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CIO thinking for the digital era

CIO thinking for the digital era

Graham Waller, Research Vice President at Gartner.

Would you be comfortable allowing your staff to pick their projects and their managers? For CIOs fighting to find digitally acute talent, this approach could make the difference in winning and retaining staff.

Digital leaders understand that what motivates top-notch talent today goes beyond financial rewards. Jing Wang, Senior Vice President at Baidu, the Chinese web services company, lets certain key personnel work on their favorite projects and pick their managers. Giving them choices embodies our respect for our technical personnel, according to him.

Half of the CEOs responding to Gartner’s 2016 CEO survey expect the industry in which they will operate to be substantially changed or unrecognisably transformed by digital by 2020. Unfortunately, our mindsets, and the inner workings of our brains, may confine us to yesterday’s logic, one that does not play well in the digital space. In other words, some CIOs find themselves ill-prepared to lead in the ways demanded by the impending digital reality.

The digital thinking necessary to disrupt business model paradigms, will not happen by chance. Leaders must cultivate specific mindsets to identify and sharpen distinguishing traits in themselves. In our research, we have identified six mindset traits of successful disruptive digital leaders.

Six disruptive digital leader mindset traits

  • Thrive despite uncertainty
  • Quest for breakthrough business outcomes
  • Exploit new digital-era competitive levers
  • Start-experiment-learn-iterate
  • Cultivate a creativity and innovation culture
  • Cherish top-notch digital talent

Assess the level of your current mindset regarding each trait. Do you believe it is relevant? How much do you embody this trait in your belief system? If this is your mindset, does it fully translate to your actions and those of your team every day?

Reframe your mindset to build digital acuity

Our mindsets can lead even high digital acuity leaders astray if they are not attuned to the prevailing or changing market realities. Consider Apple’s success grabbing a large part of the digitally remastered music industry via the iTunes platform. However, they are now under attack by a new market reality of streaming services and subscription business models from competitors, such as Spotify and bundled offerings such as Amazon Prime. It is important to regularly challenge and invite challenge from others to evolve your mindset assumptions, beliefs and paradigms, especially in light of your particular marketplace reality.

The good news is that mindsets can change. Consider incorporating the following techniques into your leadership practices and daily routines to keep your thinking matched to market demands and to lead digital disruption.

Reframe your perspectives with premortems

One technique to re-frame perspectives is to be healthfully paranoid and run premortem ideation sessions with your peers or team where you envision being forced out of business by 2020. Why could that happen? Which paradigms in your current mindset might need to change under the weight of digital disruption? Identify what would have made you successful and the needed mindset shifts.

Change your inner monologue

To consciously engage contemporary digital era thinking, increase your self-awareness of how your mindset shapes the inner brain monologue when you receive new information. What are your thoughts and reactions when you encounter new business models, competitors, digital technologies or other information? Do you reject potential disruptions or see potential opportunities? Do you immediately pass judgment or take the time for thoughtful evaluation?

Practice digital routines

Routines that are practiced on a regular basis strengthen the brain’s underlying neural networks, which in turn form connections with new experiences and thoughts. Start one key meeting a day with a short segment on a digital disruption topic. Test your thinking and seek new insights while practicing active listening. Create and frequently use a personal portfolio of expressions and narratives that communicate how digital will impact your business, constantly refining your communication and storytelling.

Over time, by constantly challenging and refining these techniques, you will ensure that your mindset keeps evolving at pace with or ahead of the digital-era market reality.

Graham Waller, Research Vice President at Gartner.

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