Digital Transformation

Digital transformation: An enduring need or just here for a Fortnite?

QA's Head of Organisational Consultancy, Dr Ian Clarkson, discusses digital transformation and the global gaming phenomenon that is Fortnite.

Listen to Ian's podcast here, or read below!

Fortnite. The global gaming phenomenon. Love it or hate it, it appears to be here to stay. Personally, I don't like it, yet my kids and some of my friends love it. Let me say that the fact I don't like Fortnite doesn't make it wrong – it's just my opinion, in the same way I don't like blue cheese, or sandals – lots of people do, it's just my personal preference.

I'm going to be honest and say I caved in to my kids. They were pestering me about going on Fortnite and eventually I let them – thinking they'll get bored of it in a few months' time and go do something else.

I am not, and have never been, a gamer and I guess my initial reticence was as much about them playing online as the content of the product itself. Or maybe it was just about change, and my reaction to doing something that I didn't fully understand. Even when FIFA 19 came out (and my kids love a game of FIFA), they weren't interested in it – their exact words were 'not bothered'!

One positive of Fortnite, however, is I get to watch re-runs of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air to show my kids where the 'Carlton' dance move comes from – still funny, still makes me laugh!

And this is the point of this article. What I thought would be just another novelty, turned out to be here to stay. Is digital transformation the same?

If we take out the word 'digital' there is nothing new when it comes to organisations going through transformation. Is digital just the 'novelty'? Will organisations eventually get bored by it and go do something else – some other form of transformation? My view is no.

Despite digital transformation 'just' being another form of transformation, I do think it will be an enduring need. We don't know for certain what is on the technology horizon, we can scan this horizon and make our best predictions, but they are exactly that – predictions. Going back even 5 years, would we have predicted the technology disruption we are in now? As a result, organisations will have to continue to transform to embrace new technologies, some of which we won't even yet know about.

In which case – are you the organisational equivalent of me and my reaction to playing Fortnite? Are you 'scared' of the change it will bring? And is it a case, therefore, that you will have to 'cave in' to make the change? Is this hesitance holding the organisation back?

I've read a lot of articles recently on digital transformation and they are saying the same thing: it's about developing a digital culture. The digital revolution starts with the leadership team, and talent needs to be developed to meet the changing needs of the organisation.

Talent development is my thing. Building a sustainable workforce of the future is my thing. Creating a compelling employee value proposition is my thing. And these three are not mutually exclusive. Yet is it more layered than it seems.

How will you ensure the tools/processes/systems that may be created are embedded so that they become the new 'modus operandi'? Worryingly, I see a lot of organisations whose talent development strategy is "we leave it up to the individual to decide (and even book) their own learning".

Hmm… can anyone see the huge hole in this approach? The hole that is the disconnect between what learning takes place and the contribution of this learning to the achievement of organisational strategic goals? Helping organisations fill this hole is my thing.

If people in your organisation are used to "doing their own thing", then if a talent development strategy is put in place that says people can no longer do things the 'old way' – how will this be received?

Building a strategy is the easy part – making it 'land' is the harder part. And the part that is often neglected or even overlooked altogether. Throw into the mix that certifications may be the learning someone wants but not be the learning someone needs, and there is very likely be a sense of loss.

There's a bit of the 'endowment effect' in play here – in psychology and behavioural economics, the endowment effect is the hypothesis that people ascribe more value to things merely because they own them. I could even go on to talk about cognitive psychology and decision theory, where loss aversion refers to people's tendency to prefer avoiding losses to acquiring equivalent gains (by a factor of 2).

Is the loss of something people once 'owned' (e.g. choosing and booking their own development) greater than the actual equivalent gains for them, (e.g. targeted development plans to enable them to be more effective in their role, and the equivalent gain being that development opportunities are still be provided to the individual)? If it is – real or perception – then there's work to be done on overcoming these two biases.

Now let's bring digital back into the conversation. As technology continues to disrupt organisations, will there be an ever-increasing need to ensure learning is aligned to achieving corporate goals? I contend this will be the case, as new and innovative learning solutions will be required. I also contend that unless organisations 'fill the hole' between strategy and solution, they will continue to, at best, waste money and, at worst, struggle to survive – as they will not have the capability and capacity to sustain themselves.

So, digital transformation: an enduring need or just here for a Fortnite? Definitely an enduring need.