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The Brains and Brawn Company

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The Brains and Brawn Company

How Leading Organizations Blend the Best of Digital and Physical


15 min read
7 take-aways
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Brains and brawn, digital and physical – they’re perfect together!

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Stanford lecturer Robert E. Siegel uses the human body as a metaphor to explain how industry-leading companies combine digital knowledge management with down-to-earth functional competencies. He emphasizes areas such as logistics and manufacturing that date back to the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. Siegel offers detailed, inspiring backstories of how companies succeed by creating this fusion between the digital and the physical — the brains and the brawn.


Modern businesses depend on the smart integration of digital and physical components.

In today’s world, competitive advantage stems from understanding how your company’s digital and physical components complement each other.

The digital side of business parallels five aspects of the brain encompassing “using analytics, harnessing creativity, tapping the power of empathy, managing risk” and “balancing ownership and partnership.” Your firm’s physical competencies – logistics, manufacturing, scale advantages, controlled ecosystems and long-range survival – parallel the body’s brawn, its musculature, coordination and stamina.

Thinking of the digital and physical elements as being in conflict is a mistake. Instead, they must work together. Many innovative tech companies make spotty progress because, although they are smart about technology, they are deficient in their management processes and systems. 

To succeed, companies need to combine a start-up’s speed and appetite for risk  with a major incumbent corporation’s best management practices. For example, Daimler, aware that ride...

About the Author

Silicon Valley venture investor Robert E. Siegel lectures on management at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He serves on several corporate boards, chairs the Strategic Advisory Board for TTTech Computertechnik AG, and writes for Harvard Business Review, Forbes and The Wall Street Journal.

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