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Are You an Analog or Digital Leader?

Changing mindsets begins with you! The only mind you can be sure of changing is your own, and the only way that you can demonstrate this mindset change is through your behaviors. If you aspire for your organization to be faster, more innovative, less afraid of failure, it has to begin by you being faster, more involved in innovation and being willing to be the failure role-model. If you won’t try it, why should anyone else who works for you?

We live in the midst of a landscape-changing revolution, driven by unprecedented access to information, the globalization of ideas and accelerating convergence of sensors and knowledge. Business models are unrecognizable; customer engagement is completely different than it used to be; revenue is collected in patterns that would have been unthinkable even a decade ago, including “free”; our new talent has different aspirations; and we all work in a fundamentally different way than we did in the past. Powerful digital engines are everywhere, capable of the continuous production of new knowledge to feed new ideas. But, where are you? Are you still an analog leader in a digital world?

The key aspect of digital mindsets are:

  1. Speed in everything – quick bursts of experimentation and feedback seeking; prototyping and then rapid scaling up. About 100,000 customers had registered on Flipkart to buy the 20,000 Mi 3 smartphones. They were sold out in 5 seconds. Analog mind sets cannot comprehend this kind of speed, much less respond in kind.
  1. Think continuous processes, e.g., customer surveys are ongoing and the response to feedback is instantaneous. Every employee is in both sales and customer service!
  1. Multiple sources of data. Data gathering is also continuous. Big Data backed by Analytics drives choices.

We believe that leadership and innovation starts with personal action. Want to be innovative? Act innovatively! The metaphor that we think fits best with this is that the “spirit of our times” has moved from analog to digital, and that leaders now need to act digitally rather than analog. That means doing things in a way that the digital economy would suggest, rather than the way we’ve always done it [analog]. Below are some of the attributes of analog and digital leadership that we see – in an exploratory, prototyping sense.

What you’ll notice is that some aspects of digital leadership have been around for a long time…not surprising! However, it’s the coherence of the leadership approach – practicing all of these things routinely, rather than one of these things occasionally, that makes the difference between an analog and a digital leader. If leadership style matters, and we think it certainly does, than a coherent style will always be better than an incoherent one, especially if you want to establish a shared style among your team, or your colleagues, or your organization.

Be digital!



About the authors:

Abhijit Bhaduri

Chief Learning Officer, Wipro group

Abhijit Bhaduri works as the Chief Learning Officer for the Wipro group. Prior to this he led HR teams at Microsoft, PepsiCo, Colgate and Tata Steel and worked in India, SE Asia and US. He is on the Advisory Board of the prestigious program for Chief Learning Officers that is run by the University of Pennsylvania.

He writes regularly for The Economic Times, People Matters Magazine, the Conference Board and blogs for the Times of India. His writings have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Operations Research & Management Sciences Today. SHRM voted him to be the 2nd most influential HR person on social media.

Abhijit is the author of two best selling works of fiction and most recently a book on how to hire for culture and role fit and is called “Do Not Hire the Best”.

He writes a popular weekly post on movies, music and management for his website

Bill Fischer

Professor, IMD

New Yorker by birth & attitude, I live in Europe, where I am a Professor at IMD, in Lausanne, Switzerland, and where I co-direct the IMD/MIT-Sloan Driving Strategic Innovation program; and have had a long-time love affair with China, where we first moved our family to China in 1980, and where later I was the Executive President & Dean of CEIBS (the China-European International Business School) in Shanghai (1997-1999). I’ve recently co-authored (with Umberto Lago & Fang Liu) Reinventing Giants (2013) and (with Andy Boynton): The Idea Hunter (2011) and Virtuoso Teams (2005).

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