‘Survival anxiety’ has overtaken ‘learning anxiety’

Humans are creatures of habit, hard wired to dislike change. Which is why organisational change is difficult, time consuming, often resisted and prone to failure. Organisational Psychologist Ed Schein summed this up as a dichotomy that could only be overcome when ‘survival anxiety’ (the need to thrive) overcame ‘learning anxiety’ (the fear of change).

The need for societies and organisations to embrace and accelerate Digital Transformation (DT) has formed the lynchpin of serious discussion for several years; indeed, Gartner as a major business influencer pushed the cause in 2016 by making 105 research papers on DT available to its subscribers. Nevertheless, those organisations who have truly embraced DT are still regarded as the ‘early adopters’ (e.g. the ‘FAANG’ tech companies). The ‘majority’ has been far less willing to give up tightly held attitudes and behaviours. Those organisations that have started down this pathway have often faced active or passive resistance from senior management, middle management, operational staff or all levels of the organisation. Put simply, organisations have, thus far, been able to survive without having to overcome their reluctance, or fear, of change.

Digital Transformation is inevitable – how well you harness it matters.

As leaders start to make sense of their organisations in a context, and post context, of COVID-19, there is a forced need for society, organisations and human beings to adapt to Digital Transformation in order to survive at a speed unthinkable before COVID-19. As Ginni Rometti, Executive Chairman IBM, said recently on BBC Newsnight:

‘There will be business transformation and it will need a new set of skills…The jobs people return to are likely to be more integrated with and supported by technology. Just a few months ago, such comments could have seemed like the aspirational vision of a tech company selling its products and services.’

Digital Transformation change is deliverable with the right tools.

If evidence is needed that reluctance to change can be overcome quickly, then look no further than the accelerated use and integration of Zoom, which interestingly is rapidly turning into the shorthand and catch-all verb for any form of virtual on-line conferencing into ‘routine behaviour’.  But this is just the start. Human society across geographies are likely to have to change working cultures and development journeys of DT within the successful enterprises of the future are inevitable. Put plainly those organisations best able to adopt and adapt to DT are most likely to succeed in the new digital paradigm, post COVID-19.

COVID-19 has brought the developed world to its knees, shattering hitherto successful business models – now exposed for their vulnerability to reduced social contact and their reliance on under-developed technologies. However, these challenges provide the opportunity for those businesses that can embrace DT to flourish based on a new digital reality. As leaders are trying to make sense of the world before implementing ways to minimise the disruption caused, this is the perfect time to focus on Digital Transformation by realising the necessities and means of accelerating it.

Dr Mike Carter is the Chief Scientific Officer at Footdown. Footdown has embedded the power of Sensemaking in software technology to help leaders understand their organisations quickly, effectively and efficiently, framing and supporting their decision-taking. Their focused Digital Trasformation Lens allows leaders to track the core aspects of DT strategy and delivery in minutes with rapid-fire input from their workforce.