A digital native is a person that has grown up in the digital age. Conversely, a digital immigrant is someone who has become familiar with these systems as an adult. And, like adults who move to a new country and master a new language, digital immigrants tend to ‘speak’ digital with a heavy accent and a limited vocabulary.


A report in the latest Sloan Management Review suggests that less than 10% of global executives believe that their organization has leaders with the skills needed to thrive in the digital economy. In other words, most businesses are led by digital immigrants, not natives.


I know that I am definitely a ‘digital immigrant’ and also know that most of my clients display similar characteristics. But as the importance of digital strategies continues to rise, a deeper and more three-dimensional participation in the digital economy is required at the highest levels of every business.


As with any other immigrant, the key to learning the new language and culture is to immerse yourself in your new environment. Go where the locals go. Speak their language, not yours. Have lessons in the new language. Take part in local events and join local communities.


What does this mean for business leaders who are also digital immigrants?


Here are three ideas: (1) Ensure that your organization is attracting, developing and promoting a cadre of high-performing digital natives; (2) Spend significant senior executive time in understanding, discussing and developing strategic options that are embedded within the digital economy; and (3) Invest in your own personal development so that you better understand and speak ‘digital’.



Off The Record: Everyday Robots by Damon Albarn


We are everyday robots

On our phones

In the process of getting home

Looking like standing stones

Out there on our own



© Stuart Cross 2019. All rights reserved.