Why the whole really is greater than the sum of its parts, and why we have nothing to fear.
Digital transformation is everywhere. Organizations ranging from multinationals to small locals are all looking to revamp their businesses to suit the modern world. However, this transformation is laden with challenges. People don’t like change, so in addition to addressing financial and strategic concerns, businesses must also consider the human factor. How do you propel such a drastic change forward without stepping on too many toes?
When it comes to employees, the greatest impediment by far is finding a way to overcome fear. According to the Harvard Business Review people are prone to resist change for reasons ranging from fear of loss of control to fears about competence. When it comes to digital transformation, a study commissioned by Microsoft revealed that 61% of employees were anxious about the introduction of new technologies. Time and time again we see a clash: on the one hand going digital is of immense value and even necessary, and on the other hand organizations face a sturdy wall of resistance.
Walking on eggshells or pretending the problem doesn’t exist won’t stop it from serving as a huge roadblock in every organization’s way. Instead of belittling the issue, management needs to give digital transformation’s bad reputation the attention it deserves.
Going digital is necessary, but organizations face a sturdy wall of resistance.
To increase appeal among employees, what digital transformation needs is good old-fashioned PR.
It’s not replacing, it’s enhancing
Digital technologies shouldn’t be presented as tools that take something away. Instead, emphasis should be placed on what employees can gain. For example, instead of saying “you won’t be doing X anymore,” shift the language to something like “you’ll be doing more of Y.”
This is good since for the average person, losses hurt. In fact, people are twice as sensitive to losses than they are to gains. So while the threat of loss can be a good deterrent if you don’t want someone to do something, it can have the opposite effect if you’re trying to convince them to cooperate.
Frame the narrative the right way
Reframe the problem by changing the narrative: Digital technologies aren’t going to replace you- they’re here to help, to make things better.
The integration of technology and machines needs to be understood as a collaboration whose aim is to empower employees to do more of what they do best. In fact, a Harvard Business Review study involving 1,500 companies concluded that “firms achieve the most significant performance improvements when humans and machines work together.”
One way to bring this to light is to introduce the concept of collective intelligence. Collective intelligence, also known as a supermind, is something that can emerge from a group that includes both people and computers. It’s what arises when we take the best capabilities of humans alongside the best capabilities of machines.
Let’s think of collaboration within the framework of intelligence. While intelligence has many definitions, one definition is the ability to achieve goals. According to Deloitte, “machines tend to excel at what is known as specialized intelligence, or the ability to achieve specific goals in specific situations. People on the other hand are superior when it comes to general intelligence, or the ability to achieve a wide range of goals in a wide range of situations.”
According to Thomas Malone, a professor at MIT, “even the most advanced AI programs today have only specialized intelligence…in contrast, even a five-year-old child has more general intelligence than the most advanced computer programs today. A child can carry on a much more sensible conversation about a much wider range of topics than any computer program today and operate more effectively in an unpredictable physical environment.”
While machines may become increasingly skilled, their skills are currently limited in scope. Three areas where there will be continued, and even increased, need for human competencies include general intelligence, social intelligence, and physical intelligence. Working alongside machines can only encourage us to strengthen these attributes which are uniquely human.
“We have spent way too much time thinking about people versus computers, and not nearly enough time thinking about people and computers. Way too much time thinking about what jobs computers are going to take away from people, and not nearly enough time thinking about what people and computers can do together that could never be done before.”
-Thomas Malone, MIT professor
It’s all about empowerment
Digital technologies are not detracting from employees’ worth. Rather, they are empowering employees to do more of what machines cannot do, more of the things that make us uniquely human.
More creative thought, more communication, more expression, more emotional intelligence.
It’s quite possible that excitement will eclipse or even replace fear once we recognize all that we can do with machines by our side. What’s more, we may even find more people discovering meaning and contentment in work. Now that’s an idea worth promoting.
Digital transformation=organizational evolution
Digital transformation is, quite frankly, unavoidable and inevitable. But it’s not enough for organizations to buy the tools and set up the infrastructure. When it comes to their greatest asset, their people, organizations must lay down a reliable foundation before taking the leap.
People can make or break any organizational plan. So instead of letting them run through all their fears a million times over before you even get started, put time and effort into conveying to them what digital transformation can mean. More specifically, not just what it can mean for the organization but also what it can mean for them, as people.
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