Sunday, May 22, 2016

Is Digital Leadership Constructively Disruptive

Digital is the age of innovation with continuous disruption, either you like it or not.

Many think digital is the age of innovation. Digital is a disruption with rapidly increasing speed and hyperconnectivity to break down silos and rigid hierarchy. Digitalization implies the full-scale changes in the way business is conducted so that simply adopting new digital technology may be insufficient. You have to transform the company's underlying processes, cultures, and organization as a whole with adjusted digital speed. Otherwise, companies may begin a decline from its previous high performance. Digital border is not made of sharp lines, but cursive dots need to be widely connected to spark the next level of innovation. And in order to lead more effectively, does a digital leader have to be constructively disruptive?

Digital leaders are outliers: The great digital leaders are outliers, the visionary is often an outlier - the one who steps out of a conventional thinking box, or linear patterns. Therefore, they could see things further or deeper. An outlier leader is creatively disruptive, who dare to ask a deep “WHY” - to diagnose the root cause of problems but also ask the optimistic “Why NOT?" -The refusal to be bound by constraints and limitations and pursuit of possibilities rather than impossibilities seems to be a hallmark of great leadership achievements. An outlier is not the lack of experience but has interdisciplinary knowledge. An outlier digital leader has a vision, insight, and inquisitiveness to ask “What If & How about.” Vision is something you see, others don't, and a visionary mind is able to and not afraid to leverage contrarian views to shape a holistic picture.

Digital leaders are creative with “out-of-the-box” thinking: Digital breaks down many little boxes, the silo thinking or rigid hierarchy. The box is anyone or a group of people's comfort zone, that things are ok and everyone agrees and have the same or similar thoughts, the conventional wisdom, the homogeneous team setting, and that “we always do things like this” habits. The “box" is a mental construct made up of personal (self-imposed) and environmental (culture, parental/peer influence, society) components that one operates within. In order to lead forward, the great digital leaders are creative “disruptors” who can think outside ‘the box,” and do something outside of the confines of the traditional construct. They do not work within the box, but across the boxes, broaden the perspectives, and connect wider dots to spur creativity. They not only think differently but also do things in an alternative and better way.

Digital leaders are rule-breakers: From an agricultural society to the industrial age, and now we slowly but steadily move into the fast-paced Digital Era, every era has the set of rules to maintain the certain level of societal order. Rules are mostly invented by people who had “power” and want to push their own rules to maintain their status quo. There is good rules and bad rules, visible rules and hidden rules, local rules or global rules. Due to the creative and progressive human nature, from one generation to the next generation, the outdated rules continue to be broken down, and the new “rules” get updated to reflect the new age, adapt to the new speed, and fit for the new perspectives. When the organization only rewards the rule followers, not innovators, the old rule breakers, more often, they only focus on short term result, not long term vision. The great digital leaders are rule-breakers, as well as principle-makers. The rules are like the traffic light signals: red light~ stop; green light ~ go. The principles behind the rules are more fundamental: cross the street safely. Applying this thinking is a pathway for opening minds to connected, creative considerations. Replace the operative word "rules" with principles or 'expectations' that allow thinking room, and speed up societal advancement.

Leadership is all about change. Great digital leadership is constructively disruptive, not for its own sake, but to spur creativity, practice real thinking, reveal authenticity, broaden its vision, and amplifying influence. Leadership is a journey to continue to break down the old, advocate the new, and to push the human world forward.


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