Book Review – Clearing The Digital Blur
I have known Rajiv and his baby, Knolskape since 2014-15. I had also accidentally stumbled upon his penchant for documentation and storytelling when I saw his wedding album. Yes, his wedding album is also a book on the traditions of Iyer wedding. So it’s not a surprise that he has turned his gaze towards the world of business writing given his profession and passion.
I pre-ordered the book purely because this is a rare instance that someone from India is writing about this subject. In the subsequent paragraphs, I will take you through things that I liked and wished in the book.
If you are one of those who just want to know the star rating and decide if you should read this one, then I am giving 3.5 stars out of 5 to this book. For details on why 3.5 please read on.
5 Sections, 21 Chapters, and 317 pages
Since I have been focusing on reading shorter and thinner books and avoiding typical business readings, this book surprised me with its size. But it drew me in with the overall layout and I could very easily move back and forth between sections and chapters depending on my interest areas. I am biased towards books that offer a specific actionable plan and since this one does my biases are multiplied.
If you don’t know yet, BLUR is an acronym for Boundaryless, Limitless, Unbounded Innovation and Relentless iteration. Rajiv has reimagined these realities facing the world of business and gives us a newer and simpler acronym. Section 1 of the book introduces us to these 4 aspects while citing examples of organizations like Google, Netflix, Apple and Uber amongst others. This section puts up a compelling case for platforms and the way they have disturbed multiple traditional markets and business models.
I particularly liked how Rajiv cites Amul milk co-operative as a successful platform model much before this became the trend. This section introduces us to a ton of other management concepts like Holacracy, Agile, and Blue Ocean Strategy. It also gives us a glimpse into the emerging world of technology like the Internet of Things (IoT) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA).
If you haven’t been reading for a while, this section of the book serves as a good quick review of most major trends out there. Rajiv does it well by packaging this information in bite-sized paragraphs under these 4 buckets of BLUR.
Section 2 of the book is one of the shortest with 3 case-studies on Retail, Banking and Airline industry and how they have been disturbed by the digital BLUR. In this section, Rajiv talks specifically and generically, using examples from the western world of business.
Section 3 of the book introduces us to the 2nd big element of the book, the Digital Leapfrog framework. Yes, Leapfrog is also an acronym for 8 different aspects of the business. Rajiv argues one would have to address these to transition to the networked business model. The 7 step framework outlines key steps for any business to consider for such a transition.
Chapter 12 to 18 offer us a detailed step by step approach of applying this framework to our business. I quite liked this entire section as it takes a very simple approach and provides necessary questions and templates for one to follow. It is very clear that Rajiv and his team have used their understanding of how people learn in building this section. I am pretty sure the whole book will soon be available as a DIY online course!
Until now the book has built its case for why companies need to consider digital business models and introduced the BLUR and LEAPFROG frameworks. It has then given us a step-by-step approach to achieving those objectives. So now is the time for some reality check.
Section 4 titled as Digital Fault lines clearly raises more questions for us to figure out than it answers. These fault lines in strategy execution, Leadership and Culture are very real. Here you can notice the emphasis on softer aspects of the digital transformation journeys. If there is only 1 section you can read, then I recommend you read this one.
The book wraps up with interviews with few industry professionals, each one a stellar personality. These interviews offer us some glimpse into thinking of these leaders and challenges they overcame in their digital transformation journeys.
The final section offers a 90-day action plan with 3 specific steps. Step 1 cross-functional workshops to clarify and define the BLUR. Step 2 to create a detailed action plan using the LEAPFROG framework and methods mentioned in Chapter 12 to 18. Step 3 – a digital readiness survey to gauge the organizational readiness on Strategy, Capabilities and Cultural aspects.
I give this book 3.5 stars out of 5 primarily because it’s an action-oriented book. Just reading this 1 book you could get a lot of actionable items. Want to have a dialogue around digital transformation with your team or customer? Just pick one chapter of relevance to your context and start with questions at the end of the chapter.
The book is an extremely easy read as it breaks the elephant into smaller eatable chunks. I loved the use of dinosaurs for depicting something exactly opposite of what they have been used in a business context. This for me reflects on the amount of fun Rajiv and his team had while making this book.
I enjoyed reading interviews with industry leaders in this book. It could have been more intriguing had it included more APAC case studies. The use of ITC e-choupal at multiple places in the book gave me an impression team was working with limited data. I expected more, especially given Knolskape’s presence in the APAC region.
This book has great potential to convert itself into an effective learning program both online and offline. I would love to see it in that format soon!