Learn More About Paul Leonardi
Digital transformation has become much more than simply upgrading software and building a new skill set; it’s now a required state of mind, says Paul Leonardi, award-winning University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) professor and Technology Management department chair.
With hybrid work here to stay, artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms increasingly deployed in business and technology constantly advancing, Leonardi’s research insights are more important than ever. With a multidisciplinary expertise at the crossroads of technology, strategy and culture, he illustrates how vital it is for leaders to ensure that they and their workers can effectively leverage the latest technology to maximize team collaboration and organizational success.
Also the director of the Ph.D. program in Organization Studies in the UCSB College of Engineering, Leonardi speaks eloquently on both the technical and sociological aspects of digital transformation. His new co-authored book, “The Digital Mindset: What It Really Takes to Thrive in the Age of Data, Algorithms, and AI” (Harvard Business Review Press, May 2022), gives vivid examples of how employees in organizations with a good digital presence feel empowered to broadcast their work, develop a greater sense of curiosity and communicate more effectively.
“With a digital mindset,” Leonardi says, “you can ask the right questions, make smart decisions and appreciate new possibilities for a digital future, making it feel much less daunting to embrace digital transformation.”
Over the past two decades, Leonardi has consulted with organizations from across sectors about practical ways of improving communication between departments. With a focus on how technology changes the way people work, his methods include teaching leaders how to use social technologies to enhance internal knowledge sharing, structure global product development operations and manage the human aspects of new technology implementation.
Technology is Only Half the Equation; The Other Half is People
Rapid implementation of hybrid and fully remote work has also presented challenges to structuring teams that maximize the capacity for innovation. Leonardi points to relational analytics as an important part of the process. By taking into consideration the connections that exist between people, those relationships can be leveraged to maximize innovation and efficiency within a team.
“The relationships employees have with one another — together with their individual attributes — can explain their workplace performance,” says Leonardi and his co-author in their acclaimed 2018 Harvard Business Review article. “Organizational leaders can look at structural signatures in their companies’ social networks and predict how, say, creative or effective individual employees, teams, or the organization as a whole will be.”
By zeroing in on these relationships, leaders can empower their organization’s talent to support successful and continued digital transformation, with individual contributors learning how to better support their company’s strategic changes and advance their own careers.
The 30% Rule: What You Really Need to Know About Tech
By nurturing a digital mindset, communicating effectively within teams and embracing metrics along the way, digital transformation initiatives become powerful business strategies. But a workforce can feel intimidated by new technologies and become suspicious when they’re implemented. When it comes to easing the pressure some put on themselves to try to become overnight experts, Leonardi says it’s only necessary to have a 30% fluency in a handful of technical topics to develop an effective digital mindset.
“It’s easy to forget that technologies are really just tools for problem solving,” he says. “We have to frame the implementation the right way to get employees excited and not fearful. Individuals need to have a general sense of how a technology works and the vocabulary to ask the right questions from there.” Assuring both leaders and frontline workers, Leonardi says, “you don’t need to know everything, you just need to know enough to be dangerous.”
Paul Leonardi is the Duca Family Endowed Chair in Technology Management at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) and serves as director of the Ph.D. program in Organization Studies in the College of Engineering. His research on digital transformation, remote work and social networks has led to four research-focused books and has been covered by academic publications including Harvard Business Review and MIT Sloan Management Review as well as mass media outlets such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, and more.
Bi-lingual in English and spanish, Leonardi has won more than 30 awards for his research and teaching, including for his courses on digital transformation, managing innovation and the future of work. His writings have been recognized through multiple outstanding article awards from professional associations such as the Academy of Management, Strategic Management Society and the National Communication Association. In 2021, he was elected a fellow of the International Communication Association where he also received the Fredric Jablin Award for lifetime contributions to the study of organizational communication.
From 2014-2019, Leonardi served as the founding director of UCSB’s Master of Technology Management (MTM) program, a professional management program for technical leaders. Before joining UCSB, he worked at Northwestern University where he was jointly appointed across the School of Communication, the McCormick School of Engineering and the Kellogg School of Management. He received his Ph.D. in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford University.
Paul Leonardi is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers & Advisors, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.
University of California, Santa Barbara professor Paul Leonardi is a top expert on leading successful digital transformations by developing a “digital mindset.” Co-author of “The Digital Mindset: What It Really Takes to Thrive in the Age of Data, Algorithms, and AI” (2022), he’s a trusted advisor to senior leaders looking to maximize knowledge, teamwork and efficiency among their workforce during digital transformation initiatives. Leonardi is available to discuss any or all of the following topics during one-on-one or small group advisory meetings. Each program can be customized to meet the needs and goals of your organization with the added option of meeting virtually or in person.
- Successfully Developing a Digital Mindset
- Leading Cultural Change to Prepare a Workforce for the Digital Future
- Using Relational Analytics to Maximize Team Communication and Efficiency
- How 30% Fluency in a Handful of Technical Topics is Enough to Succeed
- How to Use Data to Meet your D&I Goals
- Improving Performance of Hybrid and Remote Teams
- Overcoming Digital Exhaustion