As noted by these writers, everything in business can be copied except the talent; yes a talent with a renewed mindset to face the digital world of business will be a winning formula today!
Drive change from the top: The idea of bottom-up or grassroots change is both romantic and intuitive, but in reality, change is much more likely to happen if you drive it from the top down. This does not mean that you have to embrace an autocratic or hierarchical structure, or that you need a culture of fear. In fact, it’s a simple matter of leadership, whether transactional or transformational. In the context of digital transformations, the main implication is that you cannot expect big changes or upgrades to your organization unless you start by selecting and developing your top leaders in that vein to begin with. It has never been clearer that leadership — both good and bad — cascades down to impact every single aspect of the organization, with as much as 50% of the variability in group or unit performance being attributable to the individual leader. This is why when we are asked about the single most important factor in determining the effectiveness of an organization’s transformation, our answer is always the same: the CEO or head of the firm. Sure, industry, context, culture, people, legacy, and actual tech all matter, just as resources do. Yet most of these things tend to be rather similar among direct competitors, whereas the mindset, values, integrity, and above all, competence of the most senior leaders will stand out and be the main differentiator. Needless to say, everything in business can be copied except for talent, so if you are looking for impact, do invest in top talent, which is where you will get the most value. The distinguishing feature in the war for talent is always leadership: in-demand skills such as software engineering are what we talk about, yet the key is to find the people who can manage the software engineers and get them to work as a team to outperform other software engineers.
Make sure you’re acting on data insights: So much of the current discussion on data is focused on AI (artificial intelligence), or specific types of computer intelligence, such as machine learning, deep learning, or natural language processing. These powerful advances in AI are exciting, yet we don’t see them as the main differentiator for future-proofing your organization. A much bigger competitive advantage is to harness valuable data, having the necessary skills to translate that data into meaningful insights, and above all being able to act on those insights. In our view, data without insights are trivial, and insights without action are pointless. We cannot overemphasize the importance of this point, because too many business leaders operate under the false assumption that if they hire smart data scientists or buy fancy AI tools, their problems will go away, or they will somehow become more high-tech. The big difference between Google and the rest, between Amazon and the rest, between Facebook and the rest, is not the brain power of their data scientists, or the actual functionality of their technology (and, yes, we may see them as first-in-class), but their radical data-driven cultures. They have harnessed amazing data assets and have great algorithms to interpret (and monetize) that data, but their key strategic advantage and biggest asset is that they live, breathe, and act according to the data. Data truly is their oxygen, and that is something you cannot buy; you cultivate it, nurture it, and harness it with time — and above all, with leadership (back to point 3).
If you can’t fail fast, make sure you succeed slowly: The statements that speed is king, that action is key, that perfect is the enemy of good, and that you should be willing and eager to fail fast, have all become clichés in management thinking. But, the only way to adapt to a constantly changing and rapidly disrupted present is to speed up and operate at pace. Of course, there is always a trade-off between speed and quality, so if you cannot fail fast enough — meaning you don’t have a culture in place that tolerates quick experiments with the view that the lessons learned from those failed experiences will make you stronger and smarter, then you need to be sure that your long-term bets are working out. In other words, it’s okay to succeed slowly if you can’t fail fast. At the end of the day, failure is only a strategy for getting to success in the long run, so if you pick another strategy, that’s fine — just make sure you can actually get there. However, remember that few things breed stagnation and a false sense of security like an obsession with success. Indeed, we often hear leaders rationalize their failures with a self-congratulatory “we have learned from our mistakes,” yet it’s much harder to learn from your successes.
As the last several weeks have demonstrated, we are agile as a global community. This agility has been people-led and technology-supported. Human beings are the common denominator to the concept of future proofing, whether it’s as a complement to the technology being unleashed for remote working, or whether it’s because we possess the soft skills and leadership needed to navigate a historic crisis, or because we have the insights needed to drive slow success or fast failure for a cure. It all starts with each and every one of us, and those we are responsible for developing. The key is to nurture curiosity, so we have options, even outside of a crisis.