It is a book behind this site, called “Stop! Nobody Move. Transformation beyond digital – A handbook beyond handbooks“. You find it here at Amazon. But you can also sneak peek it below. This site keeps the book alive. Reality never stand still and neither should a book. I will therefore update this book with the help of the posts I write here in maybe a year or so. It all depends on how fast/slow reality changes, and how fast/slow I am able to come up with better ideas than so far.

Why this title?

First of all: it is because we better think a bit about what is ongoing due to digitalization, disruption and transformation, before we start acting. It is not uncommon that we are to eager to just act, and therefore do mistakes we will regret later on. Try to avoid that.

Therefore: Stop! Nobody move.

Secondly: Digitalization is about technology, and tools. But it is what we do with it, that matters. It is never about digitalization per see. We have to look beyond technology in order to find out what to do. Technology, and Moore´s law, is tremendously important here. But still.

So: Transformation beyond digital.

Thirdly: Just understanding what is ongoing is not enough, at least not to me. Knowledge should be used to do practical actions. Using words like ‘handbook’ is a way to put such kind of pressure on myself, even though I not that often find normal handbooks to be useful.

That’s why: A handbook beyond handbooks.

Below you can sneak peak the book.


Stop! Nobody Move

Transformation beyond digital

A handbook beyond handbooks

Henrik Blomgren





Table of content




2.  A serious stop

IT WAS 2:50 p.m. on April 7, 2017, in calm, sunny central Stockholm. Suddenly, the peace was shattered: a hijacked truck intentionally drove some 500 meters along Drottninggatan, the well-known shopping street. Five people were hit and killed, and 15 more seriously injured, and the truck crashed into a shopping window with explosives inside (below).

Information about the attack quickly went viral worldwide due to social media and around-the-clock news. But nobody knew what was actually happening. Stockholm, my hometown and the capital of Sweden, isn’t used to attacks like that. On the contrary, Sweden is globally known for its peace and stability.

At that moment, my youngest daughter, 16-year-old Ulli, was standing in the middle of an H&M-shop one block away from the attack. She had gone into the city to buy a new shirt with her best friend, Sandra, and Sandra’s mother, Mira.

Everyone in the store had heard the crash and started to run, not really knowing from what, and panic broke out as everyone tried to escape at the same time.

However, surrounded by panic, Mira did something unexpected. She barked at Ulli and Sandra, “Stop! Nobody move.”—and then she pulled out her smartphone….




3. A puzzling trip is what it is

We live in busy, rather messy, times. Things around us are changing. Everywhere, a significant number of initiatives are going on, and a tremendous amount of money is being spent, for instance, on digital projects. It’s like a waterfall of action pouring down on us. Still, while expending so much effort, many organizations still end up in deeply problematic situations. How could that be?

Take the music industry’s shift to digital music and streaming services. The traditional actors had to change to adapt, and sales of physical albums dropped markedly. Many companies went out of business. Could that have happened without digital development? It hurts when a company goes out of business. It’s rarely something one does with intent. However, is this battle really over yet—or is there even more to come?

Taryn Southern’s “I am AI,” released in 2018, claims to be the world’s first artificial intelligence-composed album, with Southern receiving support from the artificial intelligence service Amper (below). Amper might not fix everything for you in order to create a new unique song, but maybe far more of it than one might expect. Would you continue using streaming and existing libraries of existing songs, if AI could create you unique ones “on the fly”?

The car industry seems on its way to developing self-driving cars. Will that also rattle that industry in the future—or sooner? Assuming cars could drive themselves, we could share instead of own them. Then, probably, we won’t need nearly as many cars as today and demand will plunge. A significant proportion of car manufacturers will go out of business—maybe even the majority? —and thousands of people could lose their jobs, shareholders could lose money, and pensions for average people could be affected. It seems like a disaster. Unless, of course, someone could help the people involved see the upside. The potential for “winners” is there, and some car manufacturers agree—but could these be the ones eliminated, meaning a sort of “organizational suicide”?

On top of all this, we can’t forget the new kinds of companies interested in entering the self-driving car business or the possible effects for everything from car parking services to insurance companies and logistics services. Even real estate prices might be affected—so, should you go ahead and sell your apartment, as long as the price is good? Seriously, no joke, startups are already working on mobile homes.

