Success 4.0: Is the digital era a catalyst to reform our definition of success?

During my innovation and creativity workshops, I have been observing great trends over the years. One particularly intriguing trend is how people of the tech scene and beyond approach the definition of success.

Let me tell you: This definition has changed radically over the past 6 years.

Only 5 years back, the economic aspect was most important to describe the success of a new business model. Today, we also discuss a business model’s impact on society, nature and the global community.

I am happy about this trend: It is telling us something about shifts in the digital economy. 

Let’s look together at where this new notion of “Success 4.0” can lead us: 

  1. Economic value 
  2. Impact on society
  3. Care for nature
  4. Consideration of the global community
  1. Economic value

The digital era has brought about many chances for new and innovative business models. It has become easier and cheaper to start a new business. The Internet gives a chance for quick prototype testing and an initial evaluation of a business idea. At the same time, we have seen increasing emphasis on growing business an international and global scale.

Many discussions have circled around the question of how company valuations actually come about. Companies like Uber, AirBnB or Amazon received impressive valuations long before profitability. Given their potential of customer reach and scale, these valuations may make sense. However, they were questioned by many who followed a more traditional view of how company valuations come about.

In the end, we can agree that revenues and profit are vital to every business. Besides money from fundings, investors, or loans, it is the energy to make a company grow, to cover expenses, and to create a healthy atmosphere within the company. 

2. Impact on society

Yet, economic scale is not enough to define company success any longer. Buzzwords like CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) have been around for a long time and their importance is growing. With millennials entering the job market and the existing workforce increasingly looking for meaning in their work, no founder or CEO can any longer neglect to look at the following question:

What does leading a purpose-driven business mean to me?

Every founder, every CEO, every board member should ask themselves this question on a regular basis. And they should not leave the answers to marketing agencies or external consultants because the answer impacts every decision made; i.e., decisions about the value proposition, partners, internal and external communication, …

3. Care for nature

If this were not enough, Success 4.0 is also about CARE: Care for the well-being of our nature today and tomorrow. The Friday for Future movement has pinpointed successfully towards the urgency of action. While politics and economy have been talking about necessary actions for years, it is the next generation to enter the job market that have clearly stated:

We will not support you, if you do not support us through real action!

Their argumentation is based on facts and figures – and still, it is as emotional and impressive as it can get. It is engaged and purpose-driven people who we want to have on board to make our businesses flourish and grow. To get them on board, companies will need to care as well as actively act. Care for nature becomes an essential denominator of Success 4.0.

4. Consideration of the global community

This leads directly to the consideration of our global community. The digital era is an era of connections, community and networks. No national country can any longer act as an island – even though some seem to think they can. Flows of trade will radically change through bitcoin and blockchain. Deals and agreements will be made among global partners. In order to not to increase the economic divide nationally and globally further, taxing for global companies will need to be revised by a global (political?) community instead of a few humans with strong borders in their minds. In other words, measuring Success 4.0 is not only vital for companies, it is also vital for policy makers, greater unions and global partners. 

Let us summarize: 

Success 4.0 is described by economic value, impact on society, care for nature, and a consideration of the global community. These factors are vital for companies, ecosystems and global partnerships. It is up to each and everyone of us to come up with ways to make those factors integrable, practicable and measurable. 

I am looking forward to your comments and thoughts on the matter. 

About the author:

Dr. Martina Dopfer is CEO & Co-founder of mynd:way. mynd:way offers mindful learning journeys for employees, leaders, teams, and organizations. Martina is a mindfulness coach and provides guidance from the heart in personal coachings. Intuition and tapping into it at work is an essential part of her work.

Martina has a PhD in economics from the University of St. Gallen and is a startup- and mindfulness coach. Over the past 10 years, she has accumulated her digital expertise through working in online marketing startups, in the digital units of large corporate firms, and as a consultant for digital business model innovations.



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