Michael Wade

Professor of Innovation and Strategy

Michael Wade is Professor of Innovation and Strategy. An expert on digital transformation, he holds the Cisco Chair in Digital Business Transformation at IMD and is Director of IMD’s Global Center for Digital Business Transformation. He has published 10 books and more than 100 case studies and articles on topics including digital business transformation, innovation, strategy, and digital leadership. In 2021, he was elected to the Digital Shapers Hall of Fame by a consortium of Swiss business media and launched the Management under the Microscope podcast, in which he unpacks business myths through conversations with academics and business executives.

Wade helps organizations with the challenges they currently face as they seek to use digital tools and technologies to drive business value. His research shows that 87% of digital transformation programs fail to meet expectations, so his work focuses on identifying the mistakes organizations make when they implement such programs and best practices in execution. What differentiates successful from less successful organizations is how good they are at integrating digital technologies into a broader organizational and cultural transformation, he says. His work also covers ways to improve innovation and creativity, leading effectively in a digital age, and the link between digitalization and ethics.

When it comes to digital transformation, the keyword is ‘transformation’. Digital is an enabler, but it is only a means to an end. The end is always some kind of business performance benefit.

His book Hacking Digital: Best Practices to Implement and Accelerate your Business Transformation, was published in 2021. The book is aimed at helping companies to solve problems related to digital transformation. That same year, he released a book on innovation and creativity called ALIEN Thinking: How to Bring Your Breakthrough Ideas to Life. His 2016 book, Digital Vortex: How Today’s Market Leaders Can Beat Disruptive Competitors at their Own Game, won multiple awards and was a bestseller in several languages.

Wade has also been published in leading journals including Harvard Business Review, MIT Sloan Management Review, the Journal of Management Information Systems, MIS Quarterly, and the Strategic Management Journal, and is a regular contributor to Fortune Magazine, Forbes, and The Conversation, providing commentary on digital business issues and trends.

At IMD, he founded and directs Leading Digital Business Transformation (LDBT), Europe’s first and largest program for executives on digital, and is director of several other open programs including Digital Execution (DE), Digital Transformation for Boards (DTB), and the recently launched Digital Transformation Sprint (DTS). He has also designed and directed custom programs related to digital strategy and transformation for dozens of organizations across industries and sits on a number of corporate boards as an advisor on digitization and business model disruption.

Before joining IMD in 2010, Wade was Associate Professor of Operations Management and Information Systems in the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto. As part of this role, he served as Academic Director of the Kellogg-Schulich Executive MBA Program and Associate Director of the International MBA Program.

