It is surprising how so many executives I come across easily under-estimate their ability to stay on top of digitization trends, and consider themselves digitally challenged! I spoke to audience members who approached me during networking sessions at some of the technology conferences I spoke at recently, and a synopsis of my observations as well as my advice to some of them is as follows.

You do not have to be a “coder” to leverage technology. While it is the job of technical experts to create the right technology for customers and employees, the executive has a key role to play as the end-user of the technology. In the age of customer centricity where the customer is king, the executive (as the internal customer of the technology team) needs to feel empowered rather than challenged to drive the right decisions for the firm!

Get a complete understanding of the value chain of your business. Disruptors attack various parts of the value chain, even if all of them are not big enough to disrupt the entire chain. A very important learning is that the disruption can stay even if the disruptor disappears. And that’s precisely where leaders can re-invent their business by staying on top of trends.

Get back to school. The definition of school is not necessarily “business school”. Just the good old habit of carving out an hour every day (preferably first thing in the morning) to do research on topics (such as block chain and internet of things) & teach oneself. All leaders are readers. And, interestingly, leverage technology (e-learning, gamification) itself to learn more about technology!

Get out of office. As they say, the best way to get more business is not by staying within the office but by getting out and meeting more prospects. Using the same analogy, the more you are confined to the walls of the office, the more you are in the box. Get out of the office, attend seminars, speak to experts, and be in the “know” or “thick” of things. The more you do, the more you learn.

Learn from history/contemporaries. Big firms (such as IBM) have re-invented themselves completely. New firms (such as Tesla) are challenging conventional wisdom. Just emulate them! With the plethora of literature available nowadays, figure out learnings from these classic case studies and apply them to your own firm / situation. Your motto should be that your firm becomes the next case study!

Start small, scale fast. Most often, we wish to change the world upside down in a jiffy. That’s the fastest route to failure! It is extremely important to start small (and often in an imperfect way), learn alongside and scale fast to world-class leadership.

Enjoy the process. This is often under-estimated but very important. Learning suffers under stress but picks up momentum if it is aided by fun & enjoyment of the process. We live in a world where change is measured in seconds and not years. Exciting stuff comes our way every new year. Let’s enjoy the process of staying on top rather than feeling weighed down!

The common man of today leads a lifestyle which is far superior to that of an emperor of yesteryears! And the generations to come will be digital natives. I remember an apocryphal anecdote about a mother convincing her daughter that she was born, not downloaded! As we live in, and look forward to very exciting trends, as long as we enjoy what we are doing, and make efforts to say on top, no matter what our age, we can certainly stay on top and re-invent ourselves and our firms! I rest my case….and look forward to yours being the next case study at a prominent B-school!


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