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Digitisation: breaking the cultural resistance!

It’s widely commented that one of the biggest reasons digital transformation programmes fail is internal resistance to change. Most organisations don’t have a culture that naturally embraces such impactful disruptions to the norm.

Kodak’s invention of the digital camera in 1975 is often cited as a case in point. What we now know to be one of the industry’s most significant shifts, internal resistance to change led the company to bury the idea because it threatened the company’s legacy film business. By the time the company embraced digital, it was too late. A titan of its industry saw a dramatic fall from grace as a result.

That was then. Today’s businesses face much more disruptive levels of innovation and change, and at a relentless pace – it is now far riskier not to change.

Even for those businesses who do commit (the economic drivers for digitisation are of course very clear), once the vision is created and the consultants have left, transformation needs to be embedded into the very fabric of day to day operations – into the culture and how people make decisions. These are organisation-wide initiatives, and without the belief and support of the whole organisation, they will fail.

In many cases, this requires a fundamental shift in how people think, interact, collaborate and work. They need to feel part of the journey, understand the contribution they are making, and feel empowered and motivated to drive their activity towards a common goal – day in day out.

Technology needs to therefore play as central a role in enabling the cultural shift, as it does in driving digitisation itself.

Consider for a moment how the concept of a ‘digital twin’ has enabled manufacturers to bridge the gap between the physical and digital world, learning lessons and identifying opportunities in a virtual environment to then fuel innovation in the physical. Through the explosion of IoT this concept is gaining much wider adoption outside of that industry, and is in fact named as one of Gartners top 10 strategic technology trends for 2017.

Consider then a digital twin for how a business enterprise actually works. As a way of operationalising the transformation journey. Use it not only to make better decisions, but to connect people around a common objective and make them feel part of the plan. Each individual can see the whole, can see the contribution they are making, and are empowered to drive value around a collectively understood outcome.

None of this is news, but unless organisations turn and tackle this head on, cultural resistance will continue to impede the realisation of the digital dream.

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