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Ford is moving away from car manufacturing and transforming into a mobility company. GE is morphing into the leader of the internet of things. Barclays, expanding beyond traditional banking, is developing platforms to help retail clients better verify and connect with customers at the point of sale.

The signs are everywhere: Digital transformation is fast becoming the most important agenda item for CEOs and boardrooms. Digital ecosystems, platforms and technologies create a vast potential across industries in three primary areas that sit between customer and technology infrastructure:

  • Digitizing core processes to lower costs and create efficiencies
  • Creating better end-to-end customer experiences
  • Building new revenue-driving digital businesses.

The opportunity is almost impossible to comprehend: By 2020, 50 billion devices will be connected to the web and 1.7 MBs of data will be created per second for every person on the planet.

Digital Transformation = Cultural Transformation

For digital transformation to succeed, executives follow these three Cs of leadership:

  • Curiosity to explore: While you focus resources on the big ideas, it’s also critical to invest small amounts in trial and error and “what if” experimentation – to enable a culture of curiosity.
  • Clarity to focus: A mistake people often make is to say, “We’re going to go and do new and different things.” Focus instead on your strategic moon shots. The things you choose not to do are as important as the things you choose to do.
  • Conviction to persevere: There will be challenges, maybe even crises – of identity, commitment, and conflict – along the way. When those things happen, you need a backbone that helps you move in new and different directions.

Transformation is ultimately a leadership challenge.

Without the right kind of commitment, behaviors, and conviction, transformation efforts founder, or worse, never get off the ground. This requires:

Understanding the art of possibility

While leaders need to focus on execution, they need to look outside of their comfort zones to to truly understand what the possibility is with technology.

Knowing where you are needed

Teams charged with creating new digital businesses and innovations face so many unknowns and so much unpredictability that it is essential to create a culture of trust and transparency. Leaders need to spend time not where there is the most activity, but where there is the most uncertainty.

Communicating as effectively as you execute

In times of major transition, there’s no such thing as overcommunicating with stakeholders. As great as your strategy may be, if you aren’t regularly communicating it and sharing progress with employees, investors, vendors, and suppliers, you risk undermining efforts.