Entrepreneurship

Digital transformation dreaming

creativeThere is a huge pile of research reports and studies on my desk how digitization will change the way we do business. And I am sure there are similar piles in many managers’ offices. But what good are the best reports if you are unable to move the transformation forward?

Those that are succeeding in moving along their digital transformation have two things in common: one, they not only understand what digital transformation means, they also know that it means a fundamental change for the whole company. And two, they ensure that they have the right resources with the right expertise to transform their corporate culture to meet the upcoming challenges.

Digital transformation needs to driven by the CEO. Not your Head of IT. Not your Head of Sales. Not your Head of Something Something. It needs to be one of the top strategic priorities for the whole company driven from the top down.

Digital transformation is not walking down a straight path. You will need to be open for new business models. For new ways of implementing products and services. And your corporate culture will need to allow failure.

Digital transformation can be driven an internal facilitator like a Chief Digital Officer or even be outsourced into a new venture that can work without any “analog”disruption from the organization in form of resistance or doubts. But whatever way is chosen at the end of you will need a leader.

Digital transformation needs a leader who has a strong project management background, who is a multitasker, open to try new things. You will need someone who is impatient, a fast thinker , who plays well with others and is able to influence change within the culture of the board and with it the rest of the company. And you will need someone who is a strong communicator. Someone who can combine the “old” with the “new”.

That is why it is imperative for all organizations to start understanding what digital transformation means for their business and  how the digital competencies of new and existing directors will fit emerging strategies. And it is the CEO’s task to ensure that this journey is started on the right path.

Enabling (digital) transformation

filmNext week  I am joining a panel discussion about “Digital Transformation and Shared Economy – what family owned companies can learn from start-ups”as part of the Pioneer Festival in Vienna, a major event for future technologies and entrepreneurship.

The impact of digitalization presents unprecedented challenges for all companies – big or small.  Digitalization can not only extend the reach of organizations and improve management decisions, but most of all it can speed up the development of new products and services. But this can also mean that your traditional business model may become disrupted. Having a solid strategy for your digital transformation is therefore key.

For established companies working together with start-ups for their digital transformation can have many benefits. These range from having better access to new technologies to an increase in innovation as well as learning to be more lean and fast.

But what are the most important pre-requisites for a successful transformation? I know that there are a few but here are my top 4:

  1. The C-suite is boss
    Digitalization is a key change for any business model. But it will also mean changes in your corporate culture. Therefore it can only be successful if the transformation process is owned and backed by CEO.
  2. Startup mentality is part of your DNA
    If you want to be innovative and foster new technologies, you will need people that have an entrepreneurial mindset in your organization. And you will want to give them all the support they need. Digitalization means being hands-on, open to trial and error and being convinced of its success. And being given the space to to develop new business models will be key to get ahead in the process.
  3. Protect innovation
    Innovation, just like any change, can often fail if the organization does not embrace it. As mentioned above, it is critical that people working on digital transformation are given the (protected) space to create and develop new ideas and are able to test these in an agile manner. Give them the autonomy to go  and impact things.
  4. Truly understanding your customer
    The key word here is “customer centricity” – if you do not know who your customers are nor what they really need you will already have lost. Services and products should be developed with a focus on what the customer needs rather what the organization believes is needed. And ideally, this should be done as fast as possible to quickly meet the market demands.

 

But something we must not forget: digital transformation is not only driven by technology but also by humans and how they communicate this transformation.  I think the latter is often forgotten when we hear or read about digital transformation. But that is something I will focus on in my next article. Watch this space!

 

It’s time for more social savvy CEOs

A recent study from CEO.com showed that the leaders of today’s most powerful companies (aka Fortune 500) still see social media as a non-necessity in their leadership toolkit. In fact, 61% have no social media presence whatsoever.

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Courtsesy CEO.com

This is totally anti-cyclical to consumers. Today there are more than 3 billion people on the internet and 2 billion are active social media users. We spend almost 3 hours online a day and 74% of consumers rely on social media to make buying decisions. So if social media is where your customers are, why aren’t there more CEOs active on social platforms?

Why Go Social?

