Managing, Leading & Personal Effectiveness

The Role of Vulnerability in the Digital Age

The Digital Transformation Agenda

We hear and hear about ‘Digital Transformation’ and ‘Digital Maturity’ – ways in which companies and organisations both get ahead and stay ahead using digital technology. Technology makes companies more agile. Technology creates the data that drives more rapid decision making so we can ‘pivot’. Data becomes a ‘single point of truth’. Hybrid working is made possible with ever more functionality that we adapt to make our work more collaborative as we work together on digital initiatives. Products and services are either purely digital or enhanced by digital functionality. Onwards and upwards we go. Or do we?

The Typical Response

Organisations respond to the digital imperative by investing in technology. They worry (rightly) about legacy systems and technology debt. They upskill staff to gain technical mastery. They reskill staff to move into technical jobs. Ever more (and more) papers are written about digital skills gaps, despite best attempts to close them. As these papers point out, often using evidence from surveys making them authoritative, digital transformation (or Dx) is not easy. So, given all this attention and effort, we must wonder what is missing?

Technology as personal

Interestingly, at a personal level, we respond to technology easily and quickly in our personal spaces. Phones are intuitive. The value to our personal lives of our favourite podcasts, the ease of checking spending on our phones in banking apps, checking in for plane trips, is clear and compelling.

In organisations, the link to value can be so less clear. For a start, it might not be our personal value. We do not directly benefit from engaging with technology. Instead, the value accrues to a colleague. For example, a sales staff member might not be that motivated to keep a CRM system up to date for the benefit of a portfolio or senior account manager. The value of data might feel less clear if the system creating it is beyond reach at lower levels of the organisation, or the functionality around it is less easy to use than a familiar spreadsheet. Managing well-being in hybrid models is new so we know less about it than technology that is personally used, meaning the relationship with value is hotly debated.

Our QA perspective

Responding and adapting to technology in organisations can be scary. We can feel vulnerable in ways that we might not in our personal lives. The stakes seem higher. Our career, after all, is a function of our use of technology. Yet we know that shared vulnerability is important as in worlds disrupted by technology, we need to know when and how to be different. If we know others are vulnerable, we can own the vulnerability and construct shared ways of managing it*.
We can talk openly about what functionality we do not use or, do not even know exists, to explore more with curiosity. We can share ways in which we used to work with spreadsheets and transfer them to Power BI or the equivalents. We can openly talk about what data we trust and do not trust, despite investment in systems. We can talk openly in psychological safe spaces about emotions as we learn to adapt to technology and so manage our emotions more productively. We can lean-in to the possibility of new value chain configurations and disruptive business models.

Our Learning at QA takes vulnerability around technology seriously. We have solutions that allow it to be talked about, shared and acted upon. Contact us if you would like to understand how our learning solutions incorporate emotions. Our longstanding Managing, Leading and Personal Effectiveness portfolio means we understand the people side of digital transformation. Contact us to find out more about our specific product that helps manage personal change and vulnerability through digital transformation.

*Corlett, S., Ruane, M. and Mavin, S., 2021. Learning (not) to be different: The value of vulnerability in trusted and safe identity work spaces. Management Learning, 52(4), pp.424-441.

Corlett, S., Mavin, S. and Beech, N., 2019. Reconceptualising vulnerability and its value for managerial identity and learning. Management Learning, 50(5), pp.556-575.

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