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How innovative brands compete in the digital age

innovative brands

Kodak was once one of the most innovative companies in the world, but began to struggle in the 1990s and eventually declared bankruptcy in 2012. So why did Kodak, a technology pioneer, fall so far? Simply, they ignored the rise of digital photography and were too slow to catch up.

Sunil Gupta, a professor at Harvard Business School, has studied digital transformation at a number of Fortune 500 companies. In his new book, Driving Digital Strategy: A Guide to Reimagining Your Business, he discusses how companies need to truly embrace a holistic digital strategy that encompasses all parts of their business. This transformation has to be substantial in order to prevent more agile market entrants from overtaking your business (as many newer, disruptive companies did to Kodak’s).

One of the most critical aspects of digital transformation is hiring, developing, and retaining the right people in the best roles. Professor Gupta highlights Knack as one of the disruptive forces in digitizing and transforming talent acquisition and talent management.

Gupta’s includes several interviews that unpack the Knack business proposition:


Knack is driving a fundamental shift in human capital, moving the space from the realm of intuition, guesswork and subjective opinions to the world of objective and reliable outcome-oriented data. This means every talent workflow—such as sourcing, recruiting, hiring, learning, leadership identification, career planning and organizational development—is ripe for digital transformation. This transformation is not only a matter of efficiency, cost saving and scale; it is equally about decision quality, business outcomes, inclusion, diversity and fairness.

Indeed, Rino Piazzolla, the former Head of Group Human Resources at AXA Group, a global insurance company with over $100 billion in revenue and 165,000 employees worldwide, commented to Professor Gupta that “[w]e now have statistical evidence that by using Knack we are hiring people who are better fit for the job.”


In order to expand their university recruiting footprint, a global consulting firm sent a Knack App campaign link to numerous universities that the firm was not able to visit. Within a few weeks, this firm sourced thousands of applicants; and using Knack data (without any resume or other background), the firm was able to identify the top 5% of candidates who would be a good fit for the firm. Any company can replicate this strategy in their recruitment process: instead of spending time and money traveling to universities and sifting through applications, companies can attract prospective candidates through a digital mobile candidate experience that reinforces the employer’s innovative brand.


Human beings are imperfect arbiters of talent. AI is powerful because (assuming it is developed and tested appropriately) it eliminates human subjectivity and biases that we all have. Knack’s algorithms have been designed and validated to eliminate gender, race, ethnicity and age bias. Indeed, when energy company Shell was attempting to retool their innovation pipeline, they ran a blind test and asked 1,400 employees who had contributed ideas to play Knack App games. Comparing the Knack results with the employees who generated innovative ideas showed the company that Knack predictively identified those people who had the most successful innovation track record. Importantly, Knack ensured Shell would not miss out on identifying a potential innovator because of their race, gender, age, or ethnicity.

In addition to the digital transformation of human capital, Gupta discusses how companies should reimagine their business models, customer acquisition, and R&D.

On the power of Knack, Professor Gupta said—

“In 2003, Michael Lewis wrote a provocative book, Moneyball, which described how the Oakland Athletics used an analytics and evidence-based approach, instead of judgment of sport scouts, to create a powerful baseball team. Now Knack is using the same principles to transform talent management, and leading global companies are finding this approach highly effective.”

Just don’t take our word for it! Here is some praise for Driving Digital Strategy: A Guide to Reimagining Your Business from business leaders:

Ajay Banga, President and CEO of Mastercard:

“Sunil Gupta reminds us that companies need to develop a digital mindset that must be expressed in every facet of their organizations. Driving Digital Strategy is a master class in strategy and actionable insights.”

Hubert Joly, CEO of Best Buy:

“Sunil Gupta provides a strong point of view, a powerful framework, and a plethora of compelling examples to help think through how to compete in the digital age. This is a very stimulating and highly relevant read for anyone leading an organization seeking to thrive in this high-beta environment.”

Check out other Knack Success stories here!

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