We can’t escape it.., no matter how hard we try.., modern times will always catch up with us. In a few cases people do manage do without, some because they choose to (i.e. Amish) and others because economics simply don’t reach them, like (very) rural areas.
But, in the western world (and the eastern, northern and southern), it’s inescapable. More and more of our daily lives are digitized. It’s inevitable.
The question is.., how do you deal with this? And do you even want it, or one step deeper, should you want it?
The Professional Side
I had a discussion with John Wenger about this subject and it seemed to us that digital is not always the preferred way to go. However, there is a huge difference between your personal and your professional life.
In your personal life there are some things you can still control, you can switch off certain things. At work, the use of certain tools is often forced upon you, leaving you no choice but to use them, or it. And now, with the onslaught of the digital age, the shift is omnipresent and you, like so many others have to deal with it.
This is does not merely pertain to the individual worker however, they are simply the end-users who have to adapt. The decision makers within a company are the ones whom are really in a pickle. They have to choose the path travelled, the software bought, the consultants trusted and convince/train their employees to make use of that often very significant investment.
And why do they do this?
Because it exists.
Why do you get the latest iPhone? Because it exists. Or at least many people only get the latest version of anything simply because it is the latest version. As is often the case with tech within companies.
They don’t necessarily want to, or even need to, but market driven developments make them to. If a competing company invests heavily in digitising it’s infrastructure.., how can you not? You have to, if only for the reason that ‘they’ do it too. I know it sounds ridiculous, but that’s how many people decide if they need something. The neighbour gets a new car, you need a new car.., heck, it’s why car manufacturers invented ‘GL’ ‘XL’ ‘GLS’ ‘GTI’ or any other badge with which you can show your car is just that little bit more expensive/luxurious/faster than your neighbours.
And ask the question.., are we really getting so much more done by sending all those emails? I doubt it.
Anyway, back to business.
There are, of course, many positive things to say about digital, and I’m not going to bash it, not in this post. This is about the transformation, the digital transformation. Because whether you like it or not, it is happening, and it’s happening at a staggering rate, and if you do not get on board.., well…
See.., this is what I mean. That last sentence, you have no choice. A business has no choice.
It’s evolution, baby!
And, survival is not won by the fittest or the smartest, but by those who are the most adaptive.
And adapting to the digital age is not an easy task. And I hear you say; “But I already use a computer and a smart phone, I am digital, so what’s the problem?”
Many people, especially non-generation-y people still write emails like they write letters.., we start with “Dear whomever…”, then a small pleasantry, a how-do-you-do, then slowly we get to the point, and then we sign the email appropriately with the kindest regards. This is of course very civilised, but not very effective, or speedy. And whenever we get a reply, we print that out, so we can read it easier, and make notes on it.
What I mean is, we use our very analogue mind and layer this upon our very digital tools. We’re not thinking digital.
As a human, I guess that is very difficult to do, especially if you’re old enough to remember black and white TV. The younger generations are much more adaptive, they are growing up with that digital mindset.., one could argue that they almost think in ones and zeros (which of course they don’t). They are learning this digital language from birth, we have to adapt to it far later in life, making it very difficult.
This is the problem many companies face. It’s hard work when the average age of your workforce is closer to 50 than it is to 30. It’s like having a kennel filled with old dogs and learning all of them a new trick. It can be done.., but it takes a while.., and a boat load of treats.
Not All Is Lost
You’ve guessed by now that I’m not offering a solution to the Digital Transformation Challenge, I’m merely acknowledging that the problem exists. And that’s a good place to start.
The good news is that you’re not alone. Whether you’re an individual or if you’re representing a company, you do not have to (re)invent the wheel. Like with most things, most of the time, with most of the people, by the time you think of it, somebody else has thought about too. And usually they figured out how to deal with it.
And luckily, I know a bunch of people who take this exact subject quite seriously. They even create an event around it, the Enterprise Digital Transformation Summit. Formerly known as the Enterprise 2.0 Summit, this is the place where many case studies are presented that show that it is possible to adapt successfully to the modern way of working. It also allows you to connect with like minded people whom are in a similar situation as you.
I know it sounds like I’m selling this event (and I guess, in a way, I am), but it is a serious point.
The digital transformation is too big for any individual to wrap their heads around it. There’s too much at stake, the investments are to large and it can literally make or brake a company.
It is a complex subject, and dealing with all the vendors that our out there can be daunting, not to mention the actual implementation and all its consequences.
So, first step is acknowledging you have a problem.., then.., get help.
And yes, I do know how that sounds (or reads), and no, I’m not making fun of this or any real-world addiction. What I am doing is trying to convey the severity of the issue. The digital gap between the haves and the have nots is growing larger with every new development.
2 thoughts on “The Digital Transformation Challenge”
I love your points, and couldn’t agree more. I am also betwixt and between, and don’t like it. I see companies who do digital stuff that makes very little sense, but they think it’s transforming the world. Digital that is without human sensitivity is sterile, unhelpful, and disengaging. Digital with humanity engages me. Thanks Rogier, thoughtful post as always!
Thanks for the comment and the compliment Maureen. Not losing sight of our humanity in what we do is elemental to our continued survival as a species, digitial or analogue.