Technology disruption is not slowing down. In fact, 85 percent of C-suite executives say the disruptive impact of new technologies has increased.1 It’s the age of digital reinvention of industry—Industry X (IX)—and many executives are struggling to dominate—or even just keep pace.
IX is about more than just smart factories and higher efficiency. IX companies integrate their core product innovation, engineering, manufacturing and services with their customers and extended ecosystem using digital to elevate the business.
In this new era, business leaders recognize that successful digital transformation extends beyond technology. Also critical are the right business strategy, codified forums for innovation, and radically different ways of thinking to realize value from their digital investments.
Value realization has been an issue. Between 2016 and 2018, industrial companies spent more than US$100 billion on scaling digital innovations to enable new experiences and efficiencies. Yet 78 percent of those companies struggled to reach expected earnings as a result.2 Leading in IX isn’t simply about successful application of technology—it’s about using technology to shatter the status quo and fuel innovation and growth.
Value out of reach
According to Accenture Strategy Industry X research, “Value Makers” comprise a group of companies that consistently push the envelope to find the next source of growth through the adoption of IX strategies—and they have generated significant value through their efforts. Value Makers are six times more likely than Traditionalists—who operate in the status quo—to have increased their revenue by more than 30 percent in the last three years and seven times more likely to have increased profitability by more than 30 percent with IX strategies.3
While Value Makers are the true disruptors generating returns on investment in IX, they only comprise 17 percent of companies. Fifty-two percent, however, are Traditionalists. What’s holding these companies back?
While the answer may lie in the adoption of IX strategies, executives need to evaluate underlying reasons why they can’t get there. Accenture Strategy research into what’s called a whole-brain approach to leadership revealed that many executives self-report a lack of understanding of new technology and having the right tech skills to advise their teams.4 This weakness may hinder their ability to lead IX initiatives.
A whole-brain approach to leadership blends what's traditionally been considered "left-brain" (scientific) skills that draw on data analysis and critical reasoning with "right-brain" (creative) skills that draw on areas including intuition and empathy. A whole-brain approach can enable Traditionalists to get more value from digital investments because it opens the door to creative thinking, bold experimentation, and more holistic decision making.
This leadership style may be advantageous across all IX maturity segments. Leadership teams that adopt whole-brain thinking across the enterprise do better financially than those that don’t.5 Ones that actively acquire, deploy, demonstrate and embed whole-brain thinking across the enterprise realize, on average, 22 percent higher revenue growth and 34 percent higher profitability growth.6 For executives already generating value in IX, this presents an even bigger opportunity for competitive advantage.
Building strength on all sides
Eighty-nine percent of C-suite leaders hold left-oriented degrees—they have the left-brain down pat. They bring the technical knowhow, strategic mindset and ability to react with agility to digital disruption. They must also bring intellectual balance to the C-suite and intentionally cascade this balance to all levels of the organization.
A curious workforce of builders and problem solvers is a hallmark of IX and whole-brain thinking organizations. An example is the relentless focus of Tesla’s leadership on improving humanity with innovation and technology. The company leads with an inspiring vision and business strategy that pushes boundaries to reimagine and reinvent the future of their products and business. Tesla breaks down organizational silos, propels ecosystem collaboration and creates a culture of continuous and agile learning. They attract innovators who are willing to experiment, test, fail fast and be flexible and adaptable.
Here’s how executives adjusting to IX can adopt a whole-brain approach to their leadership:
Reach key stakeholders more effectively. The left-brain skill set has enabled execution for C-suite leaders. Right-brain skills, such as empathy, self-awareness and intuition, will drive the most meaningful insights, engagement and progress to propel organizations forward. Organizations can reskill leaders to foster these characteristics.
Push paradigms. Paradigm paralysis is a barrier for many leaders looking to change, and change is an IX necessity. Whole-brain leadership encourages a willingness to embrace and enact change. Making this shift will be essential for Traditionalists to evolve, compete and realize value from their digital investments.
Mind your gaps. Talent is key in the age of IX. Businesses should ensure they have a broad balance of left- and right-brain thinking within the organization—not over-indexing on left-brain thinkers who are adept at just technology and analytics. Recruit whole-brain thinkers who can bring new insight and leadership to the enterprise.
Left- and right-brain thinking—when combined—can elicit the appropriate vision and skills that diminish the challenges related to large-scale digital transformations and lead the company to new value. In the era of IX, nothing could be more important than having the right strategy to lead the digital reinvention of industry. A whole-brain approach to leadership should be part of that strategy.
1 Accenture; "Striking Balance with Whole-Brain Leadership;" June 2019
2 Accenture; "Scale digital innovation like a champion;" April 2018
3 Accenture; "Strategy in the age of Industry X;" April 2019
4 Accenture; "Striking Balance with Whole-Brain Leadership;" June 2019