Selected publications
Hacking digital: Best practices to implement and accelerate your business transformation
Book
Hacking digital: Best practices to implement and accelerate your business transformation
Digital transformation has become commonplace across public and private sector organizations, and yet most struggle to achieve tangible results from it. Many make avoidable mistakes or fall into si...
Published 4 October 2021
Book
ALIEN thinking: The unconventional path to breakthrough ideas
How do people come up with truly original ideas? For the past decade, the authors of this book have studied individuals who have made leaps of creativity-inventors, scientists, doctors, entrepreneu...
Published 16 March 2021
Article
The building blocks of an AI strategy
As the popularity of artificial intelligence waxes and wanes, it feels like we are at a peak. Hardly a day goes by without an organization announcing “a pivot toward AI” or an aspiration to “become...
Published 10 August 2020
Article
Three proactive response strategies to Covid-19 business challenges
Since the COVID-19 crisis struck, organizations in vulnerable sectors worldwide have seen their revenues drop substantially in a matter of weeks — in some cases, dwindling to almost nothing. Countl...
Published 17 April 2020
Book
Orchestrating transformation: How to deliver winning performance with a connected approach to change
Company leaders feel the urgency to transform their organizations in the face of digital disruption. New rivals are digitizing whatever can be digitized to attack incumbents’ value chains, gaining ...
Published 25 February 2019
Book
Digital vortex: How today's market leaders can beat disruptive competitors at their own game
Digital disruption sounds like another business buzzword - until it happens to your company. Seemingly out of nowhere, startups and other tech-savvy disruptors attack. Your customers bolt for the d...
Published 21 June 2016
Academic publications
Hacking digital: Best practices to implement and accelerate your business transformation
Book
Hacking digital: Best practices to implement and accelerate your business transformation
Digital transformation has become commonplace across public and private sector organizations, and yet most struggle to achieve tangible results from it. Many make avoidable mistakes or fall into si...
Published 4 October 2021
Book
ALIEN thinking: The unconventional path to breakthrough ideas
How do people come up with truly original ideas? For the past decade, the authors of this book have studied individuals who have made leaps of creativity-inventors, scientists, doctors, entrepreneu...
Published 16 March 2021
Article
Climate change and COP26: Are digital technologies and information management part of the problem or the solution? An editorial reflection and call to action
The UN COP26 2021 conference on climate change offers the chance for world leaders to take action and make urgent and meaningful commitments to reducing emissions and limit global temperatures to 1...
Published 1 April 2022
Article
Covid-19 has accelerated digital transformation, but may have made it harder not easier
The impact of Covid-19 on digital transformation is not straightforward. Although many organizations have successfully implemented digital projects to support working from home during the pandemic,...
Published 1 September 2020
Article
Lifting the lid on disruption fever
This paper provides evidence based quantification of both “actual” disruption of industries as well as a measure of disruption “hype”. The data cover a seven-year period from 2012 to 2018 across 12...
Published 23 July 2020
Insight for Executives
Article
Identifying unmet needs in a digital age
Innovation is all about finding and filling people’s unmet needs. But even innovators and organizations renowned for their scanning capabilities often have trouble perceiving and correctly interpre...
Published 1 July 2022
Article
Why outside perspectives are critical for innovation breakthroughs
Innovation is widely viewed as an engine of progress — not only for driving economic growth, but also for bringing vital improvements in a variety of domains, from science and medicine to inequalit...
Published 8 February 2022
Article
Finding the right balance — and flexibility — in your leadership style
It’s an outdated idea that a leader should adopt a fixed leadership style that’s agnostic to the specific context in which he or she is operating. A single approach to leadership is not going to me...
Published 11 January 2022
Article
Stop sabotaging your ability to innovate
Innovators can be their own worst enemies, derailed by personal traits, such as confidence and optimism, that are essential to creativity but can be toxic when taken to an extreme, and by emotions ...
Published 1 November 2021
Hacking Digital
Book
Hacking Digital
Hacking Digital walks you through the implementation phase by providing the practical advice and information you need to ensure overall success.
Published 6 September 2021
Article
6 principles to build your company’s strategic agility
Strategic agility is the ability to improve performance — not just survive but thrive — amid disruption. Companies that successfully navigated the Covid-19 crisis identified when to deviate from th...
Published 2 September 2021
Article
Innovation 2.0: Experimenting to improve, not to prove
Innovators who experiment solely to validate their idea are making a dangerous mistake, and the authors point to the inventor of the Segway as a prime example. The purpose of experimentation should...
Published 1 September 2021
Focus on people and culture for digital transformation at scale
Article
Focus on people and culture for digital transformation at scale