So, car manufacturers can’t be the only ones to think about self-driving cars; authorities, public utilities, transportation systems, and even the structures of cities could be affected. It’s not a topic to chat about over Sunday dinner and move along as if there’s no dynamite embedded in this development—or possible gold, if you like.

On this street in Tempe, Arizona, a self-driving Uber/Volvo car (below) tragically killed a pedestrian in 2018, the first such incident and a crucial point in the development of driverless cars. Testing halted, and 300 Uber workers were laid off. However, one year later, testing restarted, though at other locations.

How long will it take before we see self-driving cars on open streets around the globe? Or will we never do it? Assume we will see them: what would then happen to industrial structures?

These examples show how industry after industry is in the middle of the process to be, or already has been, or maybe soon will be, shaken around by digitalization. It’s a fundamentally new situation that few organizations have been in, similar in a sense to the uncharted waters Columbus faced when he reached the New World (mentioned already in the first chapter).

The organizations of today are hyper-conscious of the need for change that digitalization is forcing upon us. Few are just sitting and waiting for the unknown, and digitalization is definitely not a new challenge. They want to adapt and become something new. But it’s often difficult to fully grasp the situation and know what that “something new” could be or how it could evolve. Managers know they need to set new targets to cope with digitalization. But we easily end up acting without a target and, hence, are not being leaders anymore.

A lot of work might be going on, but towards what end?

It’s easy to get suggestions from consultants, academics, and others with good intentions on possible activities to cope with all of these challenges—not least being suggestions on new digital tech projects. However, things quickly become even messier: Why go for that particular project being suggested?

On top of all this, new tech buzzwords tend to pop up, adding to the long list that already exists. Should we, for instance, target Internet of things, the cloud, big data, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, 3D printing, drones, blockchain, quantum computing, deep neural networks…the list goes on and on. Should we add digital services to our products, and if so, should we add a new kind of business model? Should we fundamentally change our core business, stick to our existing one, or even try to do both at the same time? The list of important questions easily becomes long. But what are the best questions to address if we have limited time in the next management meeting?

Most organizations have no problem coming up with ideas for new digital initiatives. It’s been done before—really, for decades. It’s, therefore, far more common to have problems related to paring down the number of possible initiatives. Increasing the list might only make things worse. The situation easily becomes like Alice in Wonderland (one of the best children’s, and leadership, books ever): Alice gets to a crossing and meets a cat, asking it which road to take. The cat asks back, “Where are you heading?” Alice says, “I don´t know.” Then the cat answers, totally accurately, “Then you can take any road you like.”

This is one of the puzzles this book is trying to solve: How to find out where to go during this period of digital change….

What kind of leadership “keys” matter today—and how do they work?

As managers, there are day-to-day issues for us to handle. People in the organization need attention, and many ongoing projects are in the regular workflow. Then, suddenly, our day is over. The core questions related to the organization’s existence are, therefore, often forgotten. Is that to suggest doing something similar to Mira in the last chapter: “Stop, nobody move. Let’s analyze the situation for a second before we start running”? Could it be a really frightening thing to even consider? Should that idea maybe just be seen as a somewhat funny one—even a joke? Or should we take it seriously, even more seriously than never before?

When rushing between meetings, we might also start thinking about the right keys to press, ones that create the kind of music we want our organization to play. We might feel that we know our systems, people, organization, customers, and industry, but we also need to think about which keys to push—to continue the metaphor—to most efficiently cope with digitalization. With limited time available, wouldn’t it be great just to know those keys—and the ones that we could press that could accidentally ruin the symphony?

How should you and I, for instance, know that a simple digital connection could be of great use in solving a new kind of problem? Let´s imagine an attack like in the previous chapter: Would you or I have reacted the way as Mira, or would we have just panicked? If we haven’t been in a situation before, it might be too much to ask for us to know what to do. Along those lines, can we build knowledge on the unexpected—or is it better to go with the flow if and when the unexpected occurs?

All of this becomes the second puzzle this book attempts to solve: How can you “play” leadership during these times of digital change?…




5.  Practically speaking

IT WAS A nice old man that stepped into the record store and asked for the national anthem of Iceland that day in 2002. His record back home had broken, and he needed the song for his morning aerobics routine. After searching a while, the store personnel found a CD with the song—to their surprise, since they didn’t sell songs like that often, although their shop (then the biggest record store in Sweden) had a wide selection. The man happily thanked the employees, bought the album, and left.

