Prepare for digital transformation – Dialogue Q1, 2020 available now!

Here is what you can expect, from the desk of Dialogue editor, Patrick Woodman

It is no coincidence that the world’s most valuable companies – Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft – are digital firms. Their products and services have transformed the global economy and, as any observer knows, their drive to innovate and grow has taken them to some unexpected places. Yes, they provide online shopping, computers, internet search engines and office software. But obviously, that is not all they do: they sell web-hosting, deliver food, produce world-beating ‘TV’ shows, and sell games consoles. What’s next? Well, they’re building driverless cars, developing artificial intelligence, and investing in healthcare. And that’s just for starters.

These companies were the winners of the early waves of digital transformation and they intend to stay in the lead. The question for everyone else is: what will you do about it? As N Venkat Venkatraman puts it in our cover story, a second wave of digital change is approaching. Chances are the digital giants have already shown signs of disrupting your industry: if they haven’t yet, they surely will soon. His five questions for executives trying to reshape their strategy for a digital world are unmissable – and be sure to keep reading for Tony O’Driscoll’s guide to the strategic dilemmas ahead, too.

Ryan McManus outlines how leaders can open their eyes to their changing circumstances, while Abhijit Bhaduri suggests that many leaders today are like fish suddenly removed from the relative safety of an aquarium and thrown into the ocean. It is an apt description of the shift that’s under way. Robin Speculand and Jeremy Blain, meanwhile, argue that – despite the market leadership of US-based firms – it is now Asian firms which are forging ahead on business’s digital journey.

Don Jones offers a warning to leaders: don’t be swept up in the rush to digitize at the expense of engaging those people in organizations who are tasked with delivering transformation, starting with middle managers. Technology – even great technology – is, after all, just technology: the human dimension remains critical, as Stuart Griesbach explores in his review of some of the highlights from Duke Corporate Education’s 2019 ‘Davos of Human Capital’ event. Likewise, Camelia Ram looks at how firms are tapping into the human dimension to drive innovation.

If humans rather than technology drive the change process, we also have to ask: how does change affect humans? After all, change is typically unsettling and disconcerting – and in today’s complex, fast-changing environments, the old certainties are disappearing quickly. Bill Duane considers our physical response to complexity, and offers valuable guidance to help leaders increase their resilience and capacity in an uncertain world. Andy Molinsky explains how we can improve our ability to get out of our comfort zones. It is something that we all must surely get used to as the pace of business accelerates.

Elsewhere, we conclude our look at the ‘agile dashboard’ and the forward-looking metrics that leaders need for what’s next, while Sharmla Chetty and Beth Ahlering map out the future of executive education. Like so many areas of our lives, it is a field that’s fast being transformed by digital.

Enjoy the issue.

–– Patrick Woodman is editor of Dialogue