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The Innovation Imperative : Why A Digital Mindset Is Essential

Over the past few years, a wave of digital innovation—accelerated by the pandemic, climate change, disrupted supply chains, rising costs and more—has pushed digital transformation ahead by an average of six to seven years. No longer is digital innovation just a nice-to-have but rather essential for an organization to survive and thrive.

Change starts at the top

New research, conducted by analyst firm Source Global highlights the importance and necessity of innovation and digital transformation for an organization to move forward.  The Innovation Imperative is based on surveys and interviews with 777 senior Executives worldwide from infrastructure, construction, transportation, energy and natural resources industries – with many having little or no experience with disruptive business innovation or digital transformation.  Among the study’s key findings –

  1. 94 % of Executives regard digital innovation as an opportunity rather than a threat
  2. 89 % believe disruption and uncertainty in their industry are creating greater pressure to innovate
  3. 86 % think their company is ahead of their competitors in digital innovation

While it’s great that many executives recognize the opportunity and the challenges with digital innovation, success will be determined by their business mindset with the ability to adapt and effect change.

For this to occur, it’s important decision makers need the mindset to innovate for impact, have competencies in technology, and an appreciation of what new digital services will have high value. And with changes stemming from the recent pandemic, there is a new normal that includes – higher expectations (by Users / Customers / Employees / Partners), the need to accelerate the delivery of new digital services (with high appeal / value), the organization having a sense of purpose and being pro-active in addressing issues with climate change / geo-political tensions / economic concerns, etc.  Because of this,  many businesses need to reimagine and reinvent their future, have a vision to meaningful improve outcomes for the organization / society / planet with an enlightened and more entrepreneurial culture. In other words, satisfy more needs and stakeholders – quickly, efficiently and effectively. And recognize if your enterprise isn’t up to the task, then forward looking competitors, digital based companies, startups, etc. are keen  to satisfy these new needs.

To help with understanding if your organization is future ready by being accomplished at digital innovation and developing the new competencies needed to increase relevance, revenue and value with new ways of conducting business, ask questions such as –

  1. What new competencies are needed to meaningfully expand opportunities ?
  2. Who are we partnering with to make innovation more rewarding ?
  3. Who are we collaborating with to fast track becoming a digital first organization ?
  4. Does our business plan fit into the digital age ?
  5. Are we creating new ways of doing things for the future ?
  6. What’s the strategy to generate the next $ billion in revenue ?
  7. What’s the strategy to attract and retain top talent ? 

What are the best steps for executing a digital strategy ?

Once an innovation and digital strategy is determined, it must be executed properly. Corporate leaders (including the BOD, CEO and others in the C-Suite) need to be proactive and supportive of innovation initiatives and the digital transformation process to improve the probability of success – with good answers to the above questions.  This is essential to identifying and making good on new opportunities by creating important new capabilities and adopting new technologies to deliver new digital services with high appeal and value. To do this, develop high competencies in the following enabling capabilities –

1.  Create an Inspiring Leadership Narrative : Innovative leadership shapes the culture, mindset and behaviors within a business that are critical to innovations and transformational journeys. An inspiring leadership narrative requires a diversity of thought in establishing your company’s vision and communicating it through strong storytelling skills.

2.  Foster an Innovation Mindset :  There is a need for leaders to exhibit curiosity, a willingness to challenge the status and quo / traditional thinking / how things are done, be open to new ideas, recognize the need to be good at managing the changing nature of risk, interest in experimental approaches / new concepts / being outside your comfort zone,  being good at asking questions and engaging in learning opportunities, etc.  While developing the mindset to innovate for impact and being good at digital transformation is foreign to many Executives, these are essential competencies to reimagine and reinvent the business and the organization. And with the increasing demands of clients and employee expectations – the need is to make these core competencies, fast.

3.  Monitor Technology and Market Trajectories : Have very good look ahead plus leverage insights and intelligence to assess how different market and technology trajectories are evolving and where there are new opportunities. To do this, organizations are rapidly developing advanced analytics and artificial intelligence solutions to gain these insights from large and diverse data sources.

4.  Develop Digital Competencies with Radical Collaboration :  Going forward, organizations will need to pursue even more progressive and radical forms of collaboration to keep pace and embrace more open innovation models that draw on new thinking, capabilities, and technologies from many sources (internal and external). Focus on building a collaborative culture and rewarding behaviors that encourage entrepreneurship and developing digital competencies.

5.  Drive Innovation (top-down and bottom-up) :  A culture of innovation should empower everyone in the organization to pursue their ideas, explore opportunities, make continuous improvements, etc. A shared innovation mindset across an organization not only helps keep employees and leaders stay in sync but also enables innovative ideas to come from any area of the company.

In the Innovation Imperative study, one concern was the large number of leaders who think they are ahead of their competition in digital innovation. The paradox is – If everyone is ahead, then no one is ahead ! With this, recognize saying you do business innovation, digital transformation, or using certain technologies – does not necessarily mean it’s delivering meaningful new value, a competency, or competitive advantage. Because of this, leaders need to avoid overconfidence or believe progress from a historical perspective is good – when comparisons need to be made from other options in the market (today or coming). As a result, it’s important to get good and keep raising the bar to continue innovating for impact, expanding services, delivering new products, evolving the organization and business model, having more ways to in crease relevance and revenue, and more options to attract and retain top talent.  These are significant benefits and core to creating new wealth.

Be People Centric

Business leaders must keep people top of mind to meaningful improve outcomes from innovation.  In addition to artificial intelligence, robots, the metaverse, etc. the future of work is about appealing to what it means to be human – our ability to connect, have enjoyable experiences, make things better, etc.


The goal of innovation is to improve the outcomes for people, organizations, and society. In conjunction with this, organizations benefit with new opportunities, reduced operating costs, increases in operational efficiencies, enhanced User experiences, etc. – by being good at effecting change – if the plan is to be part of the future.

If interested in sharing insights on making innovation more rewarding and exploring opportunities, please contact CAIL.

Jan 9, 2023       GHD Digital / CAIL  Innovation commentary       905-940-9000