The digital revolution as a trend has loomed large over every industry for the past decade.
Its exact meaning, form, and impact has escaped definition and continues to confound learning experts tasked with making sense of it all and trying to distill it into a language everyone in the organization can understand.
So let’s start with facts: the digital revolution is very real. Its impact on strategic variables internal and external to your organization’s orbit will be substantial for years to come.
Another fact: Beyond the confines of your organization (whether you’re local or global), the marketplace in which you do business and interact with your customers is already digital, regardless of your organization’s affinity for it.
Now the bad news (…sort of): Research has shown that L&D experts are still searching for a common understanding of what the revolution is, what it's about, and more importantly, how to articulate its meaning in simple terms.
I decided to use my personal and professional journey to bring perspective to the digital wave splashing up on the shores of every upwardly mobile organization on the planet.
Before I moved to Canada back in 1995, I had the privilege to travel all over the world as the son of a diplomat. However, my adult years were spent in West Africa, where I received a stellar education that continues to empower my professional growth to this day. But where we had great professors and a deep and broad curriculum, schools back then lacked the technology infrastructure available in North America. To make a long story short, the first time I actually owned a computer was two months after arriving in Canada in 1995. Starting school in Canada, you can imagine the level of anxiety I felt knowing that to succeed academically or to even hold down a job, computer literacy was critical. I remember heading to job interviews, where typing was a requirement – I can still feel my palms getting sweaty just thinking about it. Ultimately, I would teach myself all I needed to know about computers and basic software applications. Everything would turn out all right, even though I was very late to the game.
The reason for this story is to create a parallel to how numerous L&D professionals currently feel about the digital revolution – very much the way I felt about a technology that permeated every aspect of the new society I was lucky to be a part of, a technology that was beyond important, but confounded me at every turn…until I put things in perspective.
What is the perspective? The best way to understand the digital revolution, its impact, and its basic meaning requires a look at the three pillars it's built on.
The Digital Revolution (much like my old friend the computer) is a dynamic wave that embodies solutions, strategies, and a roadmap which empower organizations and individuals to accomplish three things:
Velocity: This can encompass going from learning to doing faster via a digital learning platform. Or digitally enhanced learning resources that align with the realities of the modern learner – from mobile to native to human capital decentralization….the list goes on and on…
Efficiency: Productivity and a lowered production cost are fundamental aspirations of an investment in digital. CEOs are obsessed with not only igniting, but maximizing efficiency up, down, and across their organizations. Efficiency, of course, powers margins, the precursor to profitability. Digital should be viewed as an efficiency tool that transforms the competitive landscape of your organization.
Information: Before the term “Digital Revolution” was cool, the term “information is king” reigned supreme and still does. Analytics, the backbone of the digital movement is more important today than it ever was. Digital now provides a depth of data that is quite frankly frightening but absolutely critical to succeed and stay ahead as an organization. Data informs strategy and strategy is your vision executed within the logic of a plan (or a series of plans). What do I mean by this? Simply put, the data provided by digital technologies eliminates the guess work from mission critical decision making. Guessing your way to desired outcomes is a dangerous endeavour that typically leads to…..well let’s just say…we all know what happened to the Titanic.
So in closing, when you are asked to articulate the viability of exploring a digital strategy and/or investment, a good starting point would be to pull back the curtains for your stakeholders and say:
“Going digital is critical for our success because organizational efficiency delivered with agility, and powered by indisputable data, is not a 'nice to have,' but should be the bedrock of our go-to-market strategy…that’s if winning is still the plan.”