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Leading in the Digital Era

Feature Article | November 13, 2017 by Adrien Gerard

First seen through the lens of technology, then business, and now leadership, digital transformation has become global. It affects all aspects of society and each of us, yet it remains partially unexplored.

The time when change was linear, with an exact beginning and an end, has passed. Disruptions have become continuous and their rate is accelerating. At the end of the 17th century, Isaac Newton famously wrote, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” Three hundred and fifty years later, the same dynamic has increased exponentially, as progress is self-feeding. Digital transformation has given momentum to this phenomenon and widened the gap between change and a business’ ability to adapt.

Digital transformation has revolutionized ways to communicate, work, spend time, and consume. There are no parts of our lives that remain unaffected. This new paradigm compels companies to react or else. Not all lines of business are equally at risk: Digital transformation has already reshaped the media but the process is still ongoing in other industries for example. To succeed in the digital era, leaders must first grasp these changes; but above all, they must convey their vision to their colleagues.

Companies Need to Radically Shift Mindsets, As Customers Already Have

As long as digital transformation didn’t affect how business was done, there was substantial competitive edge to gain, but it wasn’t a prerequisite yet. The tipping point occurred when consumers started to behave differently. They discovered new needs, new entertainments, and brand new ways to consume — and their aspirations must be the center of attention. While often used for the constant link it creates between company and client, the agile methodology will not be sufficient. A radical mindset shift is also needed.

In the digital era, any company can disrupt your line of business

New parameters such as the Internet of Tings (IoT), machine learning, Big Data, and automation require a new attitude. In this context, innovation has an increasing role in a business’ success. Company leaders must innovate to create new business models, creative management organizations, and more inclusive client relationships. Innovation is even more relevant now that the competition has diversified. In the digital era, any company can disrupt your line of business, even if their core business has nothing to do with yours. Amazon is a fascinating example: It started as a bookstore, expended its scope to all consumer goods and video streaming, and the Seattle-based company now manufactures hardware such as smartphones.

Don’t Wait, Get Going

Digital transformation is a race, and as such, there is an essential parameter: speed. In this age of Big Data and continuous feedback, companies must be very reactive, to the point where it is not so much a race to be the first on the market, but rather to be the first to understand when it changes its behavior. Digital transformation does not allow one’s business to reevaluate its position on the market in real time, it dictates it. Blackberry’s fate must be a warning. Once a leader in its line of business, the company completely gave up smartphones manufacturing a year ago.

We are past the point when survival of the fittest was the rule of the game. Winners are now determined by innovation and their ability to create a fitting environment for themselves.

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