Marc de Fouchecour: Digital culture – learning to ride a bicycle does not happen by doing quizzes or watching videos!

Guest post by Marc de Fouchecour (Nextmodernity)

mardefouchecourThe digital transformation of a business takes place through its employees and managers who are called to become engines of this transformation.

They need more support to understand the digital impact on their occupation and their business models, as well as training in new methods or tools. Yet it is through the practical use of these tools as part of their daily work that they will acquire digital knowledge.

Our approach at Nextmodernity to training in digital culture is based on six beliefs:

There is no digital maturity

Each individual’s goal is not digital “maturity”, which implies a mastery of tools or models, but rather releasing the grip to allow for discovery and trial/error which consolidate experience and curiosity thus motivating change. Rediscovering part of one’s childhood, playing with technology and what it enables you to do is an essential element in any training.

David Bohm wrote, “The ability to perceive or think differently is more important than the knowledge acquired,” and it will be more difficult to abandon old habits than acquiring new approaches.

The aim is not so much to learn new things, but to switch to new modes of relationships and work.

Digital literacy is a personal experience, and the change is voluntary

“It’s not that people do not like to change; it’s just that people do not like being changed,” said Richard Teerlink, the head of Harley Davidson.

One must reveal the associates’ internal motivations to change (curiosity, employability, conviction of improving one’s work, etc.) because external motivations will have no lasting effect. Likewise, being aware of their doubts and obstacles will help smooth the digital way.

Each individual’s path to a digital culture is unique and depends on:

  • his/her function within the company, internal or external, technical or relational, management or operational;
  • his/her personal profile: introvert or extrovert, with a preference for speaking or writing, receptive to images or words;
  • his/her level of personal use and natural appetite for digital technology;
  • his/her own choices and goals;
  • his/her management of time at work or spent interfacing between work and home, or his/her personal time.

Change is as much collective and individual

First of all the digital age is a company-wide culture. It is no use to train your salespeople if the employees who design, manufacture, repair or organize do not go at the same pace or in the same direction.

Digitally inclined employees will be ineffective and frustrated if their managers do not share their inclination, and vice versa.

The goal for the company is not only to change each employee, but the company as a whole. The collective aspect of change is important because the digital aspect acquires meaning in the multitude, collaboration and networking of people; what matters is the relationship between people, a condition for success in the digital era: employees interacting with one another, associates interacting with customers and suppliers, but also interaction between customers.

Training should also be a relationship and network construction device.

The format is key

“The message is the medium,” wrote Marshall McLuhan in 1964. With digital reality, this truer than ever: formats, modes of dissemination and sharing of training elements contribute as much to the progress towards a digital culture as the content itself.

The pace and diversity of modes of intervention (face to face and online, asynchronous and synchronous, individual and group, in the daily work and outside) are involved in the learning of digital culture and its dynamics.

The digital age upsets the established order: move fast, with patience

Going fast is a necessity as time is running out to not be “uberised”; digital culture becomes effective when it is shared by many; the coexistence of conventional and digital mode should be as short as possible to avoid the effects of contrast as an acceptance threshold is not reached: coexistence of persons, groups and modes of work and “old” and “new” management, which can take conflict or inconsistencies to the next level.

On the other hand change in people – especially regarding their role within the company – takes time, requires patience, listening skills, and ultimately adaptation.

How to solve this paradox? The application of the first network effects – the revelation of digital pioneers and the emergence of knowledge sharing – will feed pilot projects that will have the time to show their effectiveness, without upsetting the entire structure. Adjusted support – peer to peer listening, reverse mentoring, testimonies, etc. – can reduce disparities and accelerate change.

Training is part of the transformation

Training in the digital way makes no sense unless it fits into a more universal project and produces lasting – and measurable – effects on the associates and the organization.

Indeed the implementation of a program of digital empowerment is a factor of acceleration and securing for the company’s digital transformation program, highlighting obstacles and aids in transformation, potential champions, new training needs, generizable ideas or local solutions, and transverse networks of interest (e.g. alumni).

Thus training in going digital must follow the same approaches, rules and dynamics as your target organization: it heralds what will be your digitalized business.

A successful training and support program will strengthen the understanding and credibility of the digital conversion project and the leaders’ ability to effectively carry it out.

Learning the digital way is like riding a bicycle: it takes practice!