The Triumphs and Truths of Born-Digital

Born-digital companies—those fountains of innovation capitalizing on exploding technological and analytical capabilities—have transformed industry after industry. Generating headlines with their astonishingly fast growth, they’ve redefined investor mentality and super-charged the global economy.

Born-digital businesses seem more destined for ongoing success than their born-traditional counterparts (companies arising from the Industrial Age’s pre-Internet economy). But as our born-digital study shows, many are evolving in self-destructive ways.

We set out to diagnose the problem, identify solutions, and consider what both types of companies can learn from each other—which is a lot. And we used our findings to develop diagnostic tools that help each type swiftly spot their weaknesses and craft strategies for avoiding costly mis-steps and catching up quickly.

Insights from this study will help any company—whether born-digital or born-traditional—position itself for stronger and more sustainable growth. Read the articles below, and sign up for email alerts when new articles are released.

What the research study reveals

  • Born-digital businesses’ unique ancestry helps them grow fast—but it can also imperil their health. To overcome the challenges that come with super-fast growth, these companies must deftly manage three dimensions of their ancestry, starting with the lineage of their leadership team.  Read the article.
  • Hiring only people who look and think like you can hurt your born-digital company. Lack of diversity in backgrounds and business experience within the leadership team spawns dangerous weaknesses in a born-digital enterprise. How to avoid this pitfall? Be willing to recruit people with strong operations expertise plus experience in more traditional companies.
  • Secrets from born-digital boardrooms offer valuable lessons. Boards of directors at born-digital companies can best serve their enterprises by understanding and avoiding four common pitfalls, in areas such as where they focus their attention and what expertise they specialize in.
  • Born-digital companies need to get smarter about digital ethics and data privacy. To avoid crashing and burning, these innovators must foster an ethics-minded culture, closely monitor the regulatory landscape, and define a quid-pro-quo relationship between themselves and their customers regarding the data being gathered.
  • The missing ingredient in born-digital businesses is experience operating at scale. By bringing in seasoned operations experts, these companies can serve customers more efficiently—securing their loyalty instead of losing them to savvier rivals.
  • Born-digital companies excel at using AI to spur impressive growth. Born-traditional counterparts can learn from their experience.
  • Even born-digital businesses can have outdated technology. To avoid letting their tech get stale, they should infuse discipline into their tech-management processes and view tech-upgrade decisions through a business-focused lens.
  • Born-digital enterprises must get better at HR and talent management. Taking shortcuts with HR and talent management because you’re laser-focused on fast growth won’t work in the long run. Discipline and rigor on this front aren’t exciting—but they’ll ultimately pay big dividends.
  • Born-traditional companies can learn a lot from born-digital exemplars. That kind of learning will require big changes, such as fostering an innovation mindset that may seem to conflict with Industrial Age principles and practices. But taking a page from digital exemplars’ success playbook will help.

Born-Digital vs. Born-Traditional: Know the difference

Born-digital businesses were typically founded after 1995.  Their operating models and capabilities center on using Internet-era information and digital technologies to achieve competitive advantage and drive fast growth.

Born-traditional companies arise from the working principles of the Industrial Age's pre-Internet economy.  Their operating models and capabilities center on using physical assets and focusing on product development to gain a competitive edge.