October 18, 2016 Peter Gustafson

Challenges and opportunities of the digital paradigm shift

Say what you will about these times, but they’re certainly not boring. Globalisation, migration, and digitalisation coincide as a catalyst for fundamental societal change. Even the solid walls of the office building won’t remain unaffected by this transformation. Cause for companywide concern or window of opportunity? I think it’s up to us!

As the mind-set and values of our old industrial society collide with a digitally connected and social world, any organisation is bound to feel the impact. Many of us entered into the Era of Digitalisation before we had time to adopt new behaviours. The unlimited access to people and information brings plenty of advantages, not least an increased sense of freedom. Working isn’t tied to a fixed workplace anymore. Knowledge is no longer a possession to be stored and guarded, be it in heads or on hard drives. It’s information, it’s free, and you fetch it whenever you need it from sources who are happy to share.

Leaders in both the public and private sector are largely the grown-up children of the closing chapters of the industrial age. In this sense, the digitalised paradigm shift manifests itself throughout the organisation. Obviously as a generational gap, but in the organisational distance between CEO and junior team member as well. The latter is more likely to be a ‘digital native’ than the former. This entails radically differing starting points. Digital natives don’t consider the world the product of a digital revolution, but rather perceive it as naturally digital. For them, using an app for internal communication may come easy, while older colleagues might require time and conscious effort to learn how to use it. Some may even struggle to see the point of doing so. It’s important to recognise that our current workplace encompasses epilogue and prologue all at once, and address these gaps in order to bridge them.

The Workplace Value Differentiator: My model of today’s workplace containing 3-4 generations with different values about work and online networking. This is the starting point of the next phase of business and organisational digitalisation.

The bottom line is that digitalisation presents a social challenge in terms of shared identity, in behaviour and in spirit. Learning new skills is only one part of the adaptation process. Changing old habits is just as crucial, and these are often deeply rooted in the very core of our values. For many of us old-timers, this just might be the bigger hurdle. Staying relevant tomorrow can’t be based on what is known to be productive today, but on the anticipation of and the adaptation to changing needs.

As our society is transforms, its values change, too. The increased freedom we’re enjoying brings heightened insecurity in its wake. Now perhaps more than ever, being part of a workplace plays a crucial part in each individual’s life. The social aspect is a central factor in this equation. But it will require curiosity and daring to keep the relationships intact, regardless if you’re a CEO or a staff member.

Come out on top with my list of handy tips on how to master the challenges of digitalisation:

  • Remember to develop your business according to the needs of your customers – don’t let software companies take the wheel.
  • Create a long-term digitalisation strategy that stretches across several years. From there, you take it step by step.
  • Choose the best travel companions for your journey, then let their abilities inform your priorities.
  • Change takes time. The better you prepare for this, the smoother your change journey will be.
  • Be realistic about your own limitations. Invite younger members of staff to guide you through the change process.
  • Encourage trial, error, and exploration. Set small challenges for yourself and the rest of management. Once you’ve decided on a direction, it’s up to you to blaze the trail!

If you learn how to go with the changing currents, the digital wave can take you further than we’d thought possible a couple of years ago.

Peter Gustafson

Title: Strategic Advisor
Experience: 25 years working with change management
Personal mission: To take the fear out of change
Weapon of choice: The Symbal Change Model
Change anthem: Aerosmith, Dream on
Peter Gustafson

About the Author

Peter Gustafson Title: Strategic Advisor Experience: 25 years working with change management Personal mission: To take the fear out of change Weapon of choice: The Symbal Change Model Change anthem: Aerosmith, Dream on

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