There are almost too many things to share and recount from #CCE2019. For example, I could share my expanding vocabulary thanks to Chris Lochhead or the fact that I am considering hiding under a park bench in fear of the year 2030 thanks to Alan Bealieu.

The more I walked the hallways and heard from speakers, panelists and moderators, the thing I kept hearing was a sense that amongst these disruptors, change agents and enterprise provocateurs, there is a clear path to the results and reward of digital transformation. Welcome to the age of action.

For most of us, the path to digital transformation has been filled with more question marks than exclamation points. Teams reshaped. Tools realigned. Data reimagined. Strategies scrapped, remapped and scrapped again. For the leaders in that ballroom, sitting around the tables, on the couch or on the stage, the path has been winding, bumpy and marked with more than a couple “failing forward” moments. But thankfully, the insights they shared are lessons we can all leverage to draft our own paths to success.

Doing is Different Than BEING. Alan Bealieu joked that if you wanted to retain a Millennial in the workplace, you should use the word sustainable at least 3 times in the interview…regardless of context. Funny…especially for this GenXer. Yet the kernel of truth there is that Millennials don’t want to DO…they want to BE. They want to BE sustainable. They don’t want to DO sustainability campaigns. They are also VERY aware of the difference.

We can argue sustainability success rates later, but it does mirror what we need to emulate when it comes to digital transformation. We can’t just plan or hope for digital transformation. We need to BE digital. We can’t afford to DO digital through a series of loosely connected projects. We need to BE digital on purpose because our customers already expect digital. Anything less than being digital will be akin to saying transformation three times in a conversation, regardless of context.

Don’t Give Up…Take Naps. To paraphrase SAP’s Eric Stine, our greatest competitor in this digital transformation race is change fatigue. But according to Steve Reese of the Phoenix Suns, we aren’t going to get very far without a good night’s sleep.

It can’t be stressed enough that this hamster wheel known as transformation has been a marathon with no end, run at the all-out pace of a 100-meter sprint. It feels impossible and unfair, running uphill…both ways. From the vantage point of the Chief Marketing Officer, the idea of fatigue is very real. We’ve been running, sometimes backwards using data as a rear-view mirror that only justifies past investments, carrying a stack of point solutions held together with brand band-aids and customer experience hope. It is starting to crack and fall apart.

Maybe it is time to take a nap…or at least get a better night’s sleep. As the Suns have learned through a comprehensive workplace sleep study, improved sleep yields improved decisions. Instead of ripping and replacing, perhaps a nap is in order to make better decisions to advance the agenda.

Transformation is an action, not magic. John Hagel reminded us that automation is not synonymous with transformation…it just makes the caterpillar move faster. But the change in form between caterpillar to butterfly is not really transformation either. Metamorphosis, by definition, is a transformation that appears to be by magic or sorcery. It just “happens.” But transformation is an act…intentional action that leads to a change in appearance or character. It does not just happen. Tadpoles morph into frogs. Companies just don’t happen to foundationally change their business model.

Transformation demands focused action by strong leaders. However, the ideas we have about leadership must also change. Dr. Annie McKee shared that leadership, like happiness, is a choice. To be an effective leader, we must focus more on the happiness part of that statement. “People are emotional beings,” McKee emphasized. “When we FEEL bad, we don’t think as well, we make poor decisions and take stupid actions.” Stupid actions will not empower transformation. It will just make a faster (super expensive) caterpillar.

While every panel, every keynote and every hallway chat were peppered with discussions of technology (can I get a shout-out for blockchain anyone?) and how to be a disruptor and not the disrupted, in the end, all roads led back to people.

I’ll end this recap with an exceptional challenge from Ritchie Etwaru, “Turn up your customer empathy to 100. Turn down your product arrogance to 0.” If nothing else, my hope is that we can manage to start moving the dials, shifting our focus away from transformation to sell products faster and towards new models that exceed customer expectations. Once we do, we will have found the magic that leads to metamorphosis and, perhaps, the actions that lead to true transformation.