For a long time the U.S. has been DK’s most important market, but since the pandemic we’ve changed how we think about it. That thinking is paying off, as we saw sales growth of more than 20% in 2023.

As we all vividly remember, the early months of 2020 were incredibly uncertain. As the Covid-19 pandemic began to unfold, our utmost concern was the safety and well-being of our 800-plus colleagues worldwide. Then we grappled with the task of assessing what lay ahead for book publishing.

Little did we know then that this global challenge would serve as a catalyst for profound transformation—a jolt that would compel us to reevaluate how we work and how we look for new opportunities across the world. By seizing this moment we were able to accelerate the transformation of DK into an outward-looking and digital-savvy business.

Transitioning to remote and new hybrid ways of working had a profound and positive impact on communications, both internally and externally. Hybrid meetings used to be an endless source of frustration for our U.S. colleagues before the pandemic. But the accelerated use of technology to support virtual work leveled the playing field and fostered an egalitarian atmosphere. No longer were our U.S. colleagues the only ones confined to a distant screen; now we all were on the same screen. From this arose a newfound sense of unity and connection that allowed us to move faster and capitalize on more opportunities. Our weekly and monthly gatherings bring together teams from across the world—for lively discussions about potential acquisitions, creative brainstorming for future projects, or aligning on global sales and marketing strategies to launch new authors.

Remote work also brought us closer to our key partners. We no longer need to travel to have brainstorming sessions or business reviews; our customers are just a click away, and our teams have made full use of this opportunity. It also opened doors to new partnerships, making cross-border collaborations more accessible than ever. Our DK Licensing division has more than tripled the number of brands we collaborate with, most of them based in the U.S., and our DK Children’s division has welcomed more authors and illustrators into the DK family than ever before. Surprisingly, we learned that building trust and rapport didn’t necessarily require in-person meetings.

The virtual transformation reshaped our operations and brought exciting new opportunities. We all observed firsthand the remarkable impact it had on areas such as social media and education.

Social media platforms emerged as lifelines during the isolation of the early days of the pandemic. People confined to their homes turned to them for more than just connection—they became avenues for entertainment, creativity, and even discovery of hidden talents. The result? A burst of ingenuity and novel ways to engage with audiences that we hadn’t seen before. Leveraging our global presence, our DK Alpha and DK Adult divisions have had the privilege of partnering with many remarkable creators discovered via social media, extending their reach and delighting their ever-expanding fan bases. Being able to offer worldwide publication has helped many become global bestsellers.

In the world of education, the demand for quality content grew stronger than ever. This shift prompted us to establish a dedicated division, DK Learning. In the span of two years, we have witnessed remarkable growth in the U.S. education market and established connections with educators in ways we didn’t previously think possible.

But it can’t all be virtual. While the pandemic made the world feel more connected in some ways, I still hold a deep appreciation for in-person interactions. This year DK celebrates our 50th birthday, and I look forward to personally connecting with everyone. It’s those unexpected moments that make a team stronger: learning about people’s lives during a sandwich break, or really connecting over a glass of something. Virtual interactions can sometimes be a bit too efficient.

We saw sales growth of more than 20% in 2023

As we look ahead, finding the right balance is key. We want to hold onto the good things we’ve gained, but we also don’t want to lose the essence of what makes in-person interactions so valuable.

Paul Kelly is the CEO of DK U.K.

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