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Four crucial skills required by the leadership team to enable Digital Dexterity

What is Digital Dexterity?

A prerequisite to digital transformation success. Digital dexterity is the desire and ability of employees to embrace existing and emerging technologies to achieve better business outcomes. It's a matter of both attitude and skills.

Emerging technologies are rapidly evolving, transforming industries around the world and creating demand for more innovative customer experiences and operating models. Workforces—and leadership teams—aren’t evolving quite as quickly. As per a recent survey, fewer than a third of companies are sure they have the talent they need to thrive through digital transformation.

Digital Dexterity combines adaptive, strategic, innovative, and executional skills in a particular mix to support both the technological and human side of transformation. Many leaders have mastered some elements of digital dexterity, but few have the full package. Knowing what skills are needed and why they matter will help teams build a long-term digital advantage that accelerates their companies’ performance.

Digital Dexterity (Source : Heidrick & Stuggles)

1) Mobilizing

Developing a clear understanding of emerging technologies and nontraditional competitors that could disrupt their industry is a crucial first step for any senior team today. Once leaders have that foundation in place, they can connect dots faster and envision market transformation—and then lead it.

Example : One healthcare COO we worked with, for instance, assigned her leadership team different market areas to monitor—including patient preferences, regulations, and technological innovations—then set up a regular time to triangulate weak signals and adjust the company’s strategy as needed. This led to an early spotting of an emerging trend of using blockchain to support the interoperability of electronic healthcare records—allowing the company to prepare a strategy before competitors could.

2) Executing

Reframing an organization’s purpose and designing solutions customers want in response to new technologies are hard enough. Actually taking all that to market may be even harder. The problem is talent: having the right people with the right capabilities is one of the greatest challenges we see with digital transformation. Our recent survey found that only 27% of small companies and 29% of large companies believe they have the right talent for digital transformation.

Example : AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson has championed a transition to more wireless technologies, which requires new skill sets, including those in cloud-based computing, coding, data science, and other technical capabilities. Most of the organization’s global employees “signed up for a deal that is entirely different from the environment in which their business operates today,” according to John Stankey, then head of AT&T’s Entertainment Group, as quoted in Harvard Business Review. The company spent $250 million on employee education and professional development programs and more than $30 million on tuition assistance annually.

3) Transforming

Offering training programs and simplifying structures aren’t enough, however. Companies typically need to upend at least some of what they’ve always done to become tech enabled, and this requires leaders to fundamentally change their understanding of the organization’s business models and sources of value.

Example : Domino’s Pizza is one example of a company transforming its understanding of its own business—from that of a pizza company to a technology company that sells pizza—by embracing a variety of technologies to support the goal of an improved customer-ordering experience. Chief digital officer Dennis Maloney described the new mind-set this way: “If you started thinking about yourselves like an e-commerce company, you start asking the question, what makes a really good e-commerce company?In response to that new question, Domino’s has made ordering available through a variety of apps and created a “hot spots” program with delivery to outdoor locations such as parks and sports fields. It is also testing the use of driverless delivery vehicles, smart ovens, and voice-activated artificial intelligence for phone orders. As a result, it has gained market share, generated significant buzz with customers and analysts, and earned awards for its digital leadership

4) Staying Agile

Succeeding with this degree of change requires individual and organisational agility. But one of the most common challenges we hear from leaders trying to drive digital transformation is that their organisational culture and mind-sets are still stuck in the status quo. Leaders who consistently bring new knowledge to the table not only help their companies look ahead to gain a competitive advantage but also act as role models for their senior team, and so on throughout the organization. Companies can also benefit by focusing on learning at all levels.

Example: Singapore Airlines, for example, launched a program focused specifically on lower-level employees in 2016. SIA Future@Work builds digital skills and capabilities through an innovation-focused development program consisting of training, workshops, expert talks, and peer-learning sessions covering data analytics, design thinking, and agile capabilities.

Leading digital transformation means being part of a team that can inspire the whole organization to accelerate, drive continuous and disruptive innovation, and redefine the customer experience. Although every senior leader must develop his or her own digital dexterity to be relevant, no one person can do it all. Just as business models and critical roles shift with acceleration, so does the mix of digital dexterity skills required. By cultivating their own digital dexterity and making it a priority for their teams to do the same, senior leaders can make themselves—and their organizations—more able to thrive in a digitally enabled world. Given the pace of technological disruption, there is no time to lose

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Four crucial skills required by the leadership team to enable Digital Dexterity

What is Digital Dexterity?

