Adapting to Change. Taking Control of Your Future (Part 1)

Dorie Clark, Best-Selling Author, Branding Expert

(This is the first installment of a two-part post on adapting to change and taking control of the future with best-selling author and branding expert Dorie Clark [@dorieclark]. This updated article was previously published on appian.com.)

When you talk about personal brand, says branding expert Dorie Clark, people tend to think: “Oh, you mean elevator pitch.” But no, no, no, that’s just one piece of it, says Clark. There are many layers below that that you’re not perceiving. So, for example, Some companies will think: “We’ve got to transform for the future, so let’s get some AI. But, if you don’t have substance beneath the tip of the iceberg, it’s not going to go very well.

In addition to winning recognition as a branding expert from the Associated Press, Fortune, and Inc. magazine, Clark published Entrepreneurial You, Reinventing You, and Stand Out. She has also been named one of  the Top 50 business thinkers in the world by Thinkers50.

In this Digital Masters interview, Clark breaks down the importance of thinking big about branding and business transformation and offers some pragmatic advice on being open to change and taking control of your future. Hope you enjoy the conversation.

Appian: There are two sides to the digital transformation story. There’s the technology side and there’s the human side . Can you talk about that and how the notion of digital transformation relates to the personal branding strategies in your book?

Company Culture Drives Transformation

Clark: One way that it relates directly, of course, is that as a business leader, you need your workforce to be willing to change to meet the changing needs of the marketplace. If you’ve created a company culture where you can come in and keep doing the same thing as the path to success, that can be very dangerous in terms of creating a mentality that’s resistant to change.

We’ve all heard from the Buddhist sages that change begins within yourself. But it’s true for companies as well. Individual employees need to be willing to change their understanding of who they are, and what they’re capable of, and what their role in the organization entails, so that you can transform at the enterprise level as well.

Appian: You’ve written a lot about the process of  brand reinvention and business transformation. How is it different today than it was in the predigital past?

Clark: As with many things, technology has changed certain aspects of reinvention. But the fundamentals are the same. In my book, “Reinventing You,” I identify a three-step process of reinvention.

3-Step Process for Reinventing Your Brand

  1. Get clear on what your existing brand is. The thing is, people think something about you. The question is, what do they think. And is it in line with where you want to go in the future.
  2. Identify the brand that you would like to have. That’s about setting out the future vision and being able to work backward, to think about how to close the gap between your present reality and your desired future state. Sometimes that involves gaining additional skills, getting more training. It’s about understanding what you want your brand to be, and how you would like people to think of you.
  3. Live out your brand. Sometimes the conversation around personal branding seems to imply erroneously that this is a one-time activity—that you create your brand, and you’re set forever.  But of course, that’s not the case.  We’re all creating our brand every day.

Appian: So branding is an ongoing process.

Clark: Yes because what you think of another person—as we can all imagine—is not just about what they did once. Or what they said about themselves. It’s about how they behave on an ongoing basis.

So, living out your brand is about really understanding and ensuring that all of your actions, that everything you do—how you dress, the things you talk about, how you treat people—that all of these things are congruent, and that they all contribute to sending one unified message about who you are, and the capabilities that you want people to know that you have.

Beyond the Elevator Pitch

Appian: Let’s change topics and talk about digital transformation. Some companies focus on the technology of it. But transformation goes beyond using technology to improve process and efficiency. It’s bigger than that. It’s about reinventing and reimagining how you do business, from the back office to the front office.

Clark: That’s an apt analogy. People are so used to looking at the tip of the iceberg. When you talk about personal brand, people tend to think: “Oh, you mean elevator pitch (laughter).” But no, no, no, that’s just one piece of it. There are many layers below that that you’re not perceiving.

Some companies think: “We’ve got to transform for the future, so let’s get some AI .” But, if you don’t have substance beneath the tip of the iceberg, it’s not going to go very well.

Appian: You talk to hundreds of C-suite execs. So, what are some of the big challenges these business leaders are dealing with when it comes to re-imagining their business models for the digital economy?

Don’t Underestimate the Rate of Change

Clark: I think that when it comes to re-imagining business models for the digital future, we all tend to simultaneously overestimate and underestimate the rate of change. Meaning that when something breaks through the headlines, like artificial intelligence, driverless cars, etc., executives tend to get whipped into a frenzy about it.

And, partly, that’s justified. Not because the wave’s going to crest tomorrow, but because they know that many of their stakeholders are going to be reading those same articles. And they’ll start asking questions like: “What is your AI strategy, or your 3D printing strategy, and what are you doing to take advantage of these trends?

Because of the public relations aspect of their job, senior execs need to have good answers about adapting to disruption. But this can also lead to irrational behaviors, like getting into crazy bidding wars at exorbitant multiples for a startup to claim a piece of some hot trend.

(Tune in next week for the final installment of our two-part conversation with best-selling author and branding expert Dorie Clark.)

 

SUBSCRIBE TO APPIAN WEEKLY!