. In the blink of an eye, new businesses can appear out of nowhere to disrupt your industry. Political transformations can force new central and local government initiatives at increasing speed.

Adapting to this changing landscape to generate sustainable success must be your first priority. If change is the only constant in life, then adaptability is your best possible weapon in pursuit of growth.  

The Evolution Of The Adaptive Economy

Allow me a short history refresher to highlight the development of the adaptive economy.

In the industrial era of the 18th and 19th centuries, the introduction of steam power and mechanization allowed the population to focus on increased production volumes with fixed heavy assets — an industrial economy if you will.

In the information age of the 20th century, the introduction of computers and electronics allowed the population to focus on powering the economy with rapid information exchange. Mass physical labor was replaced with PCs, laptops and mobiles, creating an economy built on information.

We are now in what some are calling a social era. A period that is defined by social media, virtual relationships, instant celebrities and influencers. Value is still based on information and data, yet connections and relationships also generate material worth.  

Through the democratization of technology, new ideas can instantly generate not just new business models but tangible startup businesses. These businesses scale at infinite speed, powered by readily affordable technology, accessible funding and willing consumers.  

With 74% of consumers trusting social networks to guide their purchasing decisions and 70% of teens trusting influencers more than traditional celebrities, it’s easy to see how new businesses scale rapidly with enthusiastic customers.

What Is An Adaptive Organization?

An adaptive organization is one that can meet the pace of change that is demanded of it by its internal and external forces. The increasing speed of Porter’s five forces is the main challenge that an adaptive organization must deal with.

Simply put… if your business has the flexibility and agility to deliver value at a velocity that meets the pace of these changing forces, then you have an adaptive organization.

However, for most organizations, even if you consider yourself to be “fast,” you will still recognize that in order to be successful, you need to be “faster.” A recent survey has found that 77% of leaders admit they need to react faster when faced with uncertainty and change.

Why Do I Need An Adaptive Organization?

The drivers of change are slightly different in every sector:

• Public sector Citizens now have expectations for the same seamless and intuitive digital services as the experiences provided by the private sector. This requires agencies to integrate data silos so citizens can access a unified view of their information and services.

• Financial services – In a highly regulated industry, regulatory changes have a significant impact on business and operational models in this sector. Digital-first competitors are capturing market segments without the same level of technical debt as traditional players that need to deliver new digital services within an open API and open banking context.

• Retail Seasonal demand periods have always presented challenges for retailers to scale their operations both up and down. Retailers have also had to contend with quickly switching their stores to online only during the pandemic while introducing new in-store concepts such as smart mirrors and video analytics for loss prevention.

• Healthcare Healthcare providers need the flexibility to enable specialists to access clinical data and scans remotely, which will allow them to serve more patients across multiple locations. The ongoing integration of AI and ML will improve patient outcomes while helping providers prepare for regulatory changes and ongoing disruptions similar to Covid.

How Do I Create An Adaptive Organization?

Becoming an adaptive organization requires a long-term change management program that pivots your organizational strategy toward being more flexible and agile. These programs will be unique to each organization, but we suggest taking the following steps:

Set Up Your Foundations

1. Realign your organization’s purpose and mindset, which will adjust your fundamental approach.

2. Pay back technical debt by digitizing your core systems while taking advantage of cloud models.

3. Create a culture of agile transformation by starting with small transformation initiatives and learning from mistakes.

4. Build digital skills, including soft skills like innovation, incubation, design thinking and empathy.

Adjust Your Decision-Making

1. Democratize decision-making by empowering departments and business units to optimize their operational environment.

2. Support decision-making at all levels of your organization to enable both senior leaders and frontline staff to make faster and more accurate decisions.

3. Empower innovation at the edge by bringing AI, analytics and devices closer to the locations where decisions are made in real time.

Unlearn Outdated Ways Of Doing Things

1. Continuously assess your processes to determine the optimal model for meeting the new demands of your stakeholders and operating conditions.

2. Challenge legacy mindsets about outdated business models by asking whether these models are still enabling the best possible outcomes for stakeholders.

3. Explore the viability of new processes and technology by remaining open to new proposals and exploring possibilities with technology partners.

4. Test and experiment with new processes by launching pilot projects that enable your organization to fail fast and learn from the results.

Overall, it’s important to cultivate an organizational culture that has relative comfort with change. This is not to create an environment in which every process is constantly reinvented, but one in which people feel comfortable to ask why a certain process exists and how it could be improved to better meet the needs of your customers. 

Not every change will be a lightning bolt that propels you to market leader status, but by simply becoming an adaptive organization, you increase your chances for uncovering new market opportunities while simultaneously lowering your risk of being significantly disrupted by new competitors or market forces.

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