How to Become a Digital Dragon

CIOs must be armed with powerful adaptive capabilities to be a digital leader.

Powerful “digital dragons” are rising today, and they include companies that are embracing digital disruption and using it to enter, take over and dominate markets they often didn’t even play in before. There’s no safe place for the competitive enterprise. To deny, obfuscate, hide or retreat may end in disaster.

image of a what dragons symbolize in chinese

“There’s no pre-cut pattern for 21st-century business,” says Bard Papagaaij, research vice president at Gartner. “Safe pathways to success will be unknown and difficult to predict or even reliably test. CIOs must be armed with powerful adaptive capabilities and harness disruptive technologies and concepts to outmaneuver rivals.”

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The armed and potent digital leader

Digital dragons will continue to emerge from the edge of known markets and sectors: quick, silent and stealthy, yet metaphorically “breathing fire” to ignite red-hot competitive tension.

Image of how to become a digital dragon from Gartner, Inc.

To compete with or become a digital dragon, CIOs should follow three steps to arm their enterprise with qualities that will sustain it through volatile business cycles.

  1. Flex your enterprise risk appetite. Competition in the digital market is global, unpredictable and adaptive, so you must learn to tolerate uncertainty. Never underestimate the potential for surprise. A digital dragon thrives by being able to create or spot disruptive potential and act faster than incumbents or competitors. Slow moving, unprepared “digital dinosaurs” will become extinct. This isn’t because of a lack of strength, but because they’ve lost the ability to adapt.
  2. Inject cognitive diversity. Exceptional enterprises need inspired vision executed by extraordinary talent. Whether you’re a digital leader in a novel, nascent business, or a CIO in an established aspirational enterprise, a diverse and flexible talent pool is your vital source of catalytic agents for change. True digital dragons combine diverse perspectives into something that is much more than the sum of their parts.
  3. Create a “digital dragon incubator”. Digital dragons get their courage and strength by having highly curious, entrepreneurial and situationally aware leaders and exceptionally adaptive capabilities. As a leader in an enterprise that aspires to digital business success, organizational and personal metamorphosis must become your natural state.



Gartner clients can read more in The Armed and Potent Digital Leader: How to Become a Digital Dragon by Bard Papagaaij, et al. This is part of a special report Leadership in the Digital Age.

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