Leadership in the era of tech disruption

Leadership in the era of tech disruption

by The Future Of - Foresight Made Accessible

Whether your firm is a tech innovator or not; whether tech disruptors are already transforming your industry or not; whether you believe or not to the suicidal mantra of “digital transformation does not apply to us”, tech vectors are not only reshaping industries and businesses, but they are also providing a new meaning to the notion of leadership.

In an article on the MIT Sloan Review the authors explore the seven attributes of the AI-driven leaders: however, many of these attributes provide an idea of the leadership changes with all other new emerging digital technologies. Whether disruption comes from AI or Augmented Reality and Additive Manufacturing, leadership with the need to address similar organizational challenges, drastic mentality changes and talent’s resistance to an extreme learning curve.

In this sense, the new leadership attributes are:

Become Familiar with technology: nobody expects non-technical leaders to master Phyton, Teras or TensorFlow. Nevertheless, leaders are required to understand enough about the difference between a Machine Learning Algorithm and a Deep Learning one so that they can play a role in building the strategy. Leaders in consumer goods and retail can already observe up-and-coming technologies, like visual search, voice-activated virtual assistants and convenient cashier-less shopping experiences. Only a few of those leaders, the ones who really understand those technologies, can foresee how those will challenge the traditional norm in consumer shopping. And more importantly, only the ones who understand, will steer their organization to be ready, before it is too late

Set a proper level of tech ambition for the organization: corporate “fear of the unknown” can slow down large and ambitious digital transformation projects. Training, awareness workshops, consensus building sessions and far less ambitious projects, to begin with, are key elements of taming corporate fear. Leadership is about daring with technology, not stretching the organization ambition.

No proof of concept, please! While smaller projects are necessary, especially at the beginning, they cannot happen in a vacuum. They need to provide an organizational-wide low hanging fruit and need to be fully scalable by design. On the other end, pilot projects, by default, have only one clear objective: being observable so that the project team can generate insights. Therefore, by design, they are not scalable. They are meant to be isolated as an experiment, which is not meant to exist beyond the boundaries of a lab.

Skills and Competencies before the Tech: new technologies require the whole organization to acquire new skills and competencies. This means that leaders need to stress the importance of development, and need to ensure that new hires deliver above par in certain areas. And the new corporate development programs must have a two-fold objective: first and foremost reduce – if not eliminate – the fear of unknown related to emerging technologies. Moreover, it needs to bring everybody onboard on how tech developments are reshaping non-engineering functions. In our consumer goods example, with the emergence of AI-based shopping assistants, traditional promo-mechanics based on price or gift with purchase, will become obsolete. This will completely change the type of promotions trade marketers need to develop, but also the way key account manager negotiates their customers’ promotional plans.

Show me the Data! Customer obsession can be easily translated in fixation with data: data can help to understand “who” the customers are, what they care for, how smooth their customer experience. In many industries providing analytics to customers, it’s often the desired benefit in itself. Leaders need to infuse the whole organization with interest in data, so that data do not become the exclusive responsibility of IT, and not for the only perusal and analysis of data scientists and accounting functions.

Collaborative Organization: while this was true already 10 years ago, the need for agile collaboration is transforming from a competitive edge to a necessary condition for survival. When new technologies emerge to disrupt, they do so by reshaping the relationships between functions. Therefore functions need to work together to co-design a response, to co-create a new process, by and for all of the parts involved. Leaders in this new technological era must become the catalyst for this new type of collaborative organization, which Deloitte refers to the symphonic organization.

In conclusion, technological disruption is requiring new forms of leadership, to ensure that organizations make the most of - rather than rejecting – emerging digital tools. And while a certain degree of understanding is required, the emerging leadership in the age of Tech is really about overtaking fear, building competences and smoothing personal and organizational edges.

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