Mindset Over Technology

In my 9 years of helping organisations align ICT activities to business goals, manage risk effectively and stay on top of compliance, my interactions at C-level (CXOs) and Board Level (NEDs) leaves much to be desired. Most C-Suites either do not avail themselves on strategic ICT related engagements or they give very little valuable time to engage. NEDs on the other hand assign their ICT Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) responsibilities to the Audit Committees who in most cases do not have capacity to deal with ICT GRC.

After years of asking myself as why so very little attention is given to strategic ICT matters, I finally got my answer from one CIO after a last-minute cancellation of a virtual meeting we supposed to have with his Executive Managers. He said the problem is with the mindset i.e., way of thinking, a set of assumptions, methods or notations held by the person.

The power of mindset is explained by the world-renowned phycologist Carol S. Dweck where she makes a contrast differentiated between Fixed Mindset and Growth Mindset, and how these are linked to people’s perception of their own abilities. According to Dweck a fixed mindset believes that intelligence is static, and this can become an obstacle to change in behaviour. A “growth mindset,” on the other hand, that thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities.

In the digital world, there is a digital mindset, a set of attitudes, values and behaviours that enable people and organisations to foresee possibilities of digital technology. A digital mindset expands on the key principles of a “growth mindset”, demanding C-Suites or NEDs to be comfortable with the speed of the digital era and be willing to make quick and risky bets instead of slow and safe bets.

This article aims to empower the CXOs and NEDs with ways and means to developing a digital mindset of understanding digital technology, its benefits and using it to improve daily processes, key activities, and above all customer experience in their organisations.

The secret to having a digital mindset as a CXO or NED entails:

  • Agile thinking: seeing change as an opportunity and accepting new ways of working.
  • Understanding pattern: for changes in the VUCA world.
  • Collaborative approach: to create business value in the digitally connected world.
  • Adopting diversity: embracing different ideas even though they are radically different.

Swati Kamath characterises a Digital Mindset as the ability to:

  • Understand the power of technology to democratise teams and processes.
  • Adapt to the scale of output and accelerate every form of interaction and action.
  • Grasp the impact of interconnectedness.
  • Face the shifts and disruptions with equanimity.

Joe McKendrick has laid 5 Rules for Developing a Digital Mindset as a CXO or NED:

  • Always seeking out ways to reuse technology across your organisations.
  • See the cloud as a catalyst for innovation across silos and businesses.
  • Don’t take a wait-and-see attitude, but leap to emerging technologies.
  • Create and enable a workforce augmented by digital technology.
  • Embracing a tech strategy built on systems that are boundaryless.

The Bottom Line

In this Covid-19 era, the most compelling challenge facing CXOs and NEDs, no matter where you are or what your industry, is to prepare your company to win in the digital future. C-suite and NEDs must adopt a digital-mindset. The right “digital mindset” supersedes technology applications and systems in terms of importance. Gartner has developed a four-step plan to instigate mindset change:

  1. Vision: Create a compelling vision that can be shared as a story to inspire and motivate a desire for the change.
  1. Define: Define the key behavioural attributes that reflect the changed mindset.
  1. Implement: Human resources (HR) should also be involved in assessing the viability of the given metrics.
  1. Measure, Monitor and Wait: Allow some time for the digital mindset to mature while measure and monitor the changes.

Digital Technology can do wondrous things for organisations, but by itself, it is just a bunch of machines and code. What is required is human ingenuity to create and act on new ideas, enabled by a corporate culture that encourages open-minded thinking.

A digital mindset requires, CXOs and NEDs to see old problems and old processes with new eyes. It is a different way of thinking about customers, services, and process. It is faster, iterative, and adaptable however, not choosing to develop a digital mindset leads to catastrophic repercussions.

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