A prerequisite to digital transformation success. Digital dexterity is the desire and ability of employees to embrace existing and emerging technologies to achieve better business outcomes. It's a matter of both attitude and skills.

Emerging technologies are rapidly evolving, transforming industries around the world and creating demand for more innovative customer experiences and operating models. Workforces—and leadership teams—aren’t evolving quite as quickly. As per a recent survey, fewer than a third of companies are sure they have the talent they need to thrive through digital transformation.

Digital Dexterity combines adaptive, strategic, innovative, and executional skills in a particular mix to support both the technological and human side of transformation. Many leaders have mastered some elements of digital dexterity, but few have the full package. Knowing what skills are needed and why they matter will help teams build a long-term digital advantage that accelerates their companies’ performance.

Digital Dexterity (Source : Heidrick & Stuggles)

1) Mobilizing

Developing a clear understanding of emerging technologies and nontraditional competitors that could disrupt their industry is a crucial first step for any senior team today. Once leaders have that foundation in place, they can connect dots faster and envision market transformation—and then lead it.

Example : One healthcare COO we worked with, for instance, assigned her leadership team different market areas to monitor—including patient preferences, regulations, and technological innovations—then set up a regular time to triangulate weak signals and adjust the company’s strategy as needed. This led to an early spotting of an emerging trend of using blockchain to support the interoperability of electronic healthcare records—allowing the company to prepare a strategy before competitors could.

2) Executing

Reframing an organization’s purpose and designing solutions customers want in response to new technologies are hard enough. Actually taking all that to market may be even harder. The problem is talent: having the right people with the right capabilities is one of the greatest challenges we see with digital transformation. Our recent survey found that only 27% of small companies and 29% of large companies believe they have the right talent for digital transformation.

Example : AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson has championed a transition to more wireless technologies, which requires new skill sets, including those in cloud-based computing, coding, data science, and other technical capabilities. Most of the organization’s global employees “signed up for a deal that is entirely different from the environment in which their business operates today,” according to John Stankey, then head of AT&T’s Entertainment Group, as quoted in Harvard Business Review. The company spent $250 million on employee education and professional development programs and more than $30 million on tuition assistance annually.

3) Transforming

Offering training programs and simplifying structures aren’t enough, however. Companies typically need to upend at least some of what they’ve always done to become tech enabled, and this requires leaders to fundamentally change their understanding of the organization’s business models and sources of value.

Example : Domino’s Pizza is one example of a company transforming its understanding of its own business—from that of a pizza company to a technology company that sells pizza—by embracing a variety of technologies to support the goal of an improved customer-ordering experience. Chief digital officer Dennis Maloney described the new mind-set this way: “If you started thinking about yourselves like an e-commerce company, you start asking the question, what makes a really good e-commerce company?In response to that new question, Domino’s has made ordering available through a variety of apps and created a “hot spots” program with delivery to outdoor locations such as parks and sports fields. It is also testing the use of driverless delivery vehicles, smart ovens, and voice-activated artificial intelligence for phone orders. As a result, it has gained market share, generated significant buzz with customers and analysts, and earned awards for its digital leadership

4) Staying Agile

Succeeding with this degree of change requires individual and organisational agility. But one of the most common challenges we hear from leaders trying to drive digital transformation is that their organisational culture and mind-sets are still stuck in the status quo. Leaders who consistently bring new knowledge to the table not only help their companies look ahead to gain a competitive advantage but also act as role models for their senior team, and so on throughout the organization. Companies can also benefit by focusing on learning at all levels.

Example: Singapore Airlines, for example, launched a program focused specifically on lower-level employees in 2016. SIA Future@Work builds digital skills and capabilities through an innovation-focused development program consisting of training, workshops, expert talks, and peer-learning sessions covering data analytics, design thinking, and agile capabilities.

Leading digital transformation means being part of a team that can inspire the whole organization to accelerate, drive continuous and disruptive innovation, and redefine the customer experience. Although every senior leader must develop his or her own digital dexterity to be relevant, no one person can do it all. Just as business models and critical roles shift with acceleration, so does the mix of digital dexterity skills required. By cultivating their own digital dexterity and making it a priority for their teams to do the same, senior leaders can make themselves—and their organizations—more able to thrive in a digitally enabled world. Given the pace of technological disruption, there is no time to lose

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