Let’s imagine you’ve decided to run a marathon.
But instead of drafting a training schedule, adjusting your diet and hiring a coach, you continue living your life just like before.
The days to the race are ticking down, and you happily continue eating fast food and avoid walking any long distances that cannot be covered in less than five minutes by foot. Being woken up by your alarm clock on the day of the race, you put on the shoes you usually wear to work and tell yourself that surely it will be okay.
We can probably agree that this scenario does not sound like a terribly clever plan. However, it seems as if this is how many organizations are still approaching digitalization. Here are three pitfalls we see often:
Instead of aiming for a sustainable transformation of their organisation, short-term projects are designed as ‘cover-your-ass’-strategies – as if eating paleo for three days will put you in the best shape to run a marathon. Often these show short-term gain but are limited in helping the organization attain sustainable progress making them future-proof.
Millennials are brought in to the organisation and placed in fancy new office spaces; however, their reach and power are extremely limited, not allowing them to achieve their potential. Soon enough, management loses interest, because the results are – as is always the case in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) world – rarely quick, easy to achieve and/or obvious. Consequently, the new hires get frustrated by the older employees staring at them like monkeys in a zoo, and inevitably move on.
Sustainable transformations cannot be achieved in the short term. Simon Sinek, author of the book “Start with Why”, describes a concept he calls ‘infinite games’, using athletes’ careers as an example: they work hard to reach a certain goal, but once they achieve what they desire, they very often fall into depression. Sinek attributes this to the fact that athletes approach their careers as a finite game: a game where you win or lose, and then it is over.
We can’t avoid technology but accepting the state of the world today and what we hope to achieve within it requires a new way of thinking.
Now, an athlete’s career is dependent on their physical fitness. This is cut short by nature: we all get older, and there are things that we can only achieve as long as our bodies are young, strong and forgiving. Brain workers, on the other hand, are faced with another kind of challenge: like an athlete, who has to train their physique, we need to build a training regime to keep our minds alert, lively and ready for change. We have to learn to not only accept but embrace constant change, be it societal or technological.
Considering the rapid and ever-increasing speed of technological development and the digitisation of our everyday lives, it would be fatal to believe that this might be a fad. The amount of data we produce every day is simply mind-boggling; 90 percent of the data in the world was generated in the last two years alone. There are 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created each day, but that pace is only accelerating with the growth of the Internet of Things. By 2020, it is estimated that 1.7MB of data will be created every second for every person on earth. Yet it is also estimated that almost 80% of this data is currently not being used.
Digitisation is a fact of our lives. Enabled by the speed of technological development and accelerated by growing customer expectations, it presents a real and very tangible challenge for many organizations. It requires a marathon mentality. Due to the increased connectedness between people and still-growing globalization, the complexity of doing business has increased at pace with technological advances. This means that organisations need to embrace change, and this needs to start at the top.
New healthy habits need to be formed; long-term thinking needs to prevail. If we keep our mind alive, if we consider our ability to cope with change an important asset, we do not have to be told where the finish line is going to be.
It will be up to ourselves to decide how long we stay in the race.