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The Five Traits of a Digital Game Changer

Arguably no other industry has felt the impact of digital disruption more than retail and consumer facing businesses.  The seemingly impossible is now reality.  Look no further than Amazon’s free one day delivery for Prime Members, powered by drones. Nowadays, it is becoming increasingly more important for the leaders of consumer facing brands to develop and refine their digital leadership skills in order to navigate industry disruption and position their companies for growth.In fact, these digital leaders are becoming so digitally focused and proficient, they are increasingly attractive to firms outside of the traditional retail industry. For example, Herbert Mines Associates recently conducted a search for a leading Silicon Valley technology company in which they hired a digital executive from the retail space.  Through our work with a wide range of consumer facing clients from large publicly traded to mid-market private equity-backed, we have found successful digital leaders share five common characteristics.


Digital transformation opens the door to new approaches.  In order to capitalize on this opportunity, successful digital leaders possess a curious, collaborative and entrepreneurial mindset.  Let’s touch upon each.  Curiosity sheds reliance from the old way of doing things and towards fresh, breakthrough ideas.  Collaboration drives the cross-functional cooperation required, such as data sharing, to succeed in digital initiatives that impact every aspect of the organization.  An entrepreneurial spirit is not afraid to push boundaries, and double down on successful bets while failing fast on others.


Even if game changers are not overly technical, they understand the art of the possible when it comes to artificial intelligence & machine learning.  While it is not necessary to understand all the technical intricacies, the real skill is the ability to creatively re imagine customer experiences and internal workflows through the use of algorithms.  Successful digital game changers are able to see the value and use advanced analytics to solve problems.  It is at the intersection of data and business where the next generation of leaders will thrive.


The technology brought into organizations is only as good as the people who use it.  Successful leaders see the importance of recruiting A-player talent from both inside and outside the industry to cross-pollinate innovative ideas.  At the same time it is critical to identify and cultivate existing employees who demonstrate a digital era mindset.  Moreover, today's millennial workforce is no longer swayed by just pure compensation, in fact working at a cool company that “gets digital tech” could be the major deciding factor for them.  When digital leaders get public recognition for their efforts, often times it brings positive energy and attention to the entire company. Expanding a digital footprint through social media, press and videos are key ways to drive both personal and brand awareness, and perhaps sway the undecided millennial. Successful digital leaders all understand how a digitally first mindset can be a powerful tool in recruiting talent.


Digital game changers earn their seat at the executive table.  They have a clear and compelling vision for their tangible contribution to the company’s mission.  We see them develop and gain consensus on a digital-strategy that tightly connects their key initiatives to corporate objectives.Past and future value is communicated across the C-Suite and Board of Directors as a story arc with a beginning, middle and end.  In other words, in the past we did X, now are doing Y and the business impact is Z.  Successful digital executives leverage the fact that their skills are mission critical to their company.  According to Gartner, artificial intelligence, machine learning and data science are the top three fastest growing C-Suite hard skills in demand.


Successful digital leaders understand that customers are at the heart of digital transformation. How companies look at improving their digital strategy, customer acquisition, and existing customer experiences will determine industry winners and losers.  Digital game changers have a firm grasp of their customers’ journey.  They see how technology unlocks sticking points and drives new personalized experiences that evangelize their customer base.  Digital game changers re imagine what customer experiences should look like two to three years from now, and reverse engineer how to get there by using emerging technologies.

As digital transformation continues to influence and evolve the consumer facing industry as whole, we at Herbert Mines Associates are extremely focused on finding the right digital game changers.  From our perspective sitting at the nexus of talent supply and demand, we see a cutthroat digital talent arms race that will only get more competitive.  We advise clients on how best to tap into evolving candidate pools considering potential players both inside and outside the traditional retail industry.  

To learn more about our findings and discuss your senior level talent agenda, feel free to contact me at ryan@herbertmines.com or (917)288-8990.  


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