Digital Transformation more about Will than Skill

Digital disruption is becoming a talent issue for most companies, and it’s a threat that most employees aren’t paying attention to. First, employees recognize that digital disruption is happening. About 90% of employees feel that their industry would be disrupted by digital technologies in the coming years.

But only about half of those who saw disruption as a threat say they are not doing enough to upskill, and third, around 80% of respondents said that they prefer to work for a company that is a digital leader. So, employees recognize there’s a problem; many say they aren’t doing enough but want to work for a company that is a leader in digital transformation. That has the potential to be a real crisis.

If we had to boil down to digital disruption, it’s a simple single takeaway, it would be that digital transformation is more about will than it is about skill. When discussing change, we often bring up the work of Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, who writes about the growth mindset. People with a growth mindset believe skills can be developed with work and effort, which leads to greater success. In contrast, people with a fixed mindset believe that skills are innate, and success or failure is associated with external forces.

Mindset matters

This distinction between a fixed and growth mindset describes a key difference between employees who are successfully addressing digital transformation and those who are struggling. A growth mindset can also happen at the organizational level where the employees work. For example, we asked people whether their organization would be in a stronger or in a weaker position going forward as a result of digital disruption, and why.

Employees who reported that their organization would be in a stronger position indicated that the main reason why was that their organizations were developing the requisite digital capabilities to allow them to compete. In other words, a growth mindset led them to develop the needed competencies. People who reported that they believed their organization would be in a weaker position going forward indicated that the primary reason was because market forces were working against them.

In other words, a fixed mindset led them to believe that digital disruption was largely a force that was outside of their control. We hear elements of this fixed mindset all the time. “Oh, we’re just not a digital company,” or, “I’m just not a technologically savvy person.” People with a fixed mindset feel that digital-ness is an inherent capability of the person or the company. People with a growth mindset believe that these skills can be learned. Interestingly, leadership effectiveness was reported as an important factor for both those who thought they would be stronger and those who thought they would be weaker.

So, the mindset of an employee is a key factor in his response to digital disruption. We’ve heard many employees blame external influences, like short-term stock market expectations, as an excuse for a lack of digital transformation. But we’ve also seen enough examples of strong digital leadership at traditional companies to know that those are just excuses for a fixed mindset. Employees who are succeeding with digital transformation in their careers are those who have the will to do it. This isn’t rocket science, in many cases.

 

It’s all happening so much faster now that employees need new approaches to continual learning. The capability of change needs to be baked in to your  DNA. Before, change was something you did. Today, it needs to be part of who you are.” In other words, the process of digital transformation is really about developing a growth mindset so you can develop the digital capabilities to compete. It’s more about will than it is about skill. 

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