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Digital Adaptation

A little while ago, I read Digital Adaptation by Paul Boag. It’s a great read, and has lots of good advice that can be applied more broadly that just switching to digital. Throughout the book, Paul echoes (another great read) Mike Monterio’s Design is a Job, saying of management and clients that “it is your job to educate them.”

He talks about how the challenges of digital are only solved by long term solutions, deep collaboration, and change (especially at an organisational level). The way he talks about digital reminds me of agile principles: there’s a strong emphasis on collaboration and flexibility.


Change and change management are discussed throughout the book. It’s important to have a clear direction, even if you have to extract them from unclear business objectives. A good, clear, strategy is important for this. Without it, you react as things occur, switching contexts rapidly, and lose the focus you need to be productive. There’s lots more detail about this in Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why it Matters by Richard Rumelt.

A good strategy should have three components:

  • A diagnosis.
  • Guiding principles.
  • Coherent actions.

I really enjoyed the book’s discussion around principles instead of rules. One of the ideas is that they should encourage debate. Principles provide a constraint to work with, but because they’re not finely detailed rules, there’s room for growth and evolution of the strategy.

Break down the silos

The silos and other divisions that exist in business prevent the people on projects from delivering their best work.

I think this is really powerful. It’s in our best interests to have more crossover between teams, and to make the divisions between them less solid. We should be moving towards more cross-functional teams, who sit and work together, made up of people from multiple departments. Regularly shifting office space around can be a good way to mix things up.


Another thread that ran through the book was the importance of innovation, and having time and support to conduct experiments.

Paul talks about how too much of a focus on efficiency, timesheets, and deliverables makes people aim for those targets rather than the best solution to a problem. Having the freedom to innovate makes people happier and more productive, because you’re investing in their personal development, knowledge, and expertise; it also allows for continuous professional development.

Part of innovation and experimentation is failure, of course. The important part is to learn from the failure, and share the experience so that others can avoid the same failure in the future.