Five years ago we attended our first Drucker Forum, aptly titled The Great Transformation. Little did we know at the time that the experiences from the Forum would result in the creation of Transform! a powerful experiential learning simulation, potentially changing how we teach, train and build deep transformational capacities.  

OSLO, NOVEMBER 13TH 2019

“No, that could never happen”, shouted one of the participants.
“Well, actually it could”, sighted her CFO teammate.  

The pair, acting as management of case company Rail1 – a European railway operator, was just getting acquired.  

“We have partnered with Juppz, secured a 500M funding structure, and can now execute a hostile take-over”, said the deal manager, CFO of Flight – the electric scooter company, as he officially announced the deal to the table. Working closely with the ride-sharing company Juppz, Flight was now implementing its innovation strategy; having recently shifted from a collaborative partner-approach to the more aggressively buy-strategy.  

Having previously acquired CarWagon; Rail1 had built a broad business model portfolio beyond its legacy core business of operating trains in Europe, secured financing for new ventures and hit a 23,3BN market cap, all on its way to transform into a mobility winner of the future.  

Collectively, the four companies were battling it out in a highly competitive mobility arena. Their mission: transform a legacy company stuck with two low-margin business models into a thriving company with a healthy mix of business models across the Core-Growth-Explore framework. At the same time, build an innovation strategy, secure financing, lay a transformation roadmap, deal with Booms and Busts, all while making 100’s of micro-decisions effectively replacing any well-planned strategy with split-second decisionsWhat could possibly go wrong?  

TEACHING SMART PEOPLE HOW TO LEARN

The group, a part of Open Innovation Lab Norway, was running Transform! a highly engaging learning simulation, designed to help people learn how to build transformational companies and execute successful transformation strategies. Transform! is built on the research and development work by Christian Rangen and the team at Engage // Innovate and Strategy Tools.  

Built on top of eight visual strategy tools, Transform! is designed to be a learning and development simulation to teach people and companies how to build transformational capacities. In essence, it aims to solve the problem of teaching smart people how to learn and develop a stronger absorptive capacity in light of ever-faster industry shifts 

LEARNING THROUGH SIMULATION

Inspired by the work of Swedish Professors Johan Roos (Lego Serious Play) and Karl Erik Sveiby, coupled with the latest thinking in strategy from Rita McGrath, Scott D. Anthony, Roger L. Martin, Henry Chesbrough, Alex Osterwalder, Yves Pigneur, Gary Hamel and Clay Christensen, the Transform! simulation is designed to be a highly engaging and powerful learning experience 

By combining new strategy thinking, new visual strategy tools, and a table-based, role-based simulation, the participants combine a number of different learning elements into a single multi-faceted learning experience. 

Having run close to 85 sessions across three different simulators over the past eleven months, it has become clear to us exactly how powerful the power of simulation-based learning can be. From Board members, CEOs, Policymakers, Professors, innovation agencies; every single participant quickly get absorbed into the competitive dynamics of strategy simulation. Designed to transfer new learning, new tools, and a new strategy mindset, the simulation teaches strategy, innovation, transformation, finance, corporate venturing, decision-making and mental models in one single session. The Transform simulation helped us explore and uncover some big strategic mental models to our company, said one Danish CFO we worked with on large scale transformation strategy.   

THE TRANSFORMATION GAP

“On average, 2,3, maybe” summarized one of the participants in Oslo. 
The group of eight has just answered the two key questions. 
“Over the next ten years, how significant a transformation will we require?” 
As a group, they averaged 7,9 out of 10, with executives from larger firms tending towards 9 and 10.  

The follow-up question, however, got a different response. 
On how ready are we for this transformation?” the group barely scored 2,3 out of 10. A number that drew a loud sigh from the participants.  

“What does this mean”, I asked.
“It’s the transformation gap”, came the instant reply from the corporate innovation manager. 
“It is the massive gap between our aspirations, our intellectual need for transformation in light of external industry shifts, and our internal ability, our capability to actually do it”, she continued, to the active nodding of several of her group members, and a not too concealed tone of frustration in her voice.   

ThTransformation Gap. The gap between our fully understood need for large-scale transformation vs. our ability, our organizational capacity for transformation. We find the Transformation Gap virtually everywhere we go. In fact, it has been a passion, a driver and a source of deep motivation for us over the past seven years, trying to better understand this gap. Is has fueled questions, conversations, and research across countries, industries and organizational hierarchies.  

Today, with the first year of Transform! experiences behind us, we believe hands-on experiential learning can significantly close this Transformation Gap. The a-ha moments, the deep individual reflections, the new tools, the group-wide insights, and new collective thinking absorbed through the gamification mode and the many new conversations that start during a simulation, only to carry over into real-life company context all combine into building company-wide transformational capacities. 

BACK TO VIENNA AGAIN

Professor Rita McGrath once said, “We are working with outdated tools & assumptions”. Referring to how most companies work on strategy, McGrath asks if companies are set up to work, successfully on strategy in the light of a new strategy paradigm.  

We share McGrath’s concern. From energy, mobility, technology, finance, healthcare, we see industries shift into arenas and companies facing a brand new strategy landscape. Traditional strategic thinking is no longer sufficient. Competing on transformation will be the new rally cry.  

The conversations that started at the Drucker Forum in 2014 still resonates, perhaps as important and relevant as ever. The insights and inspiration we gained in 2014 have fueled new strategy tools, insights and transformation programs. Now, as we prepare to depart for Vienna yet again, we look forward to a new set of conversations, this time on how companies can master new ecosystems and continue to accelerate their transformation.

Surely, we will need it. 

Transform! The Strategy & Innovation Simulator

Can you lead your company through a strategic transformation?

Take on the role of a management team of a successful company facing disruption. Grow the mindset, skills, and strategy to deal with industry shifts, new business models and successfully transform.

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