Contributed to EO by Robert Siegel, who teaches two of the most popular courses at Stanford Graduate School of Business. He’s also a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, sits on the boards of several startups, is a many-time entrepreneur himself, and was previously an exec at GE and Intel. Siegel’s recent book, THE BRAINS AND BRAWN COMPANY: How Leading Organizations Blend the Best of Digital and Physical, explores how (and why) many business owners in digitized industries overlook and underappreciate traditional competencies like logistics, manufacturing, customer service, and quality control. We asked Siegel about his research; here’s what he shared:
We’re constantly told that digital transformation is the most important issue facing companies today. You’re a Silicon Valley veteran who’s tired of hearing that. Why?
Because this message has become trite and simplistic. Digitization is a massive and massively important trend. Leaders in every industry need to wrestle with it. But despite fervent preaching from the Silicon Valley faithful, it’s not the only competency that matters. The less flashy, more grounded aspects of business, such as logistics and manufacturing, are still crucial to the success of any company, large or small. Amid the insistent drumbeat of digital transformation, those traditional, old-fashioned competencies are easily overlooked and underappreciated.
A cultural gulf has opened up between the realms I call brains and brawn. Others may call this dichotomy digital versus physical, the disruptor mindset versus the incumbent mindset, start-up world versus Fortune 500, or tech culture versus industrial culture. Whatever terms you prefer, it’s time to bridge the gulf and reframe the dichotomy.