Last month, I kicked off a new series where I sit down with forward-looking business and IT leaders to talk about digital transformation inside their companies. It\u2019s been an insightful, and in many ways inspiring, few weeks on the road.\nIn my conversations with executives about their digital transformations, I keep hearing one word come up time and time again. Much to my surprise, it\u2019s not \u201cdisruption.\u201d\u00a0It\u2019s not even \u201cAPIs.\u201d\nIt\u2019s \u201cempathy.\u201d\nAcross different cities and contexts (including during Adapt or Die San Francisco, an event held by my employer, Apigee), change agents have repeatedly emphasized that the best way for organizations to adapt to digital is to start by enabling the people within the organization to adapt to digital.\nJody Mulkey, Chief Technology Officer at Ticketmaster, connected the dots on how and why this model works in way that really hit home.\nFor context, the scope of digital transformation at Ticketmaster is about as big as they come. While some of us may associate the company with \u201cTicketmaster.com\u201d and the World Wide Web, the company was actually founded back in 1976.\nFast forward nearly half a century and today you have a company whose digital ambitions are on par with GE\u2019s aim to \u201cbuild the platform for the industrial Internet.\u201d For Ticketmaster, the goal is to \u201cbuild the operating system for live entertainment.\u201d (As a musician as well as a geek, I happen to think this gives Ticketmaster some extra cachet.)\nMulkey\u2019s personal credentials aren\u2019t exactly beanbag either. Inspired by technology since programming on a TRS-80 in the 1980s (it takes something special to have been \u201cinspired\u201d by that particular experience), he joined Ticketmaster after 10-plus years as an executive at Internet startup Shopzilla. There, as he explained in words that will sound familiar to anyone who has ever worked at a startup, \u201cWe needed to know how our market\u2019s dynamics were changing at any given moment. Staying alive meant being able to pivot to a new business model on the fly.\u201d\nSo, how did Ticketmaster\u2019s APIs contribute to more than 530 million ticket transactions in 2015?\nRather than coming in and asserting a strong point of view on mobile, digital, cloud and how they can all come together to create new customer experiences (which he had), Mulkey took a different approach: He started out by interviewing people; dozens of people from all across the company, with different roles and points of view.\nDon\u2019t get me wrong: I haven\u2019t walked back an inch from previous assertions of the power of \u201coutside in\u201d thinking, but Mulkey\u2019s story got me thinking. It even crystallized a new insight about the power of establishing shared context.\nWe all know that the market context has changed since the rise of the smartphone, and that it will continue to evolve as the dominant mode of interaction moves from apps to bots. What Mulkey\u2019s story shows is that the same is also true of the people within incumbent enterprises.\nAny one person may lack the context of a technology expert, but that doesn\u2019t make them clueless. They are still people living in the new digital world, working to make business transactions happen within the constraints of existing systems, tools, and processes.\nWhat\u2019s more, while \u201cline staff\u201d may lack the context of senior executives \u2014 because (by necessity) they spend their day focused writing code or onboarding a partner \u2014 the opposite is also true. It is impossible for senior executives to experience the context that each seam and fault line manifests in the day-to-day work of thousands of employees across hundreds of roles.\nTalking to both gives you the necessary context for understanding how to make proposals that everyone can rally behind. In effect, it\u2019s how you establish shared context.\nShared context is about more than just sharing a vision. It also entails moving the organization to embrace a new level of openness \u2014 one where all of the data and metrics that offer insights into the organization\u2019s shared vision are widely available.\nThis is where empathy and APIs meet.\nWhen you do business through modern APIs you can \u201cmeasure everything.\u201d Every API call, revenue-share transaction, pay-for-use transaction \u2014 you name it \u2014 can be tracked and reported in real time (or close to it). This makes it possible for everyone to not only share the vision, but also track the organization\u2019s progress towards achieving it. In other words, APIs can make it possible to give everyone access to a moment-by-moment, role-by-role feedback loop with accountability for decisions \u2014 without all the red tape.\nCloud compute cycles and other technology tools are available to everyone as a service. The CTOs that make a transformative difference are the ones who succeed in catalyzing a new way of working and a new level of comfort \u2014 from top to bottom \u2014 with all that the digital era makes possible.\nThat\u2019s the lesson I take away from my conversation with Ticketmaster\u2019s Jody Mulkey, and it\u2019s one I hope to evangelize to others, as well as emulate myself.