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Digital business leadership crucial


Never before have leaders lacking digital business savvy run a greater risk of being blindsided by the next technology-enabled disrupter.

Mastery of digital business core competencies, such as harnessing powerful platform effects, customer-centric design or unlocking value from vast volumes of data, is increasingly defining the marketplace leaders.

To win in this leadership context requires acumen in both the core competencies of digital business and associated leadership behaviours.

Digital business leaders must be educators to instil this digital business savvy into the enterprise DNA.

In this era, every single organisation in Bahrain must have in their DNA the digital business concept, and their operations and culture must be built around digital business leadership.

A clear pattern appeared recently that the most effective educators employ behaviours which are categorised as “show, don’t tell.”

Examples range from prototypes or demonstrations in the boardroom, business technology showcases and study tours, all the way to multiday hackathons.

The common “active ingredient” is the educator’s ability to bring creative ideas to the point where they can be visualised and more readily embraced.

Extending this principle, advanced leaders develop proof of concepts and marketplace tests to not only help others grasp the art of the digital possible, but obtain real-time marketplace feedback.

One government leader shared how digital DNA and confidence was instilled over a long period for refining citizen engagement techniques during local elections.

By testing, iterating and refining what worked and did not at what he described as the “league games,” “quarterfinal” and “semifinal” stages, leaders developed the digital DNA and competencies to successfully impact results in the “final” – in this case a national election.

To improve educator persona, one should master the practice of immersive learning to enable personal discovery by others of the digital business opportunities critical for enterprise success.

One can also instil and deepen digital business savvy of your C-level peers and boardroom by championing marketplace tests that provide real-time feedback; both fast failures and quick wins.

One out of four chief executives rank talent and skills among top priorities. CIOs ranked skills and resources as their No 1 barrier to success in Gartner’s 2016 CIO agenda.

To compete on the digital era playing field, C-level leaders must clearly step up their behaviours to become attractors of talent and ideas.

The trick is not just to attract anyone; rather, those people naturally attuned to your core purpose and specific digital business differentiation competency.

Astute digital business leaders crisply define and radiate a clear digital business purpose, such as applying data science to impact healthcare outcomes, creating the most compelling retail shopping experience or serving citizens in ways they want to consume services.

Digital-business-savvy talent is motivated by a visionary purpose, challenging assignments and working for leaders they believe “get digital.”

These ingredients come together in culture.

Top digital business leaders are passionate to create, or in some cases reset, a culture that is contemporary to digital business demands and attractive to top talent.

With the above factors in place, top leaders creatively deploy techniques to attract talent.

For example, one financial services leader used an open innovation challenge, leveraging a set of aggregated data, to attract top data science and entrepreneurial talent astute in developing new services based on that specific data.

In the end, this is a highly human endeavour – shrewd digital business leaders hone behaviours to radiate as a compelling attractor to most relevant talent.

To ignite an attractor persona, one can define and radiate a compelling digital business purpose and that allows others to contribute something energising and bigger than themselves, or one can create or reset your culture to be fit for digital business purpose, use it to attract, and then unleash the power of the most relevant talent and ideas.

The author is a Bahrain-based management and technology expert

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