Digital transformation has become much more than simply upgrading software and building a new skill set; it’s now a required state of mind, says Paul Leonardi, award-winning University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) professor and Technology Management department chair.
With hybrid work here to stay, artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms increasingly deployed in business and technology constantly advancing, Leonardi’s research insights are more important than ever. With a multidisciplinary expertise at the crossroads of technology, strategy and culture, he illustrates how vital it is for leaders to ensure that they and their workers can effectively leverage the latest technology to maximize team collaboration and organizational success.
Also the director of the Ph.D. program in Organization Studies in the UCSB College of Engineering, Leonardi speaks eloquently on both the technical and sociological aspects of digital transformation. His new co-authored book, “The Digital Mindset: What It Really Takes to Thrive in the Age of Data, Algorithms, and AI” (Harvard Business Review Press, May 2022), gives vivid examples of how employees in organizations with a good digital presence feel empowered to broadcast their work, develop a greater sense of curiosity and communicate more effectively.
“With a digital mindset,” Leonardi says, “you can ask the right questions, make smart decisions and appreciate new possibilities for a digital future, making it feel much less daunting to embrace digital transformation.”
Over the past two decades, Leonardi has consulted with organizations from across sectors about practical ways of improving communication between departments. With a focus on how technology changes the way people work, his methods include teaching leaders how to use social technologies to enhance internal knowledge sharing, structure global product development operations and manage the human aspects of new technology implementation.
Technology is Only Half the Equation; The Other Half is People
Rapid implementation of hybrid and fully remote work has also presented challenges to structuring teams that maximize the capacity for innovation. Leonardi points to relational analytics as an important part of the process. By taking into consideration the connections that exist between people, those relationships can be leveraged to maximize innovation and efficiency within a team.
“The relationships employees have with one another — together with their individual attributes — can explain their workplace performance,” says Leonardi and his co-author in their acclaimed 2018 Harvard Business Review article. “Organizational leaders can look at structural signatures in their companies’ social networks and predict how creative or effective individual employees, teams, or the organization as a whole will be.”
By zeroing in on these relationships, leaders can empower their organization’s talent to support successful and continued digital transformation, with individual contributors learning how to better support their company’s strategic changes and advance their own careers.
The 30% Rule: What You Really Need to Know About Tech
By nurturing a digital mindset, communicating effectively within teams and embracing metrics along the way, digital transformation initiatives become powerful business strategies. But a workforce can feel intimidated by new technologies and become suspicious when they’re implemented. When it comes to easing the pressure some put on themselves to try to become overnight experts, Leonardi says it’s only necessary to have a 30% fluency in a handful of technical topics to develop an effective digital mindset.
“It’s easy to forget that technologies are really just tools for problem solving,” he says. “We have to frame the implementation the right way to get employees excited and not fearful. Individuals need to have a general sense of how a technology works and the vocabulary to ask the right questions from there.” Assuring both leaders and frontline workers, Leonardi says, “you don’t need to know everything, you just need to know enough to be dangerous.”
The first step for impactful digital transformation initiatives and team collaboration is to develop a digital mindset. Stern Strategy Group connects you with renowned thought leaders whose insights, strategies and management frameworks help organizations fuel growth and disruptive innovation to better compete in a constantly changing world. Let us arrange for these esteemed experts to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting sessions, workshops and keynotes.