I recently had the pleasure of speaking in Boston at the USA launch of a new book “Reinventing the Company in the Digital Age”. The book was put together by the Spanish bank, BBVA as part of their Open Mind project (see https://www.bbvaopenmind.com/en/)
This was a great opportunity to reflect on how organisations are changing “in the Digital Age”. It’s easy to think of this as just being the impact of technology on the way we carry out our tasks. In fact the Digital Age is as much a social change as it is a technological revolution in the way we work.
Take the example of social media. This has revolutionised the way some people communicate with their friends and colleagues. They share views, express opinions, join in discussions, send congratulations and celebrate life’s achievements without the physical constraints of the “Analogue Age”. They are using the internet to cut through the barriers of time and distance to share experiences with others and make real friends.
So it’s hardly surprising to find that the “Facebook Generation” are much more comfortable than their predecessors in expressing their views through blogs, discussion forums and video clips. They can see the benefits in these being available to a wide audience instantly and being a lasting resource. Compare this with the traditional business meeting with its constraints of time and place. The digital alternative wins out much of the time.
Yet many organisations see social media as a waste of time and insist on cramming everyone’s diaries with inefficient face-to-face meetings. Sometimes, maybe, there is a need to get people together in the same room, but for many business decisions and sharing of opinions there is a better digital alternative.
We are also now living in the age of ‘Skype’ video conversations. I’m amazed at the number of people who use Skype in their personal lives but never use videoconferencing at work. Whilst Skype is free and easy to use, the view on video meetings in the office is still that it’s complicated and expensive. So, again, we have a generation of people living in the digital age at home and turning the clock back when they go in to the office.
So “reinventing the company” has to include radical changes to the way work is performed in the digital age. Not just to use the technology more effectively, but also to keep up with the expectations of the new generation of digital natives. For business to succeed it needs to engage with this workforce, and it won’t do it using out-dated ways of working.