Key takeaways from the European Outdoor Summit

How many times this year have we heard people telling us that digital rewrites the rules of business?

It began in Munich in January where digital leaders like Adidas showcased 3D printing and augmented and virtual realities (AR/VR) in a massive area dedicated to digitalisation at ISPO. It’s also where ISPO launched a survey on our readiness and presented some excellent speakers on the subject.

Following it’s success, the dedicated ISPO Digitize conference was held in June in Munich. Then to round it off, September saw the excellent European Outdoor Summit in Malmo where most of the presentations discussed how and why to do digital.

Speaking from the Hark perspective and as a digital enthusiast even my mind has been opened. My scepticism has softened such that I’m now more likely to interact with a robot in a store or engage with chat-bots online (rather than click the disappear button).

My continuing education is such that I can see more clearly that avatars and AR/VR have roles to play in product selection for B2B and B2C. And, if I wanted to, I really could get my shoes personalised by sending a file to a 3D printer.


The Signs are Clear

We should all know by now what the big changes have been over the last ten years. The transformation of the business landscape where the dominant companies have changed from being in banking and oil to companies doing digital, big data and platforms – the so called FAANG group, after Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google.

As the year comes to a close with budgets being set and new plans being made for 2019 let’s hear it again from research house Forrester on why digital rewrites the rules of business. In their vision report from the beginning of the year they put it succinctly.

“Digital technology dramatically improves the economics of every business. Using hardware, software, algorithms, and the internet, digital business leaders find it’s 10 times cheaper and faster to engage customers, create offerings, harness partners, and operate your business.”


digital leadership


10 Lessons for Successful Digital Leadership

So how can we become the digital business leaders of the future? How do we go about succeeding with this? Here’s 10 things I’ve learned from listening to others this year about doing digital transformation.

Don’t panic – there’s plenty of time to get this right and your business model is not going to disappear overnight. Despite people telling us that our businesses must be re-invented or else we will fade to black, just get started because you will learn on the way.

Grow leadership & capability. The best person to lead this might not be you, so delegate and develop your culture so change can be owned by people in your business. Find the digital natives and tell them you want to increase sales and reduce costs by being a digital leader.

Involve your customers and suppliers in exploring what can be innovated and get aligned with them on what actions arise to make it happen.

Find out what others are doing and be prepared to follow and imitate. As we all know, Apple did not invent the MP3 player or the mobile phone etc.

Experiment with pilot projects to explore the opportunities and be prepared to change your mind, based on what you learn. Measure, measure and measure. Decide on what worked and what didn’t and go again.

Avoid being distracted by all the jargon and acronyms that describe the tools. Cloud, SaaS, PaaS, Blockchain, iOS, Android etc. They are the tools, so leave them to the technicians amongst your team, and find trusted partners and vendors who don’t talk too technical.

Commit totally and expect resistance amongst those who should know better. Move with purpose and don’t settle for small incremental changes or else you will only be an experimenter and not a leader. If necessary flush and replace the blockers.

Recognise that this is the era of platforms and ecosystems, data and partnerships. Open up your data, curate it and share it. Customers and consumers seek convenience and will go elsewhere if they can’t get it from you so don’t be too protective or closed to collaboration.

Open your mind and ask critical questions, focus on what you are good at, find new ways to communicate, create and maintain emotional connections, take logical steps.

Make the impossible possible and push the limits of how good you can be.


Who said that? Some acknowledgements

Where can you go for more inspiration and guidance? There are plenty of examples of people trying to do the right thing, making mistakes and talking about what went well and what not.

However, in writing the above I would particularly like to acknowledge the inspiration of Liselotte Engstam of Digoshen for speaking so clearly at the Summit about the need for leadership and management change. See the Digoshen web site for some good video resources.


Take the leadership test

Especially useful from Digoshen is a survey that leaders can take to get deeper insight on where their companies are on the journey and where they are as individuals. The survey is confidential, free of charge, takes about 15 min to fill in and gives you a tailored individual report with improvement suggestions. You can find it under

Talking of surveys, at the EOS in Malmo Liselotte used a real time voting tool, Mentimeter, to poll the audience for what they thought was the area most in need of experimentation and digital exploration. The resulting word chart says it all.


Digital Leadership


And not forgetting the importance of product Magnus Welander, the CEO and President of Thule Group, made a persuasive case for combining both emotion and logic to a marketing inspired product led company evolution that has seen revenues soar.

I want also to mention John Scully, the CEO of e-com platform Neocles, for his no-nonsense technician’s approach to keeping it simple, dismissing the distractions and simplifying the disruption equation by characterising it as simply as shift from an analogue to a digital way of doing business. Make the shift, embrace the change and you can be as successful in the digital world as you have been in the analogue one.

And finally, to get inspired on how to make the impossible possible I urge you to get familiar with David Lega’s story, a truly extraordinary and inspiring man.

Looking forward to 2019 and more digital opportunity.



As a postscript to writing this piece which was first published as a feature on Liselotte Engstam offered a citation below:

Our world will continue to change at exponential speed, as new digital technologies are introduced on top of existing ones. We need to remind ourselves that the future is still there to be created. Its up to us as leaders, to get out of our comfort zones, explore what is coming, set the direction and grab the opportunities.” Liselotte Engstam , Chair Digoshen

In a related and really useful blogpost Using Platform Leadership in a Digital World Liselotte reprises six of my ten critical actions and signposts a long list of useful articles to help better understand platforms and ecosystems.