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Blessed Are the Change Agents

Years ago, an agency asked me to define its target buyer as part of a brand repositioning. My client wanted to do business with companies eager to innovate. I recommended that my client stop thinking of its buyer in terms of a formal title such as CMO and instead seek out a persona I referred to as the change agent — which I described as a leader who is in a position to effect behavioral change needed for a business to grow and innovate. Find the change agents, I reasoned, and you find the wellsprings of innovation inside a company.

  • Digital executives: Individuals who are tasked with heading digital efforts in specific roles, groups, or business units and are motivated to expand their insights and efforts within their sphere of influence.
  • Aspiring leaders: As digital/innovation advocates and/or digital executives realize that their expertise can be productive and beneficial to the rest of the organization, they learn to navigate corporate relationships better and become skilled in the art of managing-up and managing-across to rally support and collaborate with others.
  • Experienced digital transformers: Those aspiring leaders who master the art of change management, over time, are sometimes promoted to leadership positions to help bring the right people together and align everyone’s work toward a mutually beneficial and productive charter of digital transformation efforts.
  • Reed Hastings. The head of Netflix makes transformation the norm, first turning Netflix into a movie streaming service, then a content creator, and now a seller of branded merchandise, as well.
  • Doug McMillon. The Walmart CEO has overseen the adoption of mobile, ecommerce, and new on-demand services such as Pickup and Fuel stores.
  • Ginni Rometty. IBM’s CEO is leading the company’s development of artificial intelligence-based services.
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