About Transitions


A transition is a fundamental change in the culture, structure and practices of a system.


A transition is what happens when people start to act, think and organize themselves in a fundamental different way. Transitions are long term developments (between 20-50 years) and are non-lineair, irregular, and unpredictable.

Every transition has its own trajectory and dynamic, but certain general characteristics apply to all transitions.


After a period of relative stability, crises occur more frequent and each crisis becomes more severe. Disruptive factors that have been developing in the margins for a long time suddenly become front and center. Traditional systems of organization (markets, regulatory frameworks, sectors, supply chains) are stressed beyond capacity, show symptoms of internal inconsistencies, or show signs of breaking down. New technologies and actors disrupt the balance in existing markets.

More about disruption


A second characteristic is that innovation becomes crucial to survive. Existing systems fail to protect incumbents from disruption, forcing them to adapt more frequently, faster and more comprehensively. A growing number of new players enter the marketplace and increase their market share. Products. services, revenue models and business models that previously were considered impossible quickly gain acceptance, and create more value. Competition seems to be coming from all directions.

More about innovation


Ultimately, there will be a tipping point in the system, which causes the emergence of a radically different playing field. More than a few incumbents and previously unassailable market leaders fall by the way side. New technologies and new actors become dominant factors. A new balance is struck between traditional and novel market players, bringing along new roles and structures. Obsolete institutions, power centers and concepts are quickly left behind.

The way a transition plays out often seems obvious in hindsight, as if the new system is a logical extension of the old system. However, once a transition enters the (post)development stage, there is a fundamentally new way of doing, thinking and organizing in place. Only when we try to argue with someone from the old system, we notice the difference.


  • The fastest way around the world according to Jules Vernes (80 days  in 1873) and to astronauts visiting the International Space Station (92 minutes in 2016)
  • Publicly sharing pictures of your loved ones before and after Facebook
  • The necessity of being ‘online’ before and after the mobile phone
  • More examples of transition

Even though many things in the new system resemble the way they where in the old system, the underlying structures are so fundamentally different that comparing the way it is now with the way it used to be keeps going wrong.

A more accurate depiction of a transition would therefore look more like:

Is your organization ready for transition? Is your organization primed for capitalizing on opportunities when market dynamics increase? How strong is your strategic base? Get in touch today to find out more.


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Neem contact op met Frederic Sanders:

T: +31 6 33660576

E: sanders@switch21.com