What if digital transformation was more than just measuring our athletic performance, monitoring our blood pressure or speaking to a machine? The hidden part of the iceberg reveals more in-depth transformations, with only little mention by the media or public opinion. The only sure thing is that this is no temporary buzz.
This digital revolution, that we can compare to revolutions in writing or printing, not only affect our tools and uses of them, but also our methods of working and our way of interacting with the environment.
From a human point of view, digital transformation can be approached from three angles: tools, methods of working, and management culture.
1. New tools and new spaces for opening up the field of possibility
Collaborative applications, digital boards or tablets are all tools that allow us to take another look at our way of working together. Tools such as Trello, Slack or Office 365 give us access to new collaboration opportunities. Users will naturally make the distinction between what is useful, and what is superficial.
But the working environment is adapting as well: it’s the extension of digital toolsets and is useful to the principle of collaboration. These creation spaces Digilab, WorkingLab, LearningLab or Fablab, initially intended for marketing or researchers, are now widely available in structures hungry for the “start-up spirit”. The success of such a space resides in its accessibility and its environment: open to all and stimulating, the creation space encourages “productive decompression”.
Whilst improving the working environment boosts problem solving, right now it can’t substitute collective stimulation.
2. Making methods of working and businesses more dynamic in order to gain agility
In a time of great changes, usual working habits are showing limits that favour new methods of working. Co-design, design thinking, co-development, hackathon: all of these share the common theme of seeking out collective intelligence, mobilisation and speed. They are used to change viewpoints, initiate transformation, leave our comfort zone.
Whilst the company may want to apply these methods, it must go from a “mechanical”, centralised approach to a more agile, “organic” working. The principles of the “business of the future” suggest a return to the audacious and potential, to serve a company that believes in its abilities and those of its staff.
Companies must also rethink their models on all levels. Those businesses that share the values of openness and curiosity, and respect for others, will be the quickest to adopt new work codes.
3. Overhauling management styles and company culture for long-term benefits
To become more agile, the manager of the digital era should move away from Taylorist methods by giving meaning rather than orders; rather by motivating than managing indicators; by giving more responsibility than controlling, and allowing decisions to be taken at the right level.
For management, this is a real culture shock that requires inventing new links, to accept newness and risk taking.
Rivalled by evermore powerful machines, humans are condemned to being intelligent, to trust in their intuitions and accept subjectivity. The manager, rather than resisting a supposed loss of power, has an important role to play here, to reinvent their position and find a new interest in guiding their teams.
Faced with the power of the digital phenomenon, in an environment where everything is moving faster: how can we go about it?
To guide humans at the centre of digital transformation, two paths can be followed:
1. Use the power of games
After decades of processisation and rationalisation, the right hemisphere of our brain has gone into sleep mode. By making use of our natural appetite for games, today it is possible to resolve complex equations, to decode the structure of an enzyme (i.e. Foldit), or to take another look at a city’s public policies via a documentary game (i.e. Fort McMoney).
One of the most well-known uses is the Serious Game: imagine an airport wanting to make its passengers aware of the job of air traffic controllers with a simulation game. In just a few minutes, users will have perceived the reality of the job and the airport can justify a delay in flight times.
Using games recreates a rapport and favours interaction with others. The experience and the emotions released when playing reconnect with the brain’s right hemisphere, setting free audacious affects and forces, inciting renewal and creativity.
2. Take the time to get to know your environment without rushing towards the digital diktat
Think about Voltaire’s Candide. At the end of his long journey, our hero realises that no model is universal. This same logic can be applied to any project for change, and will enable the manager to save precious time.
In terms of guiding digital transformation, managing the change must go beyond any “single thought”. Common sense would be to draw on the diversity of different schools and methods for adapting the approach to our digital, including immerged, challenges. There are no set rules, no labels or perceived ideas, but as Candide suggests, we should tend to our own (digital) garden.
All in all, let’s speak about transformations in the digital era rather than digital transformation; ones that are analysed, anticipated, implemented and guided by sought after benefits.
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