How do senior leaders create value in their organisation with digital innovation?

Our second round table discussion of April 29 focused around the question “how do senior leaders create value in their organisation with digital innovation?”

We started by going around and sharing our challenges. Digital nowadays is everywhere. It is not something that can be avoided. But there is a difference between digitising manual processes and changing the ways of working of the entire organization (including the business). The real legacy is in the processes not in the software. This means we are talking about a culture change. It requires alignment of people and vision to lead them the way. On top, everything has to be agile as tools and technology change quickly. And with this also customer expectations. We interact digitally with new generations of customers, who want things instantly. This requires us to rethink how we create value, top and bottom. But all this comes at a cost, so we must invest wisely, we can’t do everything.

Next we moved to our experiences with digitalisation initiatives. A lot of the participants mentioned a variety of incubator initiatives, digital labs, future labs, innovation centres, etc. What we had in common is that these are mostly environments where people can experiment with digital tools, to ideate and create products. These initiatives are always centred around the customer or user (UX/CX focused). Most organisations let these incubators pitch ideas as if they were start-ups. You have to give it time and can’t measure it like a traditional business unit. Sometimes you don’t know where it’s going, but you learn from the experience or interaction with customers and users. Co-creation is key in these environments. Most companies bring in customers, users, partners, etc.

Then we discussed how we disrupt. We disrupt in the way we do things, how we challenge silo thinking, question the way it’s always been done. This creates a positive, healthy tension. It’s thinking business, not tech. This brings organisations to reflect on their true purpose. Is your true purpose to deliver packages, or is it connecting people? Is it creating products or creating experiences? What’s clear is that it’s about humans first. We have to align strategy and culture, and stretch our people to look forward. For this, we need to create safe environments, where people can try out things and know it’s ok to fail. You start from talents and strengths and take it from there. Some companies had great experiences with developing apps that did things outside of their core business. This can solve “wicked” problems. We should learn from those failures and celebrate. One idea generates another.

Finally, we reflected on what will make the ultimate difference between the winners and losers in the digital universe. Ironically, we agreed that to create value in the organisation with digital innovation, emotions will make the difference. That’s what makes us human. That’s what sets us apart.