The business of business are relationships. Relationships are inherently social. And leadership in the 21st century is all about strong communication. Social media provides multiple benefits for CEOs: it creates emotional connections, builds relationships and demonstrates innovation. Little side benefit: all of these increase leadership effectiveness.

A recent Weber Shandwick study said that 80% of employees would rather work for a social CEO. And 3 out of 4 consumers said they would be more likely purchase from companies who communicate on social media.

And we should not forget trust. Trust is the foundation for any business to operate. Be it internal or external, trust should be high on any CEO’s priority list. Edelman’s yearly Trust Barometer highlights exactly this. With more people placing trust in their peers and company employees than CEOs, social media provides a perfect channel for changing this. In today’s media landscape, there needs to be a move from just traditional media to a platform where CEOs can directly interact with stakeholders and customers. Richard Edelman defined the new role of the CEO to be the “Chief Engagement Officer”. A CEO that has a social profile can result in better communication, more transparency, higher employee morale and an improved brand image. By sharing stories, vision and values, the CEO moves from being just a business figure to a real person – resulting not only in greater visibility and influence, but also in more trust.

So Many More Opportunities

CEO.com’s study showed that those CEOs who are “active” on social media, Linkedin and Twitter were the preferred platforms of choice, although most of them were less active on the latter. With so much happening in the social media space, it will be interesting to see when executives will realize the benefits of exploring  other platforms.  Such as visual platforms like Instagram or YouTube. Personally, I also strongly believe that messaging and streaming apps will be interesting for CEOs to experiment with as these channels are genuinely social with their feedback mechanisms and their informality.

But when looking at today’s social CEO landscape, all this still lies in a very distant future.

Maybe for now it is sufficient for CEOs take some advice from Sir Richard Branson, who said, “Embracing social media isn’t just a bit of fun, it’s a vital way to communicate, keep your ear to the ground and improve your business.”

Elevate your leadership communication

Communication is important. And if you are a leader even more so. Understanding how to be a great communicator can make all the difference. There are many elements to being a  communicator. Here are just a few highlights:Fireball_XL5

It’s all about personalization
Leadership is no longer about issuing corporate communications. It is about being personal. That is why it is important to develop relationships with the people in your team and organization. Think dialog not monologue. Make sure to ask the right questions and don’t forget to read between the lines. Just by watching and listening you can raise your organizational awareness immensly.

Listen. Really Listen
When we think of communication, we often think of talking. Listening is often overlooked although it is the most important princliple of great communication. You will never have a meaningful conversation if all you do is to broadcast. Even worse if all you do is broadcast the same messages. When you start to stop moving your lips and start to open your ears, you are on the right path to becoming a skilled communicator.

Keep an open mind
When your opinion matters more than anyone else’s then you stop listening. You stop learning. And you are closed off to new opportunities. There is nothing to fear about hearing other people’s opinions even if they may be dissenting to yours. Rather see it as an opportunity to challenge your way of thinking and to grow. At the end of the day it is not the opinion that matters, but the willingness to discuss it with an open mind.

Empathy is the new ego
Ego is not necessarily a bad thing, but if it only brings out the best in you but not in other people you have failed at being a good leader. Good communication is about being authentic and transparent. To do that you need to communicate with empathy and not arrogance.

Communication is so important. I see it every day. If we can get it right, we can build great teams and accelerate our business.

I is for Inspiration – Takeaways From Google’s Larry Page Letter to Staff

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Big news from Google this week. Alphabet. Their new holding company. And a great name at that. Suggesting anything and everything and many new ideas and multitude of opportunties.

Larry Page letter to staff, announcing Alphabet, has some pretty good, quotable quotes.  Something any CEO or leader should take note of as they are relevant for any business that wants to be successful.

“We are still trying to do things other people think are crazy but we are super excited about”

If you do not allow for genuine, contrarian ideas to be developed and heard in your company you are crushing innovation. Companies that have a true desire to keep innovating and investing in weird, amazing ideas are sure to be at the forefront of success.

“Over time companies tend to get comfortable doing the same thing, just making incremental changes”

No one wants to end up being the next Blockbuster, Netscape or Kodak. Google is disrupting itself with Alphabet. And a clever move it is.

