This is my first article for the Startup Magazine on the Medium content platform, even though I mentored several proteges who transitioned from technical professions to the greener pastures of entrepreneurship. During my interactions with these bold and transforming individuals, I noticed that one of the key attributes of the contemporary entrepreneurs is being digitally intelligent. My aim in this first article is to provide an informative background, set the context, and create a common understanding of digital intelligence for entrepreneurs.

What does digital intelligence mean? Frankly, I have not come across a standard definition for digital intelligence in the literature so far. Even more depressingly, I have not seen an established body of knowledge or substantial publications directly researching the phenomena of digital intelligence in traditional settings, let alone within entrepreneurship context.

However, does it mean that “digital intelligence” does not exist? Not in my humble opinion. It is evident and an essential success factor for entrepreneurs. Interestingly, during my literature search of the topic, I came across a few case studies using the term “digital intelligence” and skimmed through the content mainly in the form of marketing brochures, sales pitch, short articles in trade magazines, and aspiring blogs discussing digital quotient in a fragmented way with ambiguous definitions and unclear context. However, there is some documented activity and thought leadership approach to the topic in the industry so I thought at least it is better than nothing!

Based on these preliminary findings, I took the plunge and made an effort to define digital intelligence as a powerful term and one of the essential characteristics of entrepreneurs, at the most fundamental level. My goal is to provide an understanding of this term and add clarity to the desired context. Just to level set, my purpose is to create awareness and show some thought leadership based on my professional experience in digital transformation initiatives, not to credit myself unrealistically as an expert in the field, as the field does not fully exist yet or it is just about to emerge.

My definition of digital intelligence, at a high level, is the ability to convert or represent the physical world in digital format. Even though this definition sounds simple and straightforward, these two critical defining verbs (convert and represent) have a loaded meaning and pose enormous complexity to the topic. The terms -convert and represent- can extend to multiple disciplines and professional domains as far as digital intelligence of entrepreneurs is concerned. The term “ability” covers a broad spectrum of process, people, tools, and technologies in the entrepreneurs‘ capability agenda.

A digitally transformed premise in Canberra Australia

Physical and digital are two distinct worlds with dissimilar entities and complex relationships. These two distinct worlds have their inherent capabilities and limitations. By leveraging the established and emerging body of knowledge in computer science, material science, data science, information technology, artificial intelligence, and engineering disciplines, we found innovative ways to represent the physical world in digital formats. Therefore, these two distinct worlds are now interrelated and can enhance each other’s scope and functionality for new capabilities.

When I was exploring general intelligence as part of my doctoral cognitive studies over two decades ago, I discovered that intelligence is simply the ability to acquire knowledge and skills and apply them as required. Later through my experience in computing and information technology engagements, I found unique ways to transfer this traditional definition to further explore digital intelligence which is now a game changer. After years of experience in digital transformation engagements, I understood that digital intelligence is the ability to acquire and apply digital knowledge, skills, and capabilities encompassing the innovative platforms and compelling services of the digital world. The digital world consists of unique processes, technologies, tools, techniques, methods, and methodical approaches that we all are knowingly or unknowingly engage and immersed ourselves in our personal and professional lives.

There are one-way, two-way, or multiple-way relationships amongst the components of digital intelligence. This takes us to the critical point that our digital intelligence relates to an understanding of all relationships for these components, sub-components, and elements. This top-down understanding involves an enormously complex mental task hence requires in-depth knowledge of the digital world and cross-discipline skills to make sense of this fascinating world.

In other words, as entrepreneurs, to be digitally intelligent, we must have in-depth knowledge of the process and acquire practical skills relevant to the growing digital business and technology disciplines which I plan to cover the details in my next articles.

In the meantime, as a spoiler alert, for entrepreneurs to be digitally intelligent, they must have a clear vision and flexible strategy to effectively use digital technology, processes, products, tools, services, including commercial and open-source offerings to achieve their business goals.

My three decades of experience as a technologist is reflected upon one of my recent books titled “Digital Intelligence” written for digital transformation context guiding the technical and business leaders such as enterprise, business, and transformation architects. Upon great demand, this book was also translated into Spanish and German.

From now on, with the privilege given to me by the Medium editors, my mission is to transfer this emerging knowledge to the entrepreneurs like you, and share this knowledge in this popular magazine hoping to add value to my favourite group of professionals — entrepreneurs — who have the passion and unique ways of creating new meanings, new services, and novel products needed by our hungry society. Your feedback and guidance to serve you better will be an invaluable asset to me.

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