The experience exposed us on several occasions to a scenario in which two companies with similar access to capital and talent have extremely opposite results in their attempts to create value from new technologies: while one is successful and disruptive, the another is shipwrecked in their projects and sees how the train of innovation is going. Where lies the difference between the two? In that the first, without a doubt, managed to develop what is known as digital mindset.
The “digital mindset” is not related to a technological approach or to the implementation of a particular tool: it is a way of thinking about the organization as a whole and encompasses the highest executive level and collaborators in all areas. A widely used definition says that this mindset shift occurs when all members of an organization—including investors—view technology as a critical force in the success of the organization’s mission and vision.
Companies that have a digital mindset incorporated in their DNA seek to understand the future of their business based on data. In fact, the first pillar that distinguishes a company with digital mindset it is, precisely, the ability to analyze what is coming from the point of view of the business model: they do not ask how to implement automation, artificial intelligence or the Internet of things, but rather study how they can deliver products and services with more efficiency and less friction and, based on the conclusions, they analyze how technology can support this.
The human variable
The same goes for human talent. In a company that leads in the digital universe, the focus is on activities with high added value: tasks aimed at enhancing the customer experience, improving business processes or optimizing any aspect of the organization. Among the laggards, on the other hand, remain numerous roles that support administrative, repetitive and low-value-added tasks, such as the closing of financial balances or the control of receipts to manage expenses.
Leadership capable of transferring the digital mindset to the entire team is essential. What skills are ideal in each of the collaborators so that this can be promoted? The ability to adapt, intellectual curiosity, continuous learning, lack of fear of error (this is impossible if the organization itself has not also developed this culture of failure as a learning opportunity) and the ability to aim towards the fulfillment of the purposes to the extent that it aligns them with the objectives of the organization.
Cultivating the digital mindset
Is it possible to grow a digital mindset? There is no magic recipe or infallible formula, but there are a series of behaviors and cultural elements that undoubtedly help. For now, it is essential that the highest level executives are the voice that leads the cultural change. Then, as mentioned, it is important to create a “safe” environment for failures: if people are judged or punished for a mistake, they will not dare to experiment or innovate. One of the words that stands out the most when trying things that have never been tried before is “courage”.
Training programs in digital skills are very important to complement knowledge and modify work behaviors. Even this could be just the first step to start a continuous learning process for human capital. And while training is necessary, it is not enough: it is essential to stimulate talent to use these new skills to create opportunities from data and new technologies such as AI. The highest levels of adoption and buy-in occur when employees are motivated to develop digital competency because they believe in the transformation strategy and feel empowered to help make it a reality.
The role of the CoE
The formalization of a Center of Excellence (CoE) can play a critical role in not only aggregating and measuring digital initiatives, but also in identifying and resolving cultural barriers. Resistance often stems from misinformation: a lack of understanding of the impact of digital initiatives and confusion about where the organization is headed, combined with a sense that the risks and threats to a certain portion of the workforce are tangible and immediate. The CoE can facilitate communication by clarifying the objectives of the digital transformation both in relation to what it means for the organization and the impact it will generate in each of the interested parties.
Another key point to identify if an organization has a digital mindset The real thing is that your business is, precisely, digital: analog processes and archaic ways of doing things are discarded forever: find a way to “fit” new technologies in the old status quo of the business is a path that leads to spending money, getting frustrated -which then prevents progress with other digital initiatives- and continue losing ground with the competition.
Martina Massa, Marketing & Communications Manager of Making Sense
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.