Sunday, September 24, 2017 | ePaper

Becoming a digital innovators

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Joanna Hughes :
Dr. Till Wahnbaeck, CEO of Germany's hunger-fighting NGO Welthungerhilfe, recently penned a piece for The Guardian in which she reiterated the critical need for innovation. But what, exactly, is innovation? Her explanation is a surprisingly simple one, "Innovation is the answer to a simple question: Is there a better way?"
Apply this concept to the digital world and its meaning is exponentially amplified. Because we are just dipping a toe into the digital pool, there's no question that there is a better way. In other words, the answers are limitless. The bigger issue? Finding the people with the ken and capacity to drive these answers. Here's a closer look at why digital innovation matters, along with three strategies for positioning yourself to become a digital innovator in this brave new world.
Why Digital Innovation Matters
Contemporary business success largely hinges on an organization's ability to adapt to the rapidly evolving digital space. Take companies like Amazon and Netflix, for example.  Their business models inherently rely on continuously expanding and enhancing their digital products and services to remain competitive. But this evolution doesn't happen on its own.
Says global management consulting firm North Highland Worldwide Consulting's Alex Bombeck, "Everyone recognizes the importance of digital in today's business environment, but the landscape is littered by companies that have been left behind the digital curve. Leaders must figure out how to meet the high expectations of customers and deliver a unique human experience, or risk becoming obsolete."
In addition to the usual suspects of leadership like vision and managerial skills, the next generation of business leaders will also need to understand the fundamentals of digital innovation, including the economic and technological factors powering it; the intersection of former, current and future business models; differences between digital models and how they interact with each other; best practices for organizing and leading digital product and service innovation efforts;  the role of crowdsourcing; and other topics.
Echoes North Highland Global CIO Ben Grinnell of what it takes to thrive in the new digital world, "To enable digital transformation, old legacy systems are not going to cut it. Silos must be broken down and an agile mindset needs to take hold. This means building cross-functional teams that can be nimble, move fast and quickly produce results."
Three Steps to Becoming a Digital Innovator
Now that we've covered how important digital innovation is, along with why having the right skill set is critical for people looking to innovate in the digital space, a final question remains: How do you prepare yourself to become one of them? These three steps are a great starting point:
 1.    Be international.
Digital innovation has no physical borders. And with companies like Turner increasingly prioritizing international digital innovation, it makes sense for those looking for an inside edge to cultivate a global perspective-preferably through first-hand experience.
In fact, according to a recent Erasmus Impact Study which looks into the effects of international study on the skills and employability of students, 65 percent of employers consider international experience important in job applicants, while a full 92 percent are looking for transversal skills developed through international experiences, including "openness to and curiosity about new challenges, problem-solving and decision-making skills, confidence, tolerance toward other personal values and behaviors."
 2.    Know the best course of study.
We've already established that international experience is a major plus. What else should you be looking for in terms of degrees and certifications? Not only will you need training in key digital technology areas, but you'll also need to develop innovation and entrepreneurship skills.
Another plus? Real-world experience, which will allow you to practice applying your newfound skills while simultaneously building a network of professional relationships.
3.    Choose the right program.
All of this may sound like a tall order, but EIT Digital Academy's Digital Master School program delivers. This two-year program at two different universities from nine countries not only sends graduates out into the world with master's degrees from two of Europe's leading universities, but also a certificate from the European Institute of Technology.
What else separates EIT Digital from the rest? Students have their choice of 20 top European universities; gain a high-level technical education combined with an Innovation and Entrepreneurship minor; and build a strong professional network through internship opportunities with industrial partners and innovative startups.
The chance to specialize in the second year, meanwhile, offers in-depth studies in technical areas including cloud computing services, data science, digital media technology, embedded systems, human interaction and design, technology and architecture, security and privacy, and service design and engineering.
Says Head of the EIT Digital Master School Dr. Patrick Hartigan, "There is a heavy and increasing need for premium IT masters in Europe. This programme seeks out the best students from across the EU and beyond. It then equips them with cutting-edge technical knowledge and business skills so that they can go on to help assure Europe's role in the global digital economy. This is a unique opportunity where learning to think as an entrepreneur is a key criterion."
Think it all sounds perfect, but have concerns about paying for it? EIT Digital's generous financial assistance including tuition waivers, scholarships, travel and installation support put the programs prestigious double degrees and an Innovation and Entrepreneurship EIT Certificate within your reach.
Digital innovation is all about blazing new territory in an uncharted world. Will you be following behind or at the forefront? EIT Digital Academy's Digital Master School program can prepare you not just to be a player in the digital innovation space, but to be a game-changer.
Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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