Save Your Business from Digital Revolution by Realizing Your Business’s Role Playing


Every company is either in a business of selling products or providing services.  Sometimes, it is with this fixed mentality, and it creates blind spots for your business in the years to come. The process of Digital Transformation seems like a test to see whether your company can overcome serious challenges ahead with a clear business vision and the more significant role it plays. Surviving or thriving of the business may be just a flip of the coin.

In the following article, let’s discuss a few examples of companies that become either successful or failure in realizing their roles when they were transforming. Since every business is unique and special, we could not judge their exact role-playing or the impact to the society, but we wish to explore them a bit further and may help us rethink our business vision and strategies when identifying our roles and values we delivered to the society as a business.


Walt Disney once said, “I don’t make movies to make money.” He valued perfection more than profits since as long as he had money, he wanted to make more movies and achieve his dreamlike building the Disneyland, “The Happiest Place on Earth.” Sometimes, it is challenging to balance your checkbook with your vision. With the concept of building happiness around people, it was a daunting and improbable task from a business perspective, and no one on the board agreed with him to build Disneyland, and it also had a disastrous opening day.  Nevertheless, today Disney is one of the top companies in the world, and now their products are literally everywhere, from television shows to movies, from children books to digital platforms.  Every big company experiences some ups and downs, but Disney has a clear sense of purpose that they want to promote happiness and they are in the business of making people happy, so they are not the constraint in focusing on selling specific products or services. 


On the other hand, the big toy manufacturing company, Mattel, had created the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe product line in 1981. It was initially designed so they could sell more toys, but it became trendy unexpectedly and had grown into multiple lines of products including, action figures, animated television series, video games, comic series, and feature films. Sadly, the popularity was short-lived, and it lasted about eight years. The reason for the quick fall of the unprecedented popular toy line in the history was that Mattel just wanted to sell toys because they positioned themselves as a toy manufacturing company, and not a comic studio or an entertainment company. The company understood that there was a product lifecycle, and to squeeze more profit out of it before the popularity magic dust fades away, they kept adding new characters to the stories until the story plot became unbearable and lost its originality.  The rating of animated series was heading south, and sales volume on toys had fallen to nothing. It probably seemed inevitable to Mattel because it was just another toy and the product had reached its decline phase. Let’s think for a moment. If Mattel had a different way of thinking about the role of the company similar to Disney, perhaps, they are in the business of making dreams or fantasies for children, instead of just selling physical products to children, I believe Mattel could grow into a triple of its size today. They did not realize why He-Man series became so popular among both boys and girls.  Its success in popularity was because it gave the children a sense of confidence, strength, and courage to do whatever they choose to do.  It was inherent important especially for children because back in their minds, they can dream freely of what they can do when they grow up, and it gives a creative space of their own. It sparks unlimited imaginations.  They become unafraid when they held up the power sword and yelled, “I have the power!” At that instant, they transformed into heroes. 


In another article that I wrote, “Unexpected Digital Transformation Journeys from Two Oldest Giants,” it demonstrated the failure and success of two oldest companies gone through the Digital Transformation Journeys.  Like Mattel, Kodak holds on to the business of selling physical products like cameras and films and did not realize that they are in the business of capturing people’s memories.  Memories are irreplaceable, and they are one the most precious things in the world. With rapid advancement in the digital sector, Kodak could not detect the changes in customers’ behaviors in time. It was all too late to realize that it does not matter to what the medium it can use as long as their products can serve as a mean to capture the moment and allow people to treasure them.  That was their central role. 


In contrast, the story of Encyclopædia Britannica was an inspired one. Since after the Digital Transformation, the business continues to thrive even its first edition of the encyclopedia was published in 1768.  The Digital Transformation Journey for Britannica was tough and risky, but because they had a firm business vision since the beginning, and they understood that they are in the business of passing down knowledge and education to the people in needs.  They kept their high editorial quality even in the darkest hours.  Unlike some companies, Britannica chose to keep their editors and revamped the sales strategies in a short amount of time because they understand the quality information is their blood, and it could be the strength to overcome the challenges. They also knew where to secure their customers.  Since there was no need to keep the encyclopedia in a paper format, Britannica stopped its printed version and expanded its product lines to include digital format and various educational materials.  Britannica has gone through the Industrial Revolution and Digital Revolution, and now it continues to stand the test of time.

Everyone knows that there must be changes when a business is undergoing Digital Transformation. It seems vague as to where to begin and what to do to minimize the risk and maximize success. If the company can see the impact of how the company’s role-playing affects the customers in an impartial perspective, it may see the path to success and untapped opportunities ahead just like the stories of Disney and Britannica. We would know what it takes to make the changes in the transformation. Let's pretend that your company disappears tomorrow, what would your customers miss the most. Alternatively, how do you feel as a customer if these companies disappear tomorrow: Coke, Netflix, YouTube, Home Depot, M&M’s, Under Armor or your cloud provider.

If you have any thoughts about the role-playing for a business or the article, I would love to hear what you have to say.Thank you for reading.