I’ve enjoyed working across the Nordics and Central Europe for the past few years, and during this time I purchased several books for my children. One was a fairy tale, entitled Wild Swans, by the wonderful Hans Christian Andersen. The dark story centres around 11 princes and a princess, named Elisa, who are bewitched by their evil stepmother.

In the story, Elisa’s brothers are transformed into 11 swans by their wicked stepmother, and it is up to Elisa’s to break the spell by knitting shirts for her brothers that will return them to their human forms. Wild Swans is essentially a story of transformation that initially seems impossible—one that overcomes immense challenges. Sound familiar?

It may seem farfetched to find similarities between a 200-year-old fairy tale and today’s business and customer transformations, but both present examples of hard-fought exercises that require care, attention, bravery and a single-minded determination to maintain and deliver.

A new de minimis offering

Transformations occupy and consume significant organisational resources, time and goodwill. Therefore, net outcomes need to be measurable and place ‘clear blue water’ between the past and the present. Organisations that have embarked or plan to embark upon transformations should seek to provide a new enterprise-wide de minimis offering, a new minimal offering that considers its customers (current and target), its market, its place in the ecosystem and its human capital.

It is no longer enough to look at an offering through the lens of product, price and place with a digital overlay.

Please note that I can’t tackle all of these topics in one blog—this one focuses only on transformations.

I would also argue that we are in an era when trust in companies is higher than trust in governments and institutions. As a result, markets, customers and the wider society are looking to corporate leaders to make the change, and in some cases to be the change.

Transformations should look beyond the conventional view of product, price and customer; new de minimis offerings need to future facing, resilient and be delivered intelligently and digitally.

Build upon your uniqueness – the beauty within

Wild Swans is a story about a core beauty that always existed within Elisa and her brothers. Successful transformations—whether incremental or radical—are built upon the uniqueness and beauty that exists within organisations. This beauty can be a core strength, a respected brand, an existing customer base or an organisation’s human capital.

‘Be yourself as everyone else is taken’

A business that makes a transformation built upon its core—its unique facets and assets—will deliver outcomes quicker, and these outcomes will stick. It is important not to try to replicate the beauty of others—genuine uniqueness is exceedingly difficult to copy and will act as a positive differentiator. Transformations that actively build upon core strengths will be better placed to circumvent impediments and exploit the enablers – to the continual delivery of transformation outcomes.

Transformation equation

Transformations are not for the faint of heart. In fact, true transformations alter the relationship organisations have with themselves, shareholders, regulators, markets and customers. Transformations are multi-dimensional and require organisations to push the boundaries and emerge stronger and differently from the starting point. Successful transformation should adopt an enterprise view and seek to change the dial in respect to its market offering.

“Transformations should look beyond the conventional view of product, price and customer; new de minimis offerings need to be delivered intelligently and digitally”

Before I sign off, I’ll share my transformation equation.

The transformation equation = Act with purpose and be yourself + a new de minimis + bravery  

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