But he returned the next day disappointed, explaining that he couldn’t use the CD on his record player. The employees said “aha, he needed a vinyl record” to themselves, started searching again and—again, to their surprise—found the anthem on vinyl. The man again left happily with the record.

However, the old man once again returned the following day, even more disappointed. He claimed, again, the album wouldn’t play on his record player. The employees were puzzled and, after some discussion with the man, discovered he was still (in 2002!) using shellac records. He wasn’t aware of the shift to vinyl or to CDs in the music industry; his shellac records had worked perfectly for many years and he was more than satisfied—until the record broke, and he was forced to buy a new one.

This is a true story, told to me by a friend whose girlfriend worked in that store. It helps illustrate how not everyone follows industry transformation. Why should they?

However, if you are responsible for, or interested in, running a business, it can be necessary—and this chapter is about just that, exploring a practical example of what digital transformation is/can be about. We will use the music industry as a case study. I covered this topic in a separate book, and this is a condensed version of that discussion. If you’re interested in a more detailed account—how to really understand what’s happened in the music industry and what it can tell us about our topic here—that book is provided in the literature list in section IV.

Once there was music. Then, there was music

As you likely already know, a lot has been said about the music industry under the headline “disruption” in recent decades.

Pirate Bay was not the first service to make downloading possible—but it is a manifestation of the phenomenon. Below is its server. It’s hard to imagine how such a small device in Stockholm’s suburbs has shaken the global music industry. If you go to the technical museum in Stockholm you will be able to knock on it politely—it is there, waiting for you. Could other “small wonders” soon do the same in other industries?

The Internet changed everything, first due to piracy, then due to streaming services—today represented by companies like Spotify, Tencent Music, Saavn, Gaana, SoundCloud, and Tidal. Old actors have been forced to adapt or have left the business—like the Stockholm shop I mentioned, which was replaced by a bakery after it shuttered. The number of people using streaming services for music has grown rapidly, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you use a streaming service and have tossed your CD player (although maybe you use both).

Even though you know all this, it’s still possible to explore why and how it happened and, not unimportantly, what didn’t happen to the music industry. But we have to start by going back a little in time. As in many cases of fundamental change to an industry, it started way before it actually “happened.”….




7. Navigating with map in hand

CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS, THE explorer mentioned at the beginning of the book, wasn’t really aware of what he had discovered when he landed in the Bahamas in 1492. The map he used indicated the Indies, and on top of that, he decided that was heading for the Indies. Continuing with that map in hand, it became reasonable to later assume Cuba was China and Haiti was Japan. It’s a good example of the importance of using the right map.

Columbus was well trained in navigation. He had gone to sea as a teenager and had been sailing for many years; he had read a lot about astronomy, geography, history, and cartography, as well as consulted the day’s leading cartographers before his voyage. He was unusually qualified for his expedition—but he still made these key mistakes. This goes to show well-qualified people can easily make mistakes, which applies to digital transformation. It means that we need to be careful with what we are going to do next.

In the following chapters, we’ll start developing a method to set a target, as discussed in the previous section. A map of the future—the new business landscape—will gradually become clear, allowing us to set a target and then take a deeper dive into leadership-related issues. Thus, you can view the coming chapters as helping to develop a new map—not searching for an old map but rather a new one to navigate the future. We don´t want to make the same kind of mistakes Columbus did.

We’ll use a story—when rabbits arrived in Australia—to help develop, clarify, and evaluate this method.

The rabbit, Australia, and the arrow

Rabbits arrived in Australia during the 18th century, with the fluffy little creatures most likely not seen as the sign of an impending disaster. But rabbits shook the entire Australian ecosystem in a way mankind had yet to experience. You might have heard this story before, although almost certainly not in the context of digital transformation. But it will be helpful for us to develop a method to help predict the future of an industry.

The rabbit, Australia, and the arrow (below) are useful to understand how an ecosystem is thrown out of balance when a new digital technology emerges. The rabbit is digital technology, Australia is our industry of interest, and the arrow is business theory (describing the process of change).

Could you be willing to try this metaphor on, as a possible way to understand what does happen to an industry when digitalization forces it into a situation of disruption?

