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This text was originally posted in InformationWeek on August 2. Addressing the question how we develop our personal digital skills to stay relevant as our own company go through a digital transformation.
Today’s business challenges require diverse teams with new competencies, including the ability to collaborate effectively across organizational borders.The digital transformation provides challenges for both businesses and employees, where businesses make strategic shifts to protect incumbent positions and leverage inflection points to wade into new areas. And while the transition brings change and uncertainty, it is also an opportunity for employees to build new skills in the areas relevant to the digital future. Focusing on three key areas will ensure you keep your skills relevant for the new digital workplace.
Learning is more important than knowing
The digital world moves fast and into uncharted territory, creating a need for you to adapt quickly and intelligently. Your ability to learn is put in a new perspective. The traditional way of doing business saw stability, allowing employees to know something and expect it not to change without warning.
Today you need to be prepared to learn daily, challenge how things were done yesterday based on today’s experiences, and get ready to apply learnings to approach work tasks in a different way tomorrow. The best learners master questions rather than answers and accept that what we do is evolving and how we do it is evolving. By being curious, you will learn faster than your peers.
Your choice comes down to the difference between knowing and learning. Knowing something well is great when the ask is to perform a repetitive task in a stable environment over and over again. Learning from experiences is a superior skill in the digital world.
Digital innovation means collaboration
The complexity of problems has increased exponentially with the digital transformation, while the time available to solve problems has decreased. Pre-digital transformation, businesses dealt with simpler problems, usually confined to one area. In the past, keeping information to yourself and your team could provide short term advantages internally or towards customers and could be shared later or with a restricted mail distribution list.
Today’s challenges require diverse teams with different competencies, the ability to collaborate effectively across organizational borders, and last but not least, master digital collaboration tools. Sharing information has become a necessity, with secrecy being more damaging than helpful. Great innovation contributions can come in many shapes and forms, from the idea maker and the sound skeptic to the prototype producer and the team scaling proven offerings.
Additionally, digital innovation has a strong anchoring in customer problems with an outside-in driven innovation processes centered around the customer. Defining innovative customer offerings benefits from teamwork as it’s a Herculean task to define why and when customers are interested in something and what they may be interested in in the future.
Understanding the new measures of success
The number one priority in the new world is to understand a customer and their business needs better than they do. Success does not come from what the product does, but the results they drive. The digital world brings a reality where you need to dig deep into understanding both the jobs to be done and the associated metrics; that means starting early with a hypothesis then gradually refining your understanding by testing in real-world situations.
This shift is large for many of us. It is not enough to ask customers what they need today. You need to spend more time on your own thinking to figure out what they need tomorrow. As the digital world is more numbers driven, your ability to identify both the relevant metrics and what the target measure should is crucial. The digital world is not black and white. You need to be able to work more with different shades, of grey, where you take many small decisions and gradually refine your understanding.
Don’t expect all personal development guidance to come from above
Your final challenge is to take a strong personal ownership for the development of your digital skills. Once your managers and your business start to move it will be too late to start your own journey. Look for digitally advanced role models in your company and ask them what they do. Look at younger digital natives and take advice from them about what they value the most. If you are already on the leading digital edge, offer to reverse mentor senior members of your organization. Make sure early on to become a part of the forward leaning movement in your business and be prepared to commit 15-20 minutes per day to develop in new areas before the business demands it.
It all starts with digital courage and digital diversity
Your digital courage will be the key to push your digital boundaries. And to do it in a team where you and your peers have complementing digital skills. The digital future requires a variety of skills from becoming a digital influencer to build your company’s digital profile and mastering in customers relations to pushing the innovation envelope strategically and evolving an offering or a business model perspective. It is not realistic to aspire to become great in all these areas, but your ability to add to the digital diversity on your team is the key to your future career.