March 21, 2018

Cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI), big data & analytics, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are changing the world around us. They’re lowering barriers to entry, blurring the lines between industries, and fuelling the disruption that’s keeping company chiefs on their toes.

To thrive in the fast-changing world of tech-driven innovations, businesses must transform themselves. They need to recognize the opportunities facing them, evaluate how each one will impact their business and sector, and prioritize the ones that can catapult them ahead of the competition.

In studying three of the most digitally successful companies in the last 10 years – Apple, Amazon and Netflix — we have found their leaders share five traits:

1. An abundance of imagination: It’s not the technology that gives competitive advantage. It’s the application of that technology in new and novel ways to solve business problems and customer pain points that helps companies win big. Imagination drives executives to apply one or a combination of technologies to come up with ground breaking and disruptive solutions.

2. Appetite for new and clashing ideas: Inviting, incentivising, and accepting new ideas that fuel conversations, contradictions, and collaborations are what drive innovation. Business leaders that understand this are able to attract new ideas and invest in projects that can create significant advantages.

3. Relentless focus on increasing value to customers: Customers pay for what they value. To ensure that the company keeps providing what customers value most, leaders must ensure they’re always in the know and in-touch with their most loyal customers’ needs and expectations.

4. Extreme calmness in the face of rising competition: As competition intensifies, leaders must keep their eyes on the prize and ensure they maintain a laser-like focus on delivering unprecedented levels of customer value.

5. Being sentimental about top talent but unsentimental about what they do: It’s important for leaders to take stock of those who make large contributions to their business – those who put their heart into their jobs and align themselves to the company’s goals. To keep up with changing times, leaders must ensure they value such people but avoid shying away from automating and outsourcing their jobs if required. But they then should reassign such talent to new, more important positions.

Leaders who can sharpen these traits will be able to better navigate the organization to a digital future, and ensure its success. If you’d like to learn more about how these traits can be nurtured and applied, read my article Executive Traits for Recognizing the Bountiful Opportunities Ahead in the current edition of our management journal, Perspectives.

With more than 20 years of global consulting experience, Krishnan Ramanujam is an expert in the execution of complex, global transformational initiatives for Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies.Krishnan focusses on driving profitability for organizations by spearheading their evolution from IT-centric to customer-centric models that streamline and align business functions. With a keen understanding and deep knowledge of key industries, market changes and client needs, he has directed the development of new products and solutions that successfully facilitate this transition to realize maximum business value.