Digital transformation – from a people perspective

2018-08-07

The digital revolution is on-going, it changes our daily lives and affects us all. It creates expectations, possibilities and it can be scary for many. The digitalization and the IT tools change business models and the way we do business. We see new companies that have grown extremely fast and are now larger than many traditional companies. There are a lot of different techniques, the blockchain, e-commerce, artificial intelligence (AI), big data and many other buzzwords for what is coming. All this can be hard to grasp and to see how it will affect and change the way we work and live. One thing that we can be certain of is that it will change.

We have gone through these types of technical changes before, the latest one namely, the industrial revolution.  In these times manual labour is replaced by machines, for example, in the agricultural industry you do not see horses dragging machinery, shovels are not used digging holes or woodcutter’s chainsaws instead of axes. It would make no sense now and would cost too much to go back to the old way. Now, changes are happening in the way we work and do business from a digital perspective.  In 10, 20 or 50 years people will look back and wonder how we managed.

So far, we have used digitalization for automating what was manual before, for example, our access to information and online purchasing, etc.  Noticeable changes that are coming now is when the data starts working for us. Where algorithms and the computers make better decisions than humans since they can gather and process more information. We will have recommendations, direct translating, autonomous drive, etc. For example, on driving cars, I think we will look back and say, “Did you allow people to drive cars?  That could not have been safe.” Imagine that you have a “computer” that only focuses on driving safe, taking in all traffic and will act instantly when things happen to avoid accidents. It will drive better than a human that does many things at the same time driving.

So why is that happening now?  It takes time for the real change to take place, for the digital process which has been ongoing for some time and the infrastructure’s foundation to fall into place.  To find information is easy, instant and cheap. Nearly every person, in these times, has access to a smartphone, which is a microcomputer in your hand.  Change takes time, compared to the first electrical light used in 1880 and only by 1930, electrical appliances became part of daily lives.  At the end of the 19th century, it was hard to imagine what life would be like in 40-50 years.

What is happening now will affect us all.  Our jobs and daily lives will change.  All of us react differently to change, but we need to adapt. If we look back in time, cars were not allowed to go faster than horses and people were afraid to use electricity. ‘Spinning Jenny’ threatened people’s jobs and caused a revolution. Change creates anxiety, some people worry and are resistant while others love and accept it.

We have now reached the point where we have the infrastructure for digitalization.  The technology we have enables us to find possibilities and solutions instantly, but what can we do with this change?  Society will change, including the way we live and work.  New jobs will continue to replace old ones.  To be able to handle these changes, you need to be alert and open to change.  As a leader, you need to understand how a change will affect those around you and how they will react.  You need to have the tools to assist them.  Digital transformation is about handling change and allowing things to be different. Do you know how to handle change? Are you ready for this transformation? Would you be able to say in 10, 20 or 50 years that you took a chance and dared to make the change for yourself and the ones around you?

 

Thomas Pedersén

 

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