“Our company is operating well today, but we think we can make it cleaner and more accountable”

The restructuring allows Google to be agile (something the investors have been waiting for). Alphabet gives Google the flexibility to shift businesses. Not only under new umbrellas but also under new CEOs who may offer better leadership.

“Alphabet is about businesses prospering through strong leaders and independence”


With each new business under Alphabet having separate management teams, more opportunities are freed up for career development. This in return is great
for attracting and retaining talent. And we must not forget it allows for strong employer branding. A smart move.

“Alphabet … means a collection of letters that represent language, one of humanity’s most important innovations”

Google may be a tech giant but at the end of the day it is all about your clients and your employees.

And a little marketing side note:  Is it smart to re-organize one of the most recognizable brands on the planet? Sure. In creating Alphabet, Google is following powerful trend in corporate branding just like Apple or GE.  And having a complete house of  strong brands makes for a strong catalyst for innovation.

 

 

ISPO Munich 2014 – Visions become reality

rockWinter hesitantly arrived just in time for ISPO – making it all the more appropriate to check out the latest winter sport gear and clothing. ISPO is a great, colorful place for me to meet people and network, especially as this is an industry most removed from all my other daily business encounters.

After all the hype around this year’s CES in Las Vegas, I was pretty excited to check out the latest wearable tech on offer at ISPO. This year the organizers even dedicated a special wearable technologies show. I am amazed at the multitude of fitness trackers but none really stuck out. Probably most noteworthy was SenseCore . According to the Swiss startup, SenseCore not only can track the “regular” data but also has an EKG functionality, body temperature, acceleration and more. The sensors can be integrated into clothing and that way produce a multitude of data  In addition it is waterproof up to 5m. With a price tag of approx. EUR 900 this little wonder will most likely be used more for the professional sports people and possibly even whole teams.

hyperNot necessarily wearable tech but definitely wearable was Hyperice – a joint specific neoprene bandage that offers cold treatment. If you don’t mind looking like something out of Terminator it sure seems to produce great regenerative results.

While I always enjoy to check out the latest clothing, ski and snowboard gear the best place for me to go is ISPO BRANDNEW. This is where ISPO features the newcomers, the pioneers, the startups with a passion and vision. Having launched the Zipflracer myself at the trade show 6 years ago, I love spending time and talking with people who are at that same place as I was.

The most prominent new kids on the block this year were the bike crowd.  I particularly liked Loopwheels, a British startup that has truly “reinvented the wheel”. Funded by Kickstarter, loopLoopwheels has the suspension in the wheels, making riding much more comfortable. You can just buy the wheels or check out their foldable bike. Cool design. I got a great kick out of Ass Savers. There are so many bikers going passed me who look a little muddy on their be-hind. Well ass savers – basically bicycle mudguards will take care of that problem. They come in cool colors too. ass

And then there is also Pub Peddles. Never will have an excuse again not to ride my bike in my high heels (fortunately or unfortunately). They are attachments that will let you use any type of shoe to pedal. Easy to attach, many colors, how perfect is that.

filmThe other two startups that definitely got me excited were Fimbulvetr from Norway and Oru Kayak from my old home, California. Fimbulvetr has developed this amazing snowshoe that is lightweight and consists of only 12 pieces. But even better is the “all direction” hinge which gives your foot excellent flexibility while walking. Hopefully one day I can actually test this (please let it snow more again please!)

Oru Kayak of course got my heart beating faster as we have been looking for kayaks that we can take with us on our sailboat without taking up too much space like the one we have now. kayakAnother startup funded by Kickstarter, Oru Kayak gives you a kayak that comes in a bag, weighing approx. 12 kg and unfolds into a 3.66m long kayak. Brilliant. Discussions are already happening at my house how we can get one of these from California over the Adriatic!

beardAs an aside – even though I am known to have way way too many myself – I always wonder who buys all those hats and gloves that are presented at ISPO every year. They are so generic every year. Therefore my prize for most innovative headwear this year goes to Beardo – thanks for offering many options that made me smile.

 

At the end of the day I wished I’d had some wearable tech as I am sure to have logged at least 20 km walking the halls. See you next year!