9 Keys to Winning in a Borderless, Digital Economy

Whether you think you’re a digital business or not, you are.

9 Keys to Winning in a Borderless, Digital Economy

The rapid rise of Internet connectivity and mobile device usage globally has led to an interconnected, information-driven world.


To put this growth into perspective, by 2016…

  • 3 billion consumers and 45 percent of the world’s population will use the internet
  • Mobile devices will account for about 80 percent of all broadband connections in G-20 nations
  • China will have nearly 800 million Internet users, above the same number of France, Germany, Indian, Japan, the UK and the U.S. combined

A borderless dimension to the world economy has emerged as growth in connectivity has allowed knowledge to increasingly become free of the limitations of distance and time. This dynamic is forcing businesses to rapidly reposition themselves for success and forcing governments to reevaluate tax, immigration, education and other policies. Businesses now find themselves in a world where barriers to entry and costs to market for competitive firms are quickly falling, companies can compete internationally from day one and the power is shifting to those who fail quick but innovate quicker.

Here are 9 keys to winning in a borderless, digital economy:

Invest in digitally literate talent

Whether you think you’re a digital business or not, you are. Marketing and advertising are digital. Product distribution is digital. Interacting with your customers and clients is digital. Invest in educating your existing teams and in acquiring top-tier digital talent.

Work with a company like General Assembly to aid with digital skill development. Reach out to staffing firms like The Execu Search Group or The Creative Group, firms who collectively have decades of experience in placing creative talent and understand new labor market dynamics.


Grow your digital assets

Technology is enabling new forms of distribution, consumer experiences and countless other means of revenue growth and increases in efficiency.

L’Oreal put an interactive vending machine in the 42nd St-Bryant Park subway station with cameras and sensors to recommend products outside of the brick and mortar experience.

Embrace Social Media

This should be old news by now, but surprisingly many businesses still don’t know where to begin with social media. If you don’t, find an agency that does because you need to get in the game.

IBM Design Lab monitors B-to-B conversations on Twitter and alerts influential IBM employees in real time as to when they should join conversations. This helps IBM build its thought leadership and in some cases, change product perception in the marketplace.

General Mills hired digital agency Huge to give Cap’n Crunch a voice on social media. Cap’n Crunch ended up doing a press conference on CNN, aired by Anderson Cooper.


Understand Big Data

Big data sounds like a big phrase, but understand big data in the context of your company. Big data can help increase employee retention, increase efficiencies in your supply chain, make smarter financial decisions, and maybe cure cancer.

Just this past week DBS Bank announced that it will deploy IBM’s Watson cognitive computing innovative to deliver a next-generation client experience to its affluent wealth management business customers.

Adjust your organizational structure

Companies can no longer afford to be top heavy and employ the bureaucrat structures of the industrial revolution. Businesses must be dynamic and agile.

Toward the middle of last year, Microsoft announced One Microsoft, a move to enable innovation at greater speed and efficiency.

Hire T-Shaped Talent

A phrase originally attributed to Tim Brown, CEO of Ideo, T-shaped personas describe talent that has in-depth knowledge of a single area, but also has the ability to collaborate across disciplines. Fast-moving companies need T-Shaped talent to innovate rapidly.


Distribute Decision Making / Enable Information Sharing

Oftentimes the best ideas come from the most unlikely places. For some companies, this means the far outer edges of the organization chart.

Whole Foods allows individual store managers to experiment with store layouts and share in the profits if successful. The company also goes as far as to openly share compensation metrics in stores for each employee. This shared knowledge creates added transparency, enabling trust and more dedicated employees.

Be Predictive, Adopt short-term planning cycles

Traditionally companies have implemented and executed against long-term strategies. As Mike Tyson once famously said, “Everyone has a plan till they’re punched in the mouth!” It’s now necessary to implement short-term planning cycles and sometimes, react in near real time.

However, the future is being able to react before events happen by being predictive as opposed to reactive. This is another reason to get your big data strategy right!

Enable a Mobile Workforce

The cost of communication is nearly free, computing power continues to decrease and the speed of travel is increasing. These factors will continue to enable a more mobile and global workforce. Invest in cloud-based applications and infrastructure that enable cross-office collaboration, file sharing and flow of information among employees.


Technology is more abundant than ever before. It’s easy to forget that being connected is not only digital; it also requires one-to-one human interaction. The companies that win in a knowledge economy are those that do both, and do them well.

Andrew Zarick @A2Z is CEO & Co-Founder of Digital DUMBO.