How to Stay Relevant in the Digital Economy

Digital Transformation

So far, in the Digital Economy, it has all been about how Artificial Intelligence will cause massive job losses.

A November 2017 McKinsey Global report points out that, by the year 2030, more than 800 million jobs will make way for 200 million “transformed” jobs in the new Digital Economy.

What those 200 million jobs will look like, where they will be located and what skill-sets would be needed to be successful in one of those jobs, are questions for which answers are not too clear at the moment.

What is clear though, is that the Digital Economy is here and that it is unevenly distributed.

There is also huge opportunity that the Digital Economy brings.

In this post, I want to lay out the attributes of the Digital Economy, look at a few examples of successful products and talk about how to transform oneself to thrive in this new age.


Attributes of the Digital Economy:


The digital economy is defined by speed.  Vast amounts of data are being created in very short periods of time, both by humans as well as by machines and sensors.

The advancement of technology is also growing exponentially.



There is tremendous amount of scale on offer.  Companies like Instagram, Slack and Twitter reached a billion dollars in valuation in less than three years.  WhatsApp, when acquired by Facebook, had more than 800 million customers. Xiaomi’s valuation – $45+ billion in less than 10 years – is unbelievable!



Whether it is an airline or a dentist’s office, every company is fast becoming a technology company. The Digital Economy is driven by technology.  If it weren’t for the technology, re-usable rockets, autonomous cars and robotic surgeries would still be possible projects on paper.


10x Transformation:

The Digital Economy has given rise to a slew of products that are exponentially better than their counterparts from a decade ago.  The iPhone, WhatsApp messenger and the Alexa voice assistant are products far superior to anything comparable in prior decades.  Technology, the ubiquity of the internet and the accessibility provided by the smartphone app has re-defined the way we get rides, shop and select hotels.

So, what does all this mean for us?

This means that there are opportunities, and we must be open and alert to these.  To strike these opportunities, we need to fundamentally transform ourselves.


The following are three ways by which we can transform ourselves, to remain relevant in the Digital Economy:

  1. Build new skills
  2. Build a new mindset which aligns with the digital economy
  3. Keep a close eye into the future


You must develop Digital Economy skills.

Skills around new technology (Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, Virtual Reality, etc.), affinity towards data and analytics or aptitude around content generation and customer engagement will be in demand in the next half-decade or so.


Your new mindset.

This must be aligned with the demands and attributes of the Digital Economy.  Incremental improvement won’t cut it; you should strive to be fundamentally different.  Put a great accent on speed.  If a project is expected to delivered in six months, try to make it in four.  If a product can be commercialized in 18 months, see if it can be done in 12.  If a clinical trial takes 2 years to complete, find out ways in which it can be shortened.

In the Digital Economy, no one can go it alone.  SAP’s CEO likes to say, “none of us is smarter than all of us”.  Even corporations are teaming up.  Very recently, Amazon, J.P. Morgan, Berkshire and Hathaway joined forces to reduce healthcare costs for their employees.

Allianz, Aon, Cisco and Apple are collaborating to address cybersecurity risks of businesses.

Team up.


Keep an eye on the future.

Whether it is reading broadly, following Gartner or monitoring venture capital investments, you need to constantly be looking into the future. For, that is whether the disruptions come from.  Once you can see something taking shape, you then must prepare for it, recognize the opportunity when it presents itself, and then make a decision.

This is how we can stay relevant in the new age, and even thrive.

If ever there was a time to move out of our comfort zones, this is it.

If we don’t, then we will have to settle for a leisurely lifestyle and universal basic income!



Image Attribution: By Martin420 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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