Territorial leadership is key for the digital transformation of any European city or region. It is about getting an external focus of the leadership independently from where it emanates. It is about coming together and inspiring different actors to take common actions that change and manifest digitalisation in daily working operations.
Creating cross-sector and crossindustry territorial leaders
Local digital initiatives can move forward far more rapidly when leaders come together and take a common responsibility for a plot of land (such as the territory of a city). If all the key leaders of a certain territory step forward to work together, challenge and encourage each other’s, they can easily reach the hoped-for digital strategy. A key attitude in this process is to work in the so called in-between spaces, the interfaces between sectors, industries and issues on the actual territory
Leading in these in-between spaces require a special mind-set containing the following three key elements:
a) A common understanding,
b) The ability to co-create in unity and
c) Generosity (especially when it comes to sharing ideas).
Cultivating the relational capital to develop new cross-sector partnerships
Interestingly enough, it is evidenced based that the relational capital is the key for business innovation and for the speed of renewal. New, fresh and ambitious initiatives from local leaders collaborating across sectors in order to create the necessary initiatives together are arising across Europe at an unprecedented pace. In the city of Lund (in the Skane region of Sweden), a lot of efforts have been made to ensure that real collaboration and “buy-in” between stakeholders from different areas exist.
These collaborative stakeholders notably include city managers office, property and real estate owners, the university, not for profit organisations, the new issues-based cluster organisation, etc. This relational capital between local stakeholders serves as a practical way to manifest an informal territorial leadership team linked to strategic issues such as vision and branding regarding the smart city approach in order to get a higher attractiveness for talents and investments.
Creating new collaboration opportunities
Established businesses are not great at disrupting themselves, so smart ways to engage with them should be found. Through a proactive approach collaboration can be used as a catalyst for digital transformation. For instance, by including innovative businesses as advisors in collaborative projects with established businesses. Increasingly, more examples are arising on partnerships between private companies and municipalities on developing ways to boost digital transformation at the city level. Nimble technology companies are leading thanks to their first mover advantage but large industrial conglomerates such as Siemens, IBM, Cisco and Samsung are catching up and investing heavily in digital city solutions. One important issue is how the city organization, procures, apply and let digital service companies test their technology in public service in order to accelerate innovation and digital transformation.
The role of the culture
The existence of a low hierarchy can be part of a national culture. For instance, the Finnish culture encourages everyone to share ideas knowing that the targeted audience will listen and follow if they believe in the idea. The passion for a better future is a key driver for Espoo citizens’ engagement in the digital transformation of the city. The city government in Espoo does not only encourage innovation but also provides the rationale behind the need for innovation in the city. This bottom-up mentality in Espoo is also illustrated by the actions of the city government as a moderator and a connector of stakeholders in the digital transformation process. The creation of the concept of “Bench learning” reflects the sharing culture of the city where collaborative thinking and open innovation have become integral parts of the working style. The same approach can be noted in the city of Lund and the Lund university initiative – Innovation in mind with a focus digital transformation using the inner city area putting up huge tents for X collaboration.