Evolution of Leadership in the World of Digital Disruption

By Aliya Khan October 30, 2018

Evolution of Leadership in the World of Digital Disruption

Digital disruption - a term that brings out the 'wait and see' attitude in companies. Perhaps, it is both challenging and intimidating to decide where to start when it comes to this aspect. Companies like Google, Uber, and Amazon have been dedicatedly navigating the complex landscape of digital disruption, and it is time for all organizations to start creating strategies to keep pace or else there's a risk of being left behind.

CIOs will have to learn how to identify, acknowledge and operate through the world of digital disruption. This will require an unconventional leadership mindset coupled with strategic alliances with various business units. A specific set of talent will also be needed to sail through the rough waters of disruption.

Here's What Digital Leaders do Differently to Stay Ahead in the Game

1. Embrace Uncertainty

 A disruptive digital leader understands and embraces the idea that uncertainty is inevitable, while an incumbent marketplace player might be frozen or flail in the face of the uncertainty of the digital era.

Instead of expending energy on repelling change, disruptive leaders explore what the possible technological changes they could adopt are, how these changes will disrupt the markets and what would be the risk-reward tradeoffs. While others may think that embracing uncertainty means throwing caution to the wind, disruptive leaders perceive it as establishing a plan that makes room for change and evolution and does not create an illusion of fake predictability.

2. Focus on Disruptive Ideas

 Digital leaders are visionaries when it comes to technology. And, all their decisions are grounded in the end goal or mission. Since the traditional incremental approach may experience the risk of irrelevance in the digital world; digital leaders focus on ideas that leapfrog ahead.

However, coming up with innovative ideas demands a risk-tolerant mindset, as future technologies are unpredictable and may be delayed or may even fail. But a passionate digital leader is driven by the challenge and potential of harnessing breakthrough technology to create new business value.

3. Choose your Digital Lever

One of the most distracting elements in the era of technology is pursuing glitzy technology merely for the sake of it.  Digital leaders surpass these distractions by seeking to master the digital-era competitive levers.  It is vital to choose a lever and center all efforts on making it a core competency of the company.

4. Start, Experiment, Learn, Repeat

 While several companies might prefer to wait until technology-enabled breakthroughs are proven, a digital leader’s mindset is that delaying decision-making due to uncertainty means another company will have already gained a competitive advantage.

 Instead of waiting for clarity before proceeding, digital leaders exercise a start-experiment-learn-repeat approach as a pathway to a breakthrough solution.

Companies can harness experimentation as a pathway to new value while limiting downside risk with specific disciplines, such as lean startup, minimum viable product, and data-evidence-based experimentation.

5. Innovate Faster

The digital era demands companies to innovate faster than their competitors.  Digital leaders establish a culture of true creativity to encourage innovation at high speed. They master this belief at every level from new joiners to the boardroom. They actively role-model a culture that fosters risk-taking and innovation. Companies with an aversion to risk are too slow to innovate, as employee thinking and actions remain boxed in traditional industry rules and ROI models. On the other side, companies that encourage risk-taking and emphasize on speed are much better equipped to succeed in the digital world.

It is vital to understand that no company or leader is immune to the coercion of technological change. Leaders who can hone adaptability, and communicate their vision successfully through active engagement, will stand a greater chance to stand the test of time.

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