Only a few words need to be lost about the relevance of digital transformation. For example, magazines speak of digital Darwinism or “adapt or die”. The digital transformation is therefore in full swing and is changing the German economy. In total, the digital transformation can be understood in two ways (source Petry):

  • Technically, this means the preparation of information for storage in a digital technology system.
  • In the overall context, it means the technologization of entire industries in the profound sense, so strategy, organization and socio-culture are also affected. For a further definition, read the article on digital transformation soon.

On the one hand, these changes are therefore profound and, on the other hand, developments have been evident for years. In this sense, many speak of a digital (R)evolution. For this reason, this article will examine both arguments for the digital revolution and for digital evolution.

Digital Revolution

A revolution means a radical change in “one step”. The term revolution is often associated with gun violence or brutal overthrow. Representatives of this thesis are, among others, the aforementioned authors on digital Darwinism. “Adapt or die” the authors say on their numerous keynotes and call for radical change to ensure the survival of companies. Many companies, such as Kodak, have already felt this revolution. Apple and Google are also attacking established manufacturers in the automotive market. Here, too, a “head-to-head” race is taking place for the digitization of the automobile.

Digital Evolution

On the other hand, digitalization has been on the line for a long time. Companies like Apple and Google have been devoting themselves to the digitalization of our society for years and are moving forward with it. So is it not a direct revolution, but simply the “next step” in the evolution of companies? So are companies simply slowly turning into so-called “digital corporations”?

Digital (R)evolution

Whether it’s a digital evolution or a digital revolution, one thing is certain: companies need to act. In his book on Digital Leadership, Petry uses the Chinese proverb: “When the wind blows, some build protective walls and the other windmills.” The digital transformation is coming to German companies and forcing them to digitally change. In the course of the research project, the specific influence on the structure of enterprises towards agile and evolutionary enterprises is investigated.

Small and medium-sized enterprises in digital (R)evolution

I think that the main topics of digital transformation such as Consulting 4.0, Work 4.0 and Industry 4.0 are still in the formulation phase. Most of my practice partners are currently testing the first digital and agile lighthouse projects in the phase or trying out frameworks in individual teams. This is because the middle class is slowly realizing that the turnover of employees is increasing and that customers are no longer as easy to attract as they used to be.

Corporations in Digital (R)Evolution

Is it possible to compare the pressure on small and medium-sized enterprises with corporations? Absolutely! The only difference is that companies get more or less time depending on their size. In a small company, missed trends quickly become noticeable and immediately put it in a skewed side position, while a large corporation can often generate business successfully years later. But this also poses a major danger: How can a company accurately measure fluctuation, for example? There may be a constant number of employees, but we have to ask ourselves: are they perhaps the best people who switch to innovative start-ups or medium-sized enterprises because of better and digital working conditions there? So many large corporations are currently in crisis. A famous example is our banks or perhaps soon our big car brands. Big banks now have problems with the hyped Number26 and Tesla is also attacking our renowned car brands from the USA. What was previously unthinkable is now a reality. Or would you ever have thought that startups would attack corporations and Apple build cars?

What do you think?

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Thorsten Petry: Digital Leadership. Haufe, 2016.


I blog about the impact of digitalization on our working environment. For this purpose, I present content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday work. I am a manager in an SME myself and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the chair of IT Management.

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