Understanding Organizational Orientations Towards Digitalization: A Sensemaking Approach

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Other units and institutes | D4 Julkaistu kehittämis- tai tutkimusraportti tai -selvitys
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Aalto University publication series BUSINESS + ECONOMY, 8/2021
The focus of this dissertation is on exploring how organizations in the consumer goods industry interpret the impacts of digitalization, more specifically, how they respond to the question ‘what does digitalization mean for us as an organization’. And, subsequently, this study examines how this interpretation is reflected in the organizations’ orientation towards digitalization. Through this I attempt to shed light on the cognitive microfoundations of digital transformation. I position my dissertation within multi-disciplinary discourses on digitalization and draw on sensemaking theory to construct my research framework, motivate my research questions, and depict my findings. This dissertation is based on a qualitative case-study in the consumer goods industry. The study includes a data set of eight consumer goods companies and evidence from six sources: e.g., 39 in-depth interviews, one-to-one meetings, attendance in company workshops, strategy documents, and direct participant observation. My 20-years’ experience as a practitioner in the field and serving as a digital transformation adviser for two of the case companies during the entire duration of the research period, further enhanced my ability to interpret the findings. The study took place over an 18-month period during years 2019-2020. My dissertation depicts consumer centricity as an aspect of an organization’s identity that may promote an organization’s ability to grasp the transformative nature of digitalization and act as an accelerator to business model transformation. This finding is relevant for any leader attempting to drive a digital transformation and business model change. It implies that an organization’s identity can act as a barrier to change, and unless considered, a digital transformation process can, at worse, slow down or fail. As such, this dissertation contributes to strategic management literature, and multidisciplinary discourses on digitalization. I contribute to sensemaking theory by advancing understanding of the role of identity in the sensemaking process, and by extending the sensemaking process framework to include experimentation as a new phase in the process. I contribute to digital transformation literature by delineating three distinctive organizational orientations, which describe how organizations within an industry interpret digitalization, and by identifying a gap in the digitalization literature cross-fertilizing the information systems and strategic management views with marketing perspectives. Finally, my study advances discourses on demand-side strategy and business model innovation literature by identifying consumer-centricity as a key construct impacting the ability of an organization to grasp digitalization as a transformative change force.
digitalization, digital transformation, sensemaking, identity, consumer centricity
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