Shape your digital future
Senior L&D leaders and HEC professors came together over 2-3 October 2017 for the 6th edition of the Corporate Learning Workshop, “Shape your digital future”, jointly organized by HEC Paris, Business Digest and CrossKnowledge. It was two days of enthusiastic exchange around the latest academic research and practitioner experiences of one of the defining business challenges of our time: digital transformation.
We are living in a moment of exploding possibilities, “a Cambrian moment,” says HEC Paris Associate Professor of Marketing Kristine de Valck in her opening remarks for the 2-day long workshop the implications of digital disruption for L&D leaders. The explosion of possibilities that she describes as “Cambrian” is thanks to cheap, ubiquitous building blocks for digital products and services. “The changes enabled by digital technology occur at a pace and a magnitude that disrupt established ways of value creation, social interaction, doing business, and more generally, our thinking,” says Professor de Valck. What does this mean for companies and, in particular, for their learning & development functions? To start, digital disruption has become every individual’s responsibility, not just the CTO, hence the critical importance of learning in any business today. Education will drive progress globally. And a key conclusion of the 2-day workshop is that how successfully you navigate digital disruption depends less on your ability to master any or all of the changing arsenal of digital tools at your disposal than on your ability to change mindsets!
Inviting young students to join the conversation
One of the highlights of this Corporate Learning Workshop was the inclusion for the first time ever of HEC Paris students. The participation of these digital natives alongside senior L&D executives contributed to the Learning Workshop’s ambiance of open, energetic sharing of diverse insights.
Reinventing the value proposition: Digitalizing the customer journey
Digital has empowered consumers, turning them into prosumers, notes Professor Kristine de Valck. Discussion explored the need for companies to respond to this shift in power by revisiting the role of customers in their value proposition. Consensus emerged around a key insight: “The digital customer journey is now all about experience.” L&D leaders interviewed HEC Paris students on the quality of their customer experiences during their most recent purchases. What delighted these young digital natives? What was a disaster for them? What would turn them into brand advocates or brand detractors? It turns out that the top priority for these digitally empowered consumers is to have frictionless exchanges. Other top concerns include price, convenience, personalization, transparency, customization, and customer support. What does all this mean for the corporate learning function? “We need to change employee mindsets to take customer focus beyond marketing and sales to the level of experience.”
Transforming the value architecture
“Thanks to the 3rd Industrial Revolution, every business has become digital,” notes HEC Paris Affiliate Professor of Strategy and Business Policy Professor Laurence Lehman Ortega. Inviting L&D leaders to focus specifically on the supply chain features of the value architectures of their respective business models, 3 main pillars for digital optimization of were identified: 1) Smart automation: 2) Connectivity to render once highly fragmented supply chains seamless; 3) Predictive analytics to inform real-time decision-making. The key takeaway for the learning function emerged as the need to identify opportunities for using today’s abundance of data, computing power, and machine learning to enhance supply chains.
Inventing new business models
“Digital offers new ways to create business models,” Professor Ortega emphasized, focusing the discussion around one of the major digital disruptors of business models to have emerged so far: the platform company (e.g., Uber, Spotify, Netflix, and so on). Thinking of his or her business – and even his or her function – in terms of the platform model can bring valuable new insight to every leader in every company. As Professor Ortega emphasized, “It’s a vital opportunity to renew strategic thinking.”
Agility has become a buzzword, and the danger with buzzwords is that they become so charged with meaning that they cease to mean anything at all. So HEC Paris Research Associate Chloé Renault opened the discussion with a bid to establish together a shared sense of the meaning of agility. L&D leaders concluded that agility is the ability to adapt to and even shape complex, fast-changing, unpredictable environments. The consensus is that these adjectives (complex, fast-changing, unpredictable) describe everyone’s current business context, hence the buzz around agility. But what do organizations need to be agile? Collective intelligence and adaptability, which depend on fostering cultures of collaboration, empathy, experimentation, and vulnerability. When it comes to the learning support, what specific challenges are associated with building these new management cultures conducive to agility? The group split into brainstorming sessions around such challenges and concluded the session by coming back together to share findings.
Tim Leberecht sounds call for more beautiful business
Tim Leberecht, celebrated German-American author of The Business Romantic (HarperCollins, 2015), opened the conference with a call to remain human in the digital age. “The biggest danger is not being taken over by machines but rather becoming machines ourselves,” Tim argued in his talk, entitled “The future of digital is human”. He went on to suggest that the correct response to this threat in the digital age is to embrace a more “radical humanism,” noting: “The beauty of life cannot be scaled or optimized.”
“Do we really have to choose between scale and agility?” asks HEC Paris Chief Digital Officer Robin Adjari. His answer? No. But to drive digital transformation at scale requires specific capabilities and competencies. The key takeway for learning is to help managers develop the new capabilities that they need to become transformation leaders:
1. Entrepreneurship: ability to depict a common vision, take initiative, and drive execution relentlessly despite challenges
2.Leadership: ability to get buy-in from stakeholders and inspire teams, to associate the right resource and energies into the project
3.Coaching: ability to develop people, by helping them set ambitious goals and achieve them, with the right level of support and feedback
4.Collaboration: ability to create communities, to leverage collective intelligence from virtual teams
L&D leaders along with HEC Paris professors, as well as students, left the workshop with new ideas to put into action around how to “shape the digital futures” of their organizations. And so, the workshop achieved its goal: the high-level sharing of ideas to support learning around digital transformation!
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