Or, do you just consider the idea of using this metaphor plain silly and therefor prefer giving this book away to somebody else instead? Could it be, that “proof is in the pudding”?

What happened in Australia was that the rabbits multiplied quickly and devastated the ecosystem, including vegetation, waterways, crops, and many native animals, as well as farmers. Many actors, even the government, tried to stop their spread, but it was too late. The rabbits did not have a strong natural predator, so the entire ecosystem had to adapt and find a new balance. It took a while but when that process of change was over, there was a new ecosystem.

When digitalization arrives today with all its force, something similar happens to many industries. The “ecosystem,” the industry structure, is thrown out of balance. After that period of disruption, a new industry structure emerges. To continue the metaphor, this means digitalization is a kind of “rabbit,” and the industry is “Australia.”

Assume we were alive before that first rabbit arrived and wanted to analyze how the situation would play out. What kind of knowledge would be needed to help us do that?

First, we need to know something about the rabbit: What is it capable of doing today, and what could it be capable of later? What species is it? Similarly, we need to understand what our digital technology of interest (3D printing, drones, self-driving cars, artificial intelligence, etc.) can already do and what it will be capable of doing tomorrow.

Second, we need to know something about Australia. What is its ecosystem like, what species live there, and how do they interact? Similarly, we need to understand our industry: Who are the actors involved, and how are they related? We need to know about important actors, including customers, and what they’re up to.

We also need to know something about how the process of change normally plays out (the arrow in the picture). This is where business-related theory has an important role (it can explain the process as such). There are patterns we can use in our analysis to understand what might happen when rabbits arrive in Australia—when digitalization arrives—and that is what we shall use business theory for.

With all of this knowledge, we could start analyzing how our industry ecosystem might change as digitalization arrives. We can develop our map, to navigate upon, and then, we can start thinking about our target and how to get there.

The coming chapters will address these three components one by one to gain the knowledge we need to start analyzing the future and set a target….




16. And if we’re already there?

IT WAS 2000, just before 3G launched in my country with the opening of the telecom operator “3.” A former colleague had become the head of marketing operations there and offered me a spot in the test pilot group. Sweden was one of the early global adopters of 3G, which had the major benefit of making video chat possible with a mobile phone. So, during the test, about 25 of us were standing in a room in the company headquarters—we never would’ve thought to use a small digital device to talk to someone a few steps away, so we were all intrigued to test the technology out (particularly since we were the only ones in Sweden with the technology at our fingertips, which required a special phone at that point).

We all took the phones home, and even though it was exciting, I really didn’t make that many video calls with the phone. The service wasn’t great, and it was hard to see the other person on the small screen. On top of that, it was years before other people I knew had a 3G phone and, if they did, they really weren’t interested in seeing my face during a “normal” phone call; 3G had a faster connection, and that was “good enough” in many ways at that time.

Obviously, all that has changed. Today everyone seem to be doing “video-chatting” with their smartphones. But trying to “live 3G” long before it took off was deeply interesting and a little hard—for example, making other people interested in a “face-to-face” call. It also provides a good example of a key difficulty with leadership: someone has to be the first one and show the others what the future might look like, but that’s really tough. Not everyone might be interested in following when you try to go first.

Even though it might sound strange, some artists make paintings inspired by public debates and some musicians create songs based on interesting novels. Similarly, there are designers that know how to make stories out of advanced hardware and developers who know how to make hardware out of good stories, as well as marketers who know how to make great vine out of rock bands and agencies that know how to create scents out of corporate brands. Shouldn’t it also be possible, then, to convert something subtle like digital transformation into something tangible?

So, what do we actually need to know, or maybe even do, to become a leader in showing or living the message embedded in digital transformation? That’s what we’ll explore in this chapter.

Rediscovering Australia

Most people would probably agree that when Christopher Columbus “discovered” the Americas, it was a big deal (not looking at this from a moral point of view but rather at the significance of the event). Columbus gradually learned things that Europeans didn’t know about before. But the Indigenous populations living there did know those things, so really Columbus wasn’t “discovering” anything new. It was bringing that knowledge back to Europe that was particularly valuable; it created a competitive advantage for Spain compared to other European nations. It parallels our situation when we look at our industry (“Australia”), particularly customers. It’s about “re-discovering them,” as though they are unknown to us.

