How To Lead In A Boundary-Less World

Today’s global, hyper-connected economy is being led by knowledge that it no longer takes complex corporate structures or massive factories to dominate.

How To Lead In A Boundary-Less World
[Photo: Flickr user Bernt Rostad]

Leadership in today’s economy, where physical borders do not define boundaries, requires discipline, culture, and processes for sustainable success.


The economies of India, China, and Africa are rapidly expanding. The developing economies have become centers of growth and innovation, threatening the dominance of the U.S. and Europe. A while back Goldman Sachs predicted that Japan, Brazil, Russia, India, and China will account for nearly half of global growth by 2020. And its happening. China just overtook the U.S. as the world’s largest economy.

Leaders and enterprises often celebrate success when they launch an innovative service or product, then sit back and wait for the money to roll in. They sometimes fail to recognize how quickly nimble competitors from around world can swoop in and beat them to the bottom line.

Innovation is a continual, profoundly creative process of reinvention and discovery. Sustained innovation demands cross-functional, cross-domain, and cross-boundary collaboration. Today’s global hyper-connected economy is being led by knowledge that doesn’t require complex corporate structures or massive factories to dominate. As innovative minds connect with partners across the globe, a new kind of competition threatens the developed world and demands strong, passionate leaders who recognize and embrace the power of cross-boundary collaboration.

Let’s define a couple key terms needed to lead today:

Cross-boundary collaboration exists in an environment where ideas are celebrated and everyone in or outside of an enterprise is welcome to contribute, regardless of their position or group or physical location. It thrives in a culture where cross-functional management practices converged to achieve organizational goals and missions with a set of common language and continual measurement metrics.

Sustained innovation is a high-productivity state in which an organization is capable of innovating in all aspects of its business: from product development to go-to-market strategy, from operational execution to deal structures. It requires a seamless, structured management approach that begins with board- and CEO-level leadership and connects all the way throughout the entire investment lifecycle: concept to value realization.


Enterprises with an emphasis on collaborative innovation often perform much better financially and are better equipped to withstand economic change than stagnant, insular organizations. Collaborating for innovation is not a new concept, but one that must be rediscovered and redefined over and over as conditions and competitors change.

Doing business today makes every industry and enterprise vulnerable amid perpetual and often unexpected change. So many companies that bloated into behemoths have blown up, leaving a legacy of collapse as they failed to adapt to change, whether it was unforeseen market conditions, an agile competitor that appeared to have jumped out from nowhere, or a lack of cross functional, collaborative and transparent management culture.

The global race is zigzagging across continents at warp speed, and those who don’t sustain innovation through cross-boundary collaboration are going to be left behind or wiped out.

A sustained culture of innovation requires building mature cross-boundary teams and mastering the art and science of converged, multidisciplinary organizational culture. To achieve this, leaders therefore must be disciplined enough to create interconnected ecosystems. In doing so, leaders will then:

  1. Encourage creative thinking and problem solving to facilitate rapid idea generation across the enterprise.

  2. Steer swift development of new and improved products, processes or services that cultivate customer affinity and service dependency.

  3. Spur higher productivity, performance, knowledge sharing, and growth through collaboration.

Through such executional capabilities, today’s successful leaders will be sure their enterprises are repeatedly developing new business models that differentiate the organization’s core offerings from those of its competitors, including those lurking in the most unlikely places.