How to Stay on the Winning Side of Digital Disruption

By David Mostovoy

digital disruption

If your high school was anything like mine, you were required to read the “7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens Workbook”.  I feel like this is very much an early 2000s/Millennial experience (we are the gold-sticker, trophy-loving generation after all).

From the Amazon excerpt: “In this interactive volume, teens will find in-depth tools to improve self-esteem, build friendships, resist peer pressure, achieve goals, get along with parents, and strengthen themselves in many other areas.”

I’m a firm believer that there are some things that can’t be taught in a handbook—like the natural ability to get along with people and not be a complete knucklehead. However, I do agree that improving one’s self-esteem, staying on task, and working towards goals do require some skills that can be improved with time and practice. This handbook, and our freshman year course in Leadership, was designed to prepare us to meet the pressures of being in high school and become young adults in—let’s face it—the traditional sense.

As we sat in that class, little did we know that social media platforms would change our lives forever, whether we realized the impact right away or not. The invention of social media platforms was about to majorly disrupt traditional systems. The idea of a 20-year-old digital influencer—someone who could personally reach more people than the CEO of any given company—was about to be a possibility.

If you think about it, social media platforms are “babies” compared to 100-year-old brands that are now suddenly forced to play by the rules of the digital age. This is what’s referred to as the “digital disruption.” Technology came along and threw a major wrench in traditional notions of advertising and networking. Say what you want about their cultural impact, but social networks might be why you’re reading this story on your phone right now! They get the content to the people.

So now a few years into this disruption, everyone has adjusted and is killing it on these exciting new platforms…right?

As it turns out, not so much.

Most Leaders Are Unprepared for Digital Disruption

To study responses and needs in the age of digital disruption, The Global Center for Digital Business Transformation (DBT Center) surveyed more than 1,000 executives across 20 different sectors. This study had “heavyweight” backing as an initiative of IMD business school, Cisco, and HR consultancy metaBeratung.

Perhaps not surprisingly, 92% of the leaders surveyed said they are feeling the effects of digital disruption, with one third rating the impact as “very significant.” Now here’s where it starts to get a bit uncomfortable for us in the mobile tech space:

-> Less than 20% of respondents indicated that digital technologies, such as analytics, mobile and social media, are fully integrated into their organizations.

->Only about 30% of respondents either rarely or only occasionally use digital tools and technologies.

Moment of truth: Are you trying to be a “cool” brand, yet not exploring options in digital?

While you’re in good company, according to this survey, you could be so much more…effective, if I may borrow the word!

Being a Highly Effective Operator

The DBT Center has identified four competencies and three behaviors that business leaders need in the era of digital disruption. (When 4+3 = 7, you can see why this reminded me of my high school workbook.)

I’ll briefly summarize the “HAVE” competencies:

Humble – Own what you don’t know about digital and seek help from inside and outside your organization.

Adaptable – Adapt or die. If you can’t adapt with new technologies, your competitors will take advantage of your weakness.

Visionary – Keep your “eye on the prize.” What is your end goal in becoming more efficient through technology? Navigating digital disruption can be demanding.

Engaged – Not to keep using cliché phrases, but don’t “lose the forest for the trees.” Your vision is important, but engagement—finding out what works and what doesn’t in practice—is how you’ll bring your business to the next level.

If you’re succeeding at the HAVE competencies, DBT calls you an “Agile Leader.” And when it comes to tech, they run circles around non-agile leaders.

According to the survey:

26% of Agile Leaders use digital tools and technologies frequently, compared to just 7% of non-agile leaders.

28% of Agile Leaders use virtual networks and forums

32% of Agile Leaders seek disruptive approaches to deal with challenges.

It takes an Agile Leader to say, “Hey, you know what? Let’s try something new with tech.” However, the smart Agile Leader has done their homework. Nearly half of those Agile Leaders (42%) said they were making more informed business decisions as the result of three behaviors:

  1.  Well-directed data gathering
  2.  Effective analysis
  3.  Good judgment

And logically speaking, they must occur in that order!

Collecting “well-directed” data starts with the right platform that helps you analyze and make better judgments. The right platform can also improve engagement and interaction throughout your organization.

For instance, a mobile app like Zenput encourages managers and store-level employees to communicate about their everyday challenges in real-time through a streamlined platform. Communicate with tasks and forms, and send a photo or video to get your point across faster. Get out of email and create a better chain of accountability than phone or fax.

The 21st century has arrived and with it, so have digital disruptions. Will you resist the change or start using technology to your advantage?

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