Many leaders think that technology is just a tool to help employees better perform their jobs and that investment in the latest hardware/software will keep their company competitive in its industry. But this belief may be fatal to the companies they lead. A recent MIT study showed why.
According to researchers, the large companies they studied that had strong leadership promoting innovative technology were 26 percent more profitable than their industry peers and had 9 percent higher revenue. The conclusion: Companies that make technology an essential part of their corporate culture lead their industries. (For more information, see "The Digital Advantage:How Digital Leaders Outperform Their Peers In Every Industry," MIT Sloan School of Management, 2012).
So, as a leader, what should you be doing? Consider these six essentials.
First, leaders must recognize that we are in the midst of a technological revolution in the business world comparable to the Industrial Revolution. The most successful companies are not simply doing the same things more efficiently with technology; rather, they are using technology to conduct business in entirely new ways.
This means creating a culture of employee collaboration with technology for more productive internal operations and better processes to reach customers.
Second, leaders must recognize the silent generation gap in most companies between older and younger employees. Digital natives, those under age 35, who grew up with technology, work much more virtually then their older colleagues and managers. It is important that a company's leadership understand what its younger employees are doing and how they work, and enable them to work in the most productive and creative ways.
Many of the advances in work efficiency and customer outreach are coming from the younger generation, and it is essential to recruit and support the best and brightest young talent.
Third, leaders must encourage older employees, managers and executives to embrace the new technologies and think creatively about using them to advance the business. Too many people are wedded to the traditional ways of working and are resistant to technological advances in the workplace. To compete, everyone must take full advantage of current and emerging technologies. Leaders must create a corporate culture that fosters this attitude.
Fourth, leaders should ask themselves whether they have a truly deep understanding of how their company is using technology in all key areas of the business. For example, in a manufacturing company, is the best technology being used to make the supply chain the most efficient in the industry? Or for sales, is technology used in the most creative and effective ways to reach customers through social media, state-of-the-art software, etc.? Are the best digital technologies used to permit employees to communicate with one another? And is management fully immersed in using technology to advance the company?
Fifth, traditional office space is expensive and increasingly unnecessary or even counterproductive for efficient work. Leaders should carefully determine the best physical location for employees, whether in a central or regional office, shared or rental space near home or in a home-office. Technology is now providing broad options as to where people should work, and these critical questions should be asked by leaders, not left to happenstance.
Sixth, and most important, leaders should ask themselves: Does the company have the technology and corporate culture needed to ensure it will have the most most productive workforce in its industry and the best interaction with its marketplace? If the answer is no, it's time to initiate a change in leadership.