It’s Time for YOU to Write the Book on Digital


No one knows entirely what the last chapter of the digital book will look like but we do know that it is time to get busy on chapter one.


In 2006 when Jeff Immelt, Chairman and CEO at General Electric, set his top executives on a quest for hyper-growth in a slowing economy he admitted, “the business book that can help you hasn’t been written yet.”

This is definitely true about being digital. You are going to have to write your own book about your path towards digital.

And here are a few tools and insights, to help get you on your way and prevent writer’s block.

When speaking of digital one might find it helpful to differentiate between little-d-digital and Big-D-Digital.

Little-d-digital is doing old things with new technology. Author of Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation, George Westerman call those who slavishly purchase new technology to do old things, “Fashionistas.”

Fashionistas suffer from what Gary King the CIO at T-Mobile calls BSO (bright shiny object) Syndrome. These executives buy every new digital bauble. However, much of what they spend is wasted. Having an iPhone, iPad or iWatch does not make one digital.

Big-D-Digital involves selecting from the rich amount of today’s technologies to do new and innovative things. 

One of the new digital heroes is Jane Alexander the CIO at the Cleveland Museum of Art. She is embracing Big-D-Digital to redefine the experience of culture. At Gallery One, information is delivered in ways that feel like experiences rather than lectures. Visitors are encouraged to create their own experiences with works of art and share them with each other. Visitors are encouraged to download the museum’s mobile app that includes an interactive map. This map guides them through Gallery One and delivers additional information about the artwork.

These digital enhancements have contributed to a 39% increase year-over-year to the number of visitors to the museum. 

By being visitor-centric the museum wishes to move away from its previous position as the sole voice and arbiter of the visitor experience.

This reflects a broader trend on the path to digital: empathy. Digital enables a relationship between buyer and seller [museum and visitor]. For this relationship to be valuable and sustainable both parties have to understand one another.

For an enterprise to be digital – to be truly digital – it requires enabling the outcomes your customers seek. This means migrating from B2C [business-to-consumer] or B2B [business-to-business] to B4C [business-for-consumer] and B4B [business for business].

Elements of what this migration entail are highlighted in J.B. Wood, Todd Hewlin and Thomas Lah, B4B: How Technology and Big Data Are Reinventing the Customer-Supplier Relationship. Michael Schrage, author of Who Do You Want Your Customers to Become has done exciting work in this area.

Digital leaders are outperforming their peers in terms of growth, profits and market valuation. Digital is a moving target. Being digital means you are part of the answer versus part of the problem. You are ahead of the curve versus behind the curve. 

Being digital is all about speed. Being digital is all about anticipation. There are two types of anticipation.

One is being able to anticipate what C-Suite executives are looking for. Being digital requires inserting oneself into the vision of your colleagues. Being digital requires understanding where key stakeholders want to go.

The second type is anticipating where the world is going. And the best way to do that is to talk to a broad ecosystem of suppliers, peer practitioners, consultants, venture capitalists, futurists and thought leaders.

Being digital requires both types of anticipation.

No one knows entirely what the last chapter of the digital book will look like but we do know that it is time to get busy on chapter one.



Thornton May is a futurist, educator and author. His extensive experience researching and consulting on the role and behaviors of “C” level executives in creating value with information technology has won him an unquestioned place on the short list of serious thinkers on this topic.

More Information: The Internet of Everything creates unprecedented opportunities for countries, cities, industries, and businesses to become digital. Learn more how you can be ready to become digitized.