The Slovenia Times

Fast starts with you as the leader!



Prof. William Fisher, an engineer by training, American by citizenship, has lived much of his life in Asia and Europe. He co-founded and co-directs the IMD program on Driving Strategic Innovation, in cooperation with the Sloan School of Management at MIT and also authors a regular column for In 2011, Prof. Fisher was named by The Independent [U.K.] as one of the most influential tweeters on business issues; and by as one of the "Top 50 Innovation Tweeters of 2012", as well as one of's 40 top innovation bloggers in 2012. In 2013, he was included among "The Top 50 Business School Professors on Twitter," and Innovation Excellence's "Top 50 Innovation Twitter Sharers of 2013". Also, in 2013, Reinventing Giants, which addresses business model and corporate culture reinvention in a mature, commodity business, has been short-listed for Thinkers50 "book of the year" award.

Once you wrote: Leadership in the future will undoubtedly be more metaphorically digital, in that it will be: faster, more connected, more inclusive, more risky, but it will also be more intimate and caring as well. Can you please explain in what sense is leadership becoming more intimate and caring?

Despite all of the furor over Artificial Intelligence and algorithmic thinking, I still believe that the liberation of human talent will remain the key leadership priority for a long time to come. Sensitivity to the human condition has always been a hallmark of effective leadership and there is no reason to believe that that will fade in any regard, either. However, the context of leadership in the future will surely change because of the many parallel revolutions occurring around us [mobility, social-media, sharing, etc.]. For sure, we know that leadership in the future will be more analytical and data-driven, if only because there will be so many more data points to analyze. Already, it is possible, via social-media, to know more about colleagues and employees than ever before [maybe, even, more than you really want to know] - in many ways this is a form of unprecedented intimacy. Add to that, ubiquitous performance measuring, and the "gig" economy where everybody is in some regard "temporary" (or at least on "perpetual probation), and you have a leadership situation that can be quite different from the present. These new data sources can be quite powerful as a leadership tool to help organizations and individuals reach a higher level of performance, but they can also be oppressive if not handled in a humane fashion. That is where leadership is necessary to mediate the two.

I believe that the principle role of the leader is to help the talent they are involved with to achieve the highest level of fulfillment that they can, which may be more than the individuals, themselves were aware of being able to achieve [our book Virtuoso Teams was all about this]. In a digital future, the ability to be able to play this leadership role will be possible to a degree that has never before been imagined, but it must be done right. "Caring" is a term that seems to me to fit this challenge. Unless you care for the employee (or, customer, for that matter), it will be difficult to navigate the unprecedented access to performance- and social-data [intimacy] in a way that is monotonically positive and reinforcing.


In 2011, you were named by The Independent [U.K.] as one of the most influential tweeters on business issues; and by as one of the "Top 50 Innovation Tweeters of 2012", as well as one of's 40 top innovation bloggers in 2012. And, in 2013, you were included among "The Top 50 Business School Professors on Twitter," and Innovation Excellence's "Top 50 Innovation Twitter Sharers". In short, why Twitter?

I think that Twitter is one of the most powerful and accessible professional learning communities available to us today. It is also perfectly suited to the metaphor of "living in a digital world", that you mentioned above. It is: fast, continuous in real-time, pulsing, experimental, open and inclusive, more connected and possibly more risky, than any other learning media that I can think of. It is a principle source of professional learning for me today.

I joined Twitter in an effort to "experiment" with social-media, believing that I could not afford to stand alongside of such a tsunami-like communications and relationships revolution [social-media as a whole] and still remain relevant as an observer and commentator on the way we live and work. And, in fact, Twitter has changed my life. I've written about this in a Forbes piece entitled "Selfish Tweeting"

I think that we all have to live digitally, in order to lead in a digital world, and that means changing all sorts of behaviors. In our book The Idea Hunter, we argued that knowing where you get your ideas from is critically important to being professionally up-to-date and for being comfortable with innovation (even if you are not an innovator, yourself). For me, this means having a "portfolio" of idea-sources, and, increasingly, social media is playing a major role in that portfolio. We each have different "idea hunting styles", but I love Twitter's easy access to links that provide professional insights I wouldn't otherwise even know about. I also enjoy being part of conversational communities that span geographies and functions where were never before possible.

What are going to be your major points on the occasion of Presidents' forum?

The main message is that: organizations which aspire to be innovative, deserve leaders who are comfortable with innovation. In a digital world, this means changing leadership behaviors to fit the dominant organizing metaphor of our times. It is ridiculous to believe that you can change your technology, the offerings that you bring to market, the skills and talent that you employ, even your organization, but that you, yourself, can continue to play the leadership role in the same old way!

Please, give 5 tips for business leaders to cope with the digital leadership challenges.

At the root of all of this is the need to create more innovative organizations:

a) I believe that you must make innovation a verb not a noun. It must become a statement about the way we work, rather than who is responsible for change.

b) In this spirit, I think that you need to become more digital in your own behaviors; organizations need to periodically reinvent themselves, and so do we!

c) Digital leaders must think about how "fast" their organization works, and what it would take to move faster: fast starts with you as the leader! What are you doing to have faster conversations? The Chinese white-goods leader Haier has taken months off of its commercialization time by having parallel conversations in order to be faster.

d) Digital means "connected": what does your own personal connectivity look like? Who's in your personal idea-sourcing network? Who do you learn from? How many "strange" partners do you rely upon for new insights?

e) Sharing is also a characteristic of the digital life-style. Why not start sharing your ideas? Your notes? Try prototyping new ideas before you spring them on others.


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