Companies that undergo digital transformation successfully are more profitable but the vast majority of change programs fail.
Published 30 June 2021
Article
Big ideas are not enough
The difference between creativity and innovation is execution. While creativity is generating valuable and novel ideas, innovation is about successfully implementing those ideas, turning concepts i...
Published 13 May 2021
Report
Digital vortex 2021: Digital disruption in a COVID world
The Digital Vortex 2021 is the fourth in a series of biennial studies launched in 2015 by the Global Center for Digital Business Transformation (DBT Center) at the IMD Business School. 1,235 bus...
Published 29 April 2021
Article
Being an expert navigator is the key to innovation success
Innovators must prepare for their journey like adventurers: studying the conditions and being prepared to respond to dynamic elements along their path
Published 19 April 2021
ALIEN Thinking
Book
ALIEN Thinking
How do people come up with truly original ideas? For the past decade, the authors of this book have studied individuals who have made leaps of creativity-inventors, scientists, doctors, entrepreneu...
Published 15 March 2021
How to change your thinking and allow radical ideas to become reality
Video
How to change your thinking and allow radical ideas to become reality
The good news is that it is possible for individuals and organizations to change their mindsets about how they approach change to foster positive innovation.
Published 26 February 2021
How innovation is driving China’s solid economic growth even during the pandemic
Article
How innovation is driving China’s solid economic growth even during the pandemic
Lessons from Chinese Innovation during the Pandemic. Significant experimentation with new digital tools and technologies in China.
Published 9 February 2021
Article
100 years ago, Alexander Fleming revealed the key to breakthrough ideas
Today, as researchers work to develop a Covid-19 vaccine, it’s worth examining how, 100 years ago, the British bacteriologist Alexander Fleming discovered his first antibiotic, and how that breakth...
Published 5 February 2021
Article
The unconventional innovator who created Wikipedia
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of homebound schoolchildren and university students have benefited from a valuable resource that most take for granted. Today, anyone with a desktop or mobile d...
Published 12 January 2021
Article
What the West can learn from China’s live commerce success
Ask someone in the West about livestreaming, and they may look back at you blankly — that is, unless they are under 25, in which case they may likely mention gaming or TikTok. Ask someone in China,...
Published 7 January 2021
ABN AMRO: When Culture Drives Transformation
Case Study
ABN AMRO: When Culture Drives Transformation
Exploration of the interplay between ABN AMRO bank's cultural and digital transformation journeys from the perspective of the head of the Personal Banking
Published 9 December 2020
Article
The building blocks of an AI strategy
As the popularity of artificial intelligence waxes and wanes, it feels like we are at a peak. Hardly a day goes by without an organization announcing “a pivot toward AI” or an aspiration to “become...
Published 10 August 2020
Here is how countries can get back to work without a COVID-19 vaccine
Article
Here is how countries can get back to work without a COVID-19 vaccine
Quarantines and social distancing measures cannot be our plan, say Amit Joshi and Michael Wade. Testing, isolating and normalizing are the way forward.
Published 2 July 2020
Let’s not survive but thrive, and use innovation to do so
Video
Let’s not survive but thrive, and use innovation to do so
Speaking at the latest Leading In Turbulent Times webinar, Prof Michael Wade on “Become a COVID-19 innovator: how to exit the crisis stronger".
Published 25 June 2020
Article
How intelligent is your AI?: Ask these four questions to tell if your AI solution is really AI.
In a world where buzzwords come and go, artificial intelligence has been remarkably durable. Since it first emerged as a concept in the 1950s, there has been a relatively constant flow of technolog...
Published 22 June 2020
Learning through bonding and bonding through learning
Article
Learning through bonding and bonding through learning
On a trip to Israel, IMD professors learn more about each other as they learn how new technologies are impacting local businesses.
Published 14 May 2020
When small is beautiful
Article
When small is beautiful
The AI race is not only about digital giants from China and the US.
Published 6 May 2020
Article
Corporate responsibility in the digital era: Corporate digital responsibility spans four areas — social, economic, technological, and environmental — that should be merged under one organizational umbrella.
Sustainability and digitization have been two of the most significant global business trends over the past several years. Sustainability concerns humanity’s relationship with the natural world, whi...
Published 28 April 2020
Article
Three proactive response strategies to Covid-19 business challenges
Since the COVID-19 crisis struck, organizations in vulnerable sectors worldwide have seen their revenues drop substantially in a matter of weeks — in some cases, dwindling to almost nothing. Countl...
Published 17 April 2020
How China is revolutionising e-commerce with an injection of entertainment
Article
How China is revolutionising e-commerce with an injection of entertainment
Behind China’s booming e-commerce sector are evolving tools and services that are making it more exciting for the Chinese buyer.
Published 5 April 2020
Article
7 key principles to govern digital initiatives: Research and survey data provide insights for how leaders can govern digital initiatives for maximum impact.
