The Why of Digital

WhyThe digital revolution is dramatically affecting our personal and professional lives with both positive and negative effects. Whilst the effects are hard to predict and difficult to control but we can, and should, focus on the outcomes that we want to maximise. We have to decide what the point of digital is, decide why we are to embrace it.

It’s interesting to reflect how the narrative has changed from the futurologists of my childhood predicting that our problem today would be how to spend all the leisure time we would have once technology had taken away the drudgery of life; to the time-poor, always-on-call, information-overwhelm we face today as we attempt to balance the relentless, competing demands of our personal and professional lives, according to the media zeitgeist.

In the corporate world, this revolution is referred to as Digital Transformation, which a CapGemini/MIT study defines as “the use of technology to radically improve performance or reach of enterprises”, “centred on re-envisioning customer experience, operational processes and business models.”

Really, is that it? The massive potential and power of digital is to be harnessed only to make corporations more efficient? Tellingly, the study is titled “A roadmap for billion-dollar organisations” and talks about the How and the What but not the Why. This is a mistake that massively understates the opportunity presented by the digital revolution.

It is, I believe, time to return to the earlier narrative where the impact of new technology (for that is what digital is, simply put) is beneficial to the human condition and our everyday lifestyles. We must not simply implement technology for technology’s sake, or for the narrow demands of the industrial corporation and the post-capitalist economies, but for more profound, enduring and humane reasons.

I believe the Why of digital, in the context of how we apply it to business and companies, should be as follows:

– It should be about creating businesses that better provide better experiences for their customers, yes; but also for their employees, partners, suppliers, freelancers, collaborators, neighbours and everyone they come into contact with. In short, everyone within their ecosystem.

– It should be about creating an open and seamless dialogue within the company, within its ecosystem and with the outside world.

– It should be about creating greater engagement, communication and cohesion.

– It should be about enabling people to work to their strengths and realise their potential by bringing the best of themselves to their work, willingly and enthusiastically.

– It should be about providing transparency and accountability.

– It should be about enabling trust and promoting honesty and integrity.

– It should be about providing individuals with choices and the freedom to fashion their own path.

– It should be about operating responsibly and sustainably, taking account of the needs and rights of our children, our grandchildren and all future generations.

– It should be about bringing more joy and happiness to the workplace and to the world.

Actually, I don’t think this is what digital should be for, I believe it’s what it has to be for. Without this Why, the How and the What count for little.

Digital Transformation will be as self-defeating as all the other change programmes of the last 60 years or so, foundering on the indifference and disdain of the people whose talents have been under-valued and wasted. It is beyond doubt that if the people in your corporation (and, increasingly, its ecosystem) are fully-engaged, aligned and motivated then they will deliver outstanding performance, growth and innovation. Digital puts the ability to realise such an environment in the hands of all businesses, all corporations, whatever their scope or scale, whatever the complexity of their operations.

We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to harness the advances of mankind to actually advance the lives of all mankind. That is the Why of Digital.

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