The Ripple - Digital Transformation - Edition 2/2020


Sir William Henry Perkin - a British chemist in the 19th century attempted to synthesize quinine as a treatment for malaria. His numerous experiments ended up in failure - or so he thought. It turned out that one of his "failures" could be used to dye textiles. He had accidentally created the first synthetic organic dye - mauveine. By doing so he lay down the foundation for the synthetic organic chemicals industry, thereby revolutionizing the world of fashion.

The answer to this question determines what areas to experiment in and what lessons to draw from this experiment- tation. The company Interface provides an inspiring story about the power of purpose. Interface is the world's largest manufacturer of carpet tile and a global manufacturer of commercial flooring. Their purpose is to create products and services which not only fulfill customer needs, but also contribute to creating a better world. In 2016 they launched an initiative in 2016 called "Climate Take Back" . This was a pursuit to determine how their products could help to reverse climate change. With this purpose in mind, the CEO unleashed the creativity and ingenuity of his employees to find a solution. After much experimentation, the R&D group revealed a first-of-its-kind prototype carbon negative carpet tile. Further experiment- ation has refined this product. In 2020 the company launched a carpet tile that has a carbon negative impact (i.e. the pro- duction and use of the tile sequesters more carbon out of the atmosphere than if it had not been manufactured in the first place).


In the micro-world of experimentation, it is easy to lose track of the big picture. The effort to achieve short-term objectives can easily lead an organization in the wrong direction. It is key not to lose precious time and resources experimenting in areas that will not bring the company forward. A fluid but deep-rooted framework to guide experimentation is critical for success. Digital strategy relies on its focus on a strong purpose and a clear vision of the digital future.

* Collins, J.C. & Porras, J.I. (2000) Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies (3rd edition). London: Random House Business Books.

PURPOSE " a guiding star on the horizon— forever pursued but never reached.”*

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