Executive Digital Denial

By Vaughn Rachal, Future Point of View


There’s no denying that technology is perpetually accelerating in both performance and function! The changes we’ve seen in the last ten years alone have dramatically altered how the world operates, how people communicate, and how we develop connections with one another.

The exponential speed of change and the technology’s impact over the next 10 years will create winners and losers that seem to rise or vanish suddenly. Performance advancements in processing power, storage, and bandwidth coupled with ever-expanding availability, usage, and evolving social norms with regards to privacy unleash a “Perfect Storm” of potential or destruction on the digital landscape never before experienced in human existence.  How executives respond will make the difference in whether their companies thrive or die in the very near future.

Executives Digital Denial is a widespread disease.  A recent MIT Sloan Management Review of over 1500+ executives pointed out that while 78% said digital transformation will be critical to their business over the next two years, only 38% of them saw it as something on the CEO’s agenda. The study reported that where CEOs have shared their vision for digital transformation, 93% of employees feel that it is the right thing for the organization however only 36% of CEOs have shared such a vision.   EDD is a debilitating disease that may appear in various forms, often hidden from the victim.  A partial list of conditions that may lead to EDD and future business failure are:

Past Success Myopia – this is a condition found in leaders with a lack of foresight or discernment.  They say things like, “we’ve been successful the last fifty years without this or that capability, why should we worry about it now.”  In some, it may manifest in a certain narrow-mindedness leading them to say, “I don’t use this digital stuff and I doubt it that others in our industry will.”

Digital Dyslexia – this disorder is associated with impairment of the ability to interpret social and digital trends typically leading to a failure to integrate digital capabilities into one’s business until it’s too late.  Executives with this disorder may mumble, “let’s wait to see if this digital thing will effect our industry”, or some may stutter that digital technologies only impact B2C businesses…

Low-Beam Syndrome – this malady is tricky to detect.  Leaders that suffer this syndrome on the surface seem healthy; they are working hard on today’s challenges and seldom look any further over the horizon than 12-months.  They are quarter to quarter driven and may perform very well all the way up to the point where they get left behind from lacking vision.

If you recognize any of these conditions, it is advised that you seek help immediately. EDD is a KILLER and very few executives with EDD or the companies they lead will survive the crippling effects of this malady.  Kodak, Borders, Tribune Company, and Blockbusters are just a few of the recent business deaths reported.  EDD even affected Obamacare, yet the Center for Disease Control have failed to include this killer on their radar, though widely observed even in our government.  We expect there will be many more catastrophes on the near term horizon.

The problem with EDD is that when executives hear DIGITAL, many immediately think only of digital marketing or using social technologies, but digital denial can be a much deeper issue that impacts the internal business organs.  Many leaders lack knowledge on technology… period! This leads to them not knowing the impact or effect digital can have in producing real differentiation.  Many fail to incorporate “DIGITAL DIFFERENTIATION” into their strategic planning process to produce competitive advantage.  These same executives see technology as the domain of IT and since they believe that the only digital consideration is marketing very few of them gather a cross-functional team together to explore how digital mastery could better enable their business’ future.

To test for the severity of the problems just ask one of your company’s senior executives whether or not they know what digital assets the company has, where they reside, how they flow through the organization, where the bottlenecks are, how they are used, stored, or backed up, or where and what applications have access to them.  If you see that “deer in the headlights” look or you’re told to go check with IT, retreat quickly and call 911.

EDD is a killer and threatens the life of every business, large and small, B2B and B2C, start-up and established.  If you believe there is an EDD problem at your company, seek help immediately.   Don’t become a victim or enabler of EDD; the cost is severe and often fatal.

By Vaughn Rachal, Future Point of View

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