As digital disruption has become a major force across industries, organizations have responded with significant investments in digital transformation. Unfortunately, recent research suggests that m...
Published 1 April 2020
Coronavirus: your guide to winners and losers in the business world
Article
Coronavirus: your guide to winners and losers in the business world
A sector-by-sector look at who is benefiting, who is in trouble and who could go either way.
Published 23 March 2020
Artificial intelligence: one area where startups can teach established firms
Article
Artificial intelligence: one area where startups can teach established firms
Firms with a solid past may still be inventing as well as ever, but they need to look up to startups when it comes to implementing their AI
Published 17 March 2020
Coronavirus: why we should keep our eyes and ears open as well as our hands clean
Article
Coronavirus: why we should keep our eyes and ears open as well as our hands clean
What if the infodemic is causing more damage than the pandemic? The world’s headlines have been dominated by COVID-19 for about two months and as the virus continues to spread this wall-to-wall cov...
Published 12 March 2020
Beyond algorithms: the impact of AI and ML on organizations
Article
Beyond algorithms: the impact of AI and ML on organizations
When AI/ML companies truly understand the challenges of their potential customers, they can create products that add real value in terms of efficiency and/or effectiveness in the that customer’s en...
Published 10 March 2020
The problem with digital: zebras, horses and unicorns
Article
The problem with digital: zebras, horses and unicorns
Do we really need A.I. to solve intractable human problems? In many cases good old data science can be substituted for A.I.
Published 9 March 2020
How to develop the next generation of female digital leaders
Article
How to develop the next generation of female digital leaders
For many, digital leadership is synonymous with technological expertise. However, research on leadership in the digital age by IMD’s Global Center for Digital Business Transformation reveals a much...
Published 27 February 2020
Article
Every leader needs to navigate these 7 tensions
In surveys and interviews with hundreds of leaders worldwide, we uncovered seven core tensions between the traditional and emerging leadership approaches. Those tensions create significant stress f...
Published 20 February 2020
The five stages of the Chief Digital Officer–and why they often fail
Article
The five stages of the Chief Digital Officer–and why they often fail
Working with many CDOs over the past five years, we have concluded they are, by and large, competent, motivated and experienced, with a strong mix of knowledge and skills. By this reckoning, their ...
Published 13 February 2020
Chinese movie studio upturned its business model due to coronavirus – Western companies take note
Article
Chinese movie studio upturned its business model due to coronavirus – Western companies take note
The Wuhan coronavirus has negatively impacted millions of people in China, many more than the 40,000+ infected so far. The crisis, however, has led to some significant opportunities. By acting quic...
Published 9 February 2020
Rabobank: Building digital agility at scale
Case Study
Rabobank: Building digital agility at scale
The case illustrates how a financial institution with a conservative culture embraced digital transformation in a highly competitive environment. It focuses on the challenges inherent in moving fro...
Published 1 September 2019
Article
Making Corporate Venture Capital Work
Corporate venture capital (CVC) — equity investments in startups made by corporate entities — is steadily rising in the market. As CVC researchers and practitioners, we’ve studied hundreds of CVC o...
Published 18 June 2019
Report
Digital vortex 2019: Continuous and connected change
The Digital Vortex 2019 study reveals large differences among industries in vulnerability to digital disruption. Like a vortex in nature, the Digital Vortex illustrates the power, speed and unpredi...
Published 22 May 2019
Article
How to choose the right digital leader for your company
Striking the right competence-credibility balance for digital leaders depends largely on how the role of the CDO is defined in a particular company. Digital disruption is close to the top of the ag...
Published 14 May 2019
Article
Bring your breakthrough ideas to life
Digital advances in the past two decades have enabled more people than ever before to express creative intelligence. Yet apart from the transformation of services powered by mobile apps and the int...
Published 1 November 2018
Report
IMD and the Diwan of Royal Court : The national CEO program: A partnership to develop Oman’s future talent
This case follows the partnership between IMD and Oman’s Diwan of Royal Court as they co-created, designed and delivered an innovative program - called the National CEO Program (NCP) - to nurture O...
Published 11 March 2018
Report
Digital patient engagement : Insights for the pharmaceutical industry
This report provides examples of digital patient engagement initiatives launched by pharmaceutical companies, technology companies, and other industry stakeholders. It also provides suggestions on ...
Published 1 March 2018
Article
As AI makes more decisions, the nature of leadership will change
It is tempting to regard artificial intelligence as a threat to human leadership. After all, the very purpose of AI is to augment, improve, and ultimately replace human intelligence, which is still...
Published 22 January 2018
Report
Public sector and the Digital Vortex: How government organizations can harness digital disruption for positive change
