November 4th, 2019
Digital transformation is mostly about human transformation
About 2 weeks ago I was at a very interesting conference about digital transformation. Anyone in business that is not talking about digital transformation is told that they are missing the (business) boat. Often the story goes like this: “we are not doing enough to change, the competition is overtaking us with their digital tech platforms, we must act fast.”
I have always said that this change is mostly a human ‘problem’. Technology changes so fast that it’s hard for us to adapt to new digital ways of working.
Business focus in Digital transformation often emphasises the digital aspect. It seems we are conveniently ignoring the human part, which by the way is the most important part, because you need people to have the skills to adapt to make it a success.
Burnout, digital transformation, and AQ
I don’t need to tell you about the high levels of burnout in this day and age, but too speedy transformations are hard to process because we are just not robots.
That brings me to my point of the IQ, EQ and AQ. Having good emotional skills pays off in business, IQ is a part of the puzzle as well. But in this day and age it is the Adaptability Quotient, the AQ, that will allow us to go through the transformation in the digital age successfully.
How do I embrace Adaptability, what should I do?
Change is inevitable in life. If you can embrace change easily you have a high Adaptability Quotient. If not, well, you can improve it 🙂 IQ and EQ matter less in a society where technology changes so fast. So we need to teach our brains to become better at handling change. And a) that’s possible and b) the more you do it, the easier it gets (just like exercise). So how do you do this?
- Change is stressful, you need to accept that. Nobody likes change but since we already said it’s gonna happen anyway we might as well upgrade our brains.
- Practice simulations and try to look into the future. How will your job likely change? Create ‘what-if’ scenarios. What if ‘this’ were to happen, and what if that were to happen? The better prepared you are for future changes and the more scenarios you can dream up, the easier your brain will find it to adapt once one of these scenarios appears in reality. One way to do this is to link each scenario to a course of action (COA) that you could take if the situation arises.
- Let go of ‘old knowledge’ during periods of transformation. In periods of change we want to hold on to the old knowledge we have, to build on that foundation. New times however call for new methods. Often the old way of doing things changes so radically that letting go of the old ways is the most beneficial (but also scary) way of jumping into the new digital world. It’s like reformatting a hard disk and putting new information on it.
- Find the right frame for looking at change. If you feel resistance to change then try to reframe your motivation to embrace the change. For example: if personal development is high on your agenda, try see the changes in the light of upgrading yourself for future jobs. If you value personal relationships at work, think about how change will bring you into contact with new people. How you frame the problem will also determine your reaction to it. And as such, whether it will be a source of stress or a source of inspiration.
- Observe others in your environment both at different levels of the organisation
- Adapt a seeking mindset. Do not think that old ways of working will bring you the same success that you had in the past with them.
- Handle change in small doses. Try to learn a bit every week.
These are both experiences from my own life in consulting business as well as literature, Ted talks and online articles.
Keep in mind: the people that will thrive in the digital era are the ones that can handle the stress of transformation, that have the skills to reflect on the changes. So. Keep Calm, and mind the AQ gap.