Leadership in an Era of Digital Darwinism

As I think about disruptive technology, it’s clear that as an industry, we often get stuck in conversations about products, services, and features. In social media for example, we are enamored with Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, and the like. At the same time, we tend to confuse emerging with disruptive technologies and overly invest in rising stars such as Instagram, Quora and to some extent Google+ before we understand the impact they have on our world and the impact we can have within each network.

Why does this matter?

As an analyst and as a geek, I too am captivated by all that’s new and shiny. I’m grounded however, by the real world conversations and actions necessary to translate trends into actionable insights. Innovation must be studied. Its impact must be understood. The benefits offered by disruptive technology must be analyzed to learn how it will benefit our business, whether its effects are of value to the business or market infrastructure, in customer and employee relationships, or in product or process breakthroughs. It’s not enough to experiment. While test and learn is a necessary ingredient in converting innovation into progress, it is in the recognition of opportunities where we need to begin. We need to start with a hypothesis or an idea about how technology plays a part in evolution and more importantly, how it allows businesses to realize its objectives better than it does today. It then takes research and experiments to prove or disprove your theory.

In addition to a culture of innovation, experimentation, and one that can recognize new opportunities, the future of evolution comes down to you and your leadership team.

I recently had the opportunity to join Steve Woodruff and Lisa Petrilli in their popular #LeadershipChat forum on Twitter. We discussed why this is the time where business as usual is no longer an operating model. We also dove into the importance of translating trends into opportunities to either lead or help leaders chart a new course. We indeed face an era of digital Darwinism, a phenomenon where technology and society evolve faster than our ability to adapt. This is a time for reflection and adaptation. In the words of Charles Darwin, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

In 140 characters or less, here are some of the highlights of the discussion…

This book (The End of Business as Usual) marks a departure from your past writings. In what way(s)?

– Social media is disruptive in how people communicate, discover share. It is not a catalyst for leadership enlightenment #LeadershipChat

– To earn the attention of C-Level executives takes understanding, tenacity + ability to translate trends into opportunity

– Social media is only part of the story. The lessons many are just now learning are not unlike those who’ve focused on change

What’s advice re 1st step for a company to translate what see/know into actionable insight?

– My Advice? Stop focusing all of the $+resources on monitoring keywords put someone from BI on analytics

You see the “connected consumer” as a major driver of change in business. Why and how?

– The connected expand opportunities. They don’t follow the steps of other consumers. They influence + are influenced differently

– We have 3 distinct groups of consumers how they discover/communicate changes w/each – traditional, online connected

– Connected consumers are just that…connected. How they find share information and make decisions is not like the others

– The connected represent a wave of new consumerism require businesses to rethink amend its approach to reach lure them

How can businesses most effectively attract and interact with the “connected consumer”?

– Some believe that consumers don’t know what they want. If we listen to them, we react vs innovate, which = meh products

– Steve Jobs once said “You‘ve got to start w/the customer experience work backward – not the other way around”

– Consumers are becoming connected influential. The opportunity is for businesses to architect exceptional experiences

– From marketing to sales to service to experience, businesses must think about defining meaningful + shareable experiences

– People will always talk, whether they’re connected or not, so give them something to talk about. Every consumer group wins!

What will it take for leaders to adapt to – and lead – the new climate and culture of business?

– Quests toward customer-centricity follow 2 paths. 1) Get closer to customers thru social. 2) Create a customer culture

– Leaders often talk about transformation, change or vision much like politicians address the needs of people during election

– Leadership is earned. It’s not a right…it is a rite of passage. Leaders must see what others don’t do what others can’t

– There’s a drought of useful information-that’s OUR opportunity. We must translate what we see/know into actionable insights

– Change happens when persistence outlasts resistance it is also your opportunity to become part of the new leadership team

You talk adamantly about vision, higher purpose and mission, where’s the ROI in that? Is that what CEOs really want?

– What’s the ROI of vision or innovation? Often ROI stands for Return on Ignorance, which as you can imagine is usually low

– If you ask an exec what they truly want, the answer will vary across the board-profits, sales, efficiencies, happy employees

– I spent a lot of time w/@zappos Tony Hsieh. He once told me businesses excel if they focus on higher purpose vs bottom line

– I researched it companies focused on purpose, mission, experience tended to over index in satisfaction, profitability, etc

– Leaders don’t chase trends, they seek results. This requires customer engagement + experiences leads to mission/innovation

You can read the full transcript over at Hashtracking.

Order The End of Business as Usual today…

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