Claiming that organizations today don´t know their customers may seem radical—of course they do, in some sense. But if all companies fully understood all of the customers out there today, most likely none would fail or go bankrupt (as some have due to disruption). A fundamental change to an industry structure is, as we’ve discussed, impossible until customers change. It’s not the only factor but is nevertheless required, like a digit in a combination lock. So, let’s assume we could understand what customers are up to today and/or will be up to tomorrow. Wouldn’t we be better prepared to avoid these kinds of problems in the future?

How can we understand them, today?

Many methods exist to understand customers, and they have for a long time—it’s not a new concern. The most common way is to ask them what want, for example, through surveys, interviews, and polls. This method is so prevalent that it could be called “the one” dominating in business today. Another way to understand customers is to follow them and see what they actually do instead of listening to what they claim that they do or want. A modern example is tracking what people search for or click on online and comparing it to what they say they’re interested in or actually purchase. You may have already read about this method, even tried it, and related digital tools are of significant interest to companies today, to put it mildly. Some call it “analytics,” and others “big data” or “data mining.” There are many names for it, and I prefer “following them instead of asking them, with the help of a digital feedback loop” to capture its essence.

Google Analytics (below) is probably one of the most-used services to track what people do online. Here, we see what could be compared to the “go-flow-analysis” in traditional stores: we see how someone enters a site, where they clicked next, how long they stayed, and so forth.

However, we rarely see who the user is (individual tracking can even be illegal) or why they did something. It’s also worth noting that we don’t, by definition, understand customers better simply by collecting data on them—we’re not necessarily finding the needle in the haystack, just making a bigger haystack.

But, still, could this way of following customers help us to understand them at least a little bit better?

Another way to understand customers could be looking at the non-customers to find out what they do and what they want—by asking them or tracking them. It could lead to new discoveries beyond what we learn with existing customers. It could also be a way to understand why old customers have left or why people haven’t become customers. Often, former customers simply leave without saying why; knowing why something is “not happening” is hard.

To put it simply, the two methods I’ve mentioned are often good—asking or following them—but they still might not help us out here, no matter how good we are at them. That might also be an important reason why companies have problems during times of disruption, even if they claim to be good at understanding customers—and even if they for instance use modern digital tools like “analytics”. And the reason for why these methods might not work for us is that, they might not help us to understand what we need to understand.

Following in their footsteps

A different way to understand customers could be to trace their footsteps—and, in some sense, trying to be an anthropologist. Anthropologists are skilled in asking themselves (and this is important) seemingly naïve questions: “What did they actually do, and why did they do that?” That’s an intriguing method to understand disruption before it happens. Customers have become an unknown population, and it could be useful trying to understand them as such.

In previous chapters, we explored the “you and me” effect and how people at the office today already use digital services. These are things we can discover while acting as anthropologists but seldom if we, say, ask or follow around customers or non-customers.

An anthropologist uses somewhat of a different approach to people than marketing professionals, who don’t always understand this “naïve” technique and might be too focused on searching for a possible deal or customer to explore what’s going on under the surface. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with marketing—these professionals are often extremely good at what they do; it’s a matter of anthropologists being trained to investigate these underlying currents. Anthropology is more of a state of mind, than a “method”. Marketing is another state of mind, and often related to methods we already known. Neither of them has, per see, to do with what kind of technology we use in order trying to understand customers—even though both of them, of course, can have good use of modern digital tools.

Most people care about where they live, which explains the wide variety of real estate apps. These apps were initially listing of properties for sale but gradually included bidding etc. People even use these apps when they’re not interested in buying or selling; they just want to see how others live.

This picture depicts a 2014 campaign by Sweden’s largest housing-for-sale app (below), Hemnet. It’s a house for sale that didn’t yet exist; Hemnet claimed that with more than 2 million app users, it had data on people’s interests and could develop a totally new kind of house based on that.

Imagine a company like this entering the construction industry—could it be a disruptor? Don’t scoff: Airbnb already seems to be up to exactly just that. They have the customer contact, so why not?

If we are in the construction industry; could doing anthropology while clicking on a real estate app—instead of just using that app for personal private use—be of interest?

To return to the opening of the chapter, it could be reasonable to assume that a leader who wants to live the message of digital transformation also already knows the value of being curious about their, and others’, use of digital tools beyond personal reasons….