Digital-First: Opportunity And Challenge

Digitization is both a challenge and a solution. It enables hybrid teamwork, simplifies and automates processes, and enables entirely new business models. At the same time, it is destroying traditional jobs and lines of business, calling for a new corporate culture and utterly innovation cycles. But what does this mean in concrete terms for companies? Five levers help to ensure that digitization is more of an opportunity than a challenge: creativity, co-creation, flexibility, lifelong learning, and digital corporate culture.

Corona has made it clear to us: Digitization is both a challenge and a solution. It enables hybrid teamwork, simplifies and automates previously complex and expensive processes, and represents an opportunity for new business models. At the same time, however, it is destroying traditional jobs and lines of business, calling for a new corporate culture and utterly innovation cycles. Even if digitization still means primarily translating analog processes into the digital world for several companies, digitization is, in fact, much more than a technical question. In truth, digitization is changing everything.

But what does this mean in concrete terms for companies? How can we solve the challenges of our digital VUCA world, and what do we have to do if we want to digitize our organizations seriously? The following five levers help ensure that digitization is more of an opportunity than a challenge:

#1 Creativity – Leave The Beaten Path

One thing is clear: the companies that were particularly successful during the pandemic were those that were willing to reinvent themselves and make lasting changes – be it manufacturers of paper handkerchiefs who suddenly produced respiratory masks or gastronomic businesses that secured their existence by relying on food switched to takeout, or companies that suddenly expanded their digital marketing and sales channels. They all have one thing in common: they were willing to leave entrenched structures and tried-and-tested business models behind to adapt to a new reality and seize current opportunities. The basis for this? First and foremost, creativity. Because only those who can question apparent certainties change perspectives when looking for solutions and use digital opportunities

#2 Strong Together – The Future Is A Co-Production

However, the digital world of work not only requires creativity to keep up with the rapidly changing framework conditions and, ideally, to be able to anticipate and shape new trends. A new way of working together is needed: if it used to be sufficient to assign tasks to individual employees, which they then processed efficiently, today the creativity that is so important arises above all in a team of heterogeneous specialists. However, these teams formulate their own needs for the new world of work – above all, a management style that creates ideal framework conditions for the groups but leaves them enough freedom and personal responsibility to develop sustainable innovations. However, co-creation does not only exist in one’s own company: also with customers or partners:

#3 Flexibility – Living In Permanent Beta

Flexibility is one of the core concepts of digitization – on the one hand, digital tools offer us an enormous increase in flexibility; on the other hand, digitization also requires mental agility – both from organizations and employees. Because in a digital product world, no finally finished products. Working on databases and other online offerings is iterative. The same applies to software. Agile methods were introduced, and teams became increasingly interdisciplinary. For example, at the Haufe Group, the editorial team, software developers, marketers, and product developers often work together in joint teams.

Departmental boundaries have been dissolved. And change continues: by definition, developments never end because when customer needs and market requirements change, the organization has to adapt: ​​living in permanent beta. Being incomplete and trying something new is a constant challenge for companies and employees, also because it often only becomes apparent in retrospect which steps were successful.

#4 Lifelong Learning – New Knowledge More In Demand Than Ever

Digital communication tools, new programming languages ​​, or automated, machine learning methods – knowledge is the most valuable asset in a digital, networked world. The same applies to knowledge and any valuable asset: we never have enough of it. People and organizations always have to learn new things to react to changing market conditions and customer needs permanently. Because when the world is turning, standing still is not an option because otherwise, people and the companies they work for will lose their footing.

But the way people access information and acquire new knowledge is also changing in the digitized world: Employees inform themselves independently, flexibly, and context-dependently and use interactive, hybrid learning offers an asynchronous format such as YouTube videos and podcasts. With the knowledge they have acquired, they learn to manage their day-to-day work independently and take on more responsibility for tasks and processes.

#5 A Digital Corporate Culture – Mindshift On All Levels

Anyone who digitizes changes the organization because digitization is a cultural and not a purely technical question. For this reason, in addition to an optimal digital infrastructure, companies above all need a digital corporate culture. In this, managers and employees live an open and creative togetherness in which they inspire each other, exchange knowledge, and work on new solutions, ideas, and innovations.

In this process, hierarchies that have manifested themselves in the company pyramid can also dissolve. Courage and the willingness to make mistakes when experimenting are the basis of this digital corporate culture. Companies and their employees must be willing to learn and promote daily learning. Cooperation, Openness, and flexibility are the key to successful digitization. And thus to the future viability of companies.

Conclusion: Even In A Digital (Working) World, It Depends On The People

Digitization has completely turned our world as we knew it upside down. But even if the digital tools will significantly shape the future of work, the five levers clearly show: In the end, it is still the people who live the change and play a key role in shaping it. You make the difference. And they make it successful. To do this, companies not only have to change their structures and rethink their management style. It is essential to create technical and social framework conditions where teams can freely exploit their skills and potential. Only this way can people become genuinely effective and companies flexible and adaptable.

Also Read: What Will 2022 Bring For The Digital World?

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