Public Sector and the Digital Vortex illustrates how government organizations can harness digital disruption for positive change. For their own viability as well as that of constituents, public sec...
Published 28 June 2017
Report
Life in the digital vortex: The state of digital disruption in 2017
In this report, we use the analogy of the Digital Vortex to illustrate the state of digital disruption across industries in 2017. Industries are ranked according to their vulnerability to disrupti...
Published 8 June 2017
Report
Orchestrating digital business transformation: Working in concert to achieve digital excellence
This paper lays out a new digital transformation execution framework. Just as a vortex helped us explain how disruption changes the nature of competition, the analogy of an orchestra illustrates ho...
Published 2 June 2017
Report
Smart city: Six steps to successfullly transform your city
This paper lays out a practical framework for transformative, technological urban initiatives referred to as ‘Smart City projects’ and is targeted at city leaders across the globe who aspire to mak...
Published 24 April 2017
Report
Redefining leadership for a digital age
The research revealed that leadership effectiveness in disruptive environments shared many of the same characteristics as leadership in more stable environments, but with a few notable differences....
Published 2 March 2017
Report
Smart City: Essentials for city leaders
The digital revolution is impacting all sectors of our economy including the public sector, and with it the administration and management of cities. On the one hand, it urges decision-makers to fac...
Published 11 May 2016
Report
The business world in 2025: Four scenarios to stress test your strategy
In this paper, we will begin to answer these questions, taking the last one—the capabilities needed— first. While our subsequent research will set forth our transformation roadmap in detail, this p...
Published 11 May 2016
Report
Workforce transformation in the digital vortex: Reimagining work for digital business agility
In today’s turbulent business climate, digital disruptors will displace four in 10 incumbent companies over the next five years, according to the Global Center for Digital Business¦Transformation (...
Published 1 April 2016
Report
New paths to customer value: Disruptive business models in the digital vortex
This paper expands on the imperative, outlined in “Digital Vortex,” to create new value for customers—cost value, experience value, and platform value—and provides a taxonomy of digital business mo...
Published 1 November 2015
Report
Competing in the digital vortex: Value vampires and value vacancies
In the chaotic swirling of the Digital Vortex, opportunities for savvy firms emerge, but can close quickly as fast-moving rivals join the pursuit and options for customers proliferate. This is why ...
Published 1 November 2015
Report
Disruptor and disrupted: Strategy in the digital vortex
In this paper, we will begin to answer these questions, taking the last one—the capabilities needed— first. While our subsequent research will set forth our transformation roadmap in detail, this p...
Published 1 November 2015
Report
Digital business transformation: A conceptual framework
Digital business transformation is about change. Organizations preparing to meet the challenge of digital business transformation must ask themselves three questions: why do I need to transform, wh...
Published 23 June 2015
Report
Digital vortex: How digital disruption is redefining industries
Digital business transformation is a journey to adopt and deploy digital technologies and business models to improve performance quantifiably. ¦The first step of this journey is to grasp the need ...
Published 23 June 2015
Article
Social media: Segmentation, implementation, critical mass and knowledge integration
You must be thrilled. Social media has arrived on the scene, hot on the heels of business intelligence, cloud computing, and any number of other IT-fuelled initiatives with major hype and uncertain...
Published 23 November 2011
Article
The end of the information system life: A model of IS discontinuance
Considerable information systems (IS) research has sought to understand the adoption, implementation, and use of information systems. In contrast, the literature offers only limited insight into en...
Published 1 May 2010
Article
A new twist on an old method: A guide to the applicability and use of web experiments in information research
A review of the Information Systems literature reveals that experiments are employed infrequently by IS researchers. Further, there is some evidence that the use of experiments is not increasing an...
Published 1 August 2005
Best practices to implement and accelerate your business transformation
Programs
Online
Digital Transformation in Practice

A practical, step-by-step approach to digital business implementation

Get ready to lead the implementation of your organization's digital transformation, equipped with actionable solutions and best practices.

Location: Online Length: 5 weeks Fee: CHF 1,950 Next start: 31 October 2022
On campus
Leading Digital Business Transformation

Leveraging digital innovations to transform your business

Learn how to extract the most value from digital technologies and business models. Leave with a digital strategy roadmap, ready to make the transformation happen in your company.

Location: Lausanne Length: 5 days Fee: CHF 10,900 Next start: 28 November 2022
On campus
Digital Execution

Develop your digital execution roadmap

Develop a clear roadmap to execute your digital business transformation strategy.

Location: Lausanne Length: 2.5 days Fee: CHF 4,950 Next start: 10 October 2022