Musings (1) on 'doing' vs. 'being' digital

There is a lot of discussion and debate about digital transformation, the emergence of the digital age and what this means for managers and leaders.

For a long time, we have been ‘doing’ digital. From the technology we use, the processes we have in place, and the services we provide to customers, the mindset is how do I take the old version and “put it online” or automate it.

The CIO and the IT department have been at the heart of this work. Growing and changing their skillset along the way to deliver these incremental changes.

Some non-technology teams have adopted alternative ways of working and use technology to reimagine their services. The mindset often remains that they are doing something that is digital rather than understanding what is to be an employee in the digital age working in a digital organisation.

One example of this difference that highlighted this to me recently was a conversation about switching a training course from classroom delivery to a virtual session.

With a ‘doing’ digital mindset, the focus is on how you take the classroom experience and replicate it in the online world. There are advantages and disadvantages to deal with. Technology has its limitations and creates barriers. We add novel approaches and people can experiment with the content and delivery using a new toolset.

When you approach this with a ‘being’ digital mindset, the view is much broader. Not only are we thinking about the technical challenges (will we be able to hear everyone, will the connection work, etc.) but what this means for the participant.

When you walk into a meeting room or classroom most people will give and receive visual clues about how they’re feeling. Small conversations will happen and they will break the ice. Unfamiliar names from your organisation become actual people you can trust. The digital leader is thinking about how they create this experience in the online world, not just can you deliver the training online.

Another example comes from the end of the course, especially if you’re delivering soft-skills training. When you’re attending virtually, when the session ends so does your connection with your peer group. In classroom training you walk out of the room with someone, you have a journey home to reflect or you’re seen to be struggling with a concept and someone will pick up on that. If the training has challenged you, then you can deal with it. For many people as the virtual session ends they will walk into family life, or living alone having no-one immediately at hand to pick up on their reactions.

The digital leader isn’t about the person who can do digital delivery, it is the person who brings together their understanding of the digital tools, the digital age, empathy for the human and considers all these things. When this happens, we move from ‘doing’ to ‘being’ and then the benefits of digital transformation are not just focused on disruption and survival but taking advantage of this new normal.

More examples of what it means to be rather than just do digital to follow...

Written by

An experienced senior digital business leader with experience of delivering transformative change.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store