We are witnessing dramatic shifts in the workplace in the digital age. Millennials have become the largest segment of the working population. Different generations work side by side in a diverse, globalized business environment. Organizational hierarchies are flattening. Work is getting chunked into digital pieces that can be executed by someone in any part of the world. Performance management and feedback systems are becoming real time. Bell curves are going out of fashion. Automation and artificial intelligence are spreading into the domain of cognitive jobs and challenging the role of humans in the workplace. To be successful in the era of accelerated change, individuals and teams must embrace new work practices to adapt and excel. Here are five principles individuals and teams must adopt to embrace digital change.
Be the change
We know that change is hard. We are hard-wired to remain sceptical of the unknown. This state of mind favours the status quo and produces a negative force to act against change. Digital transformation is both relentless and inevitable. We have a choice to make: Do we want to be victims of this change or do we want to play an active role in shaping the change? Successful individuals and teams do the latter. They constantly question the status quo and are quick to unlearn old ways of working and learn new habits. To do this, one must become hyper-aware of changes, cultivate the habit of intentionally changing things and develop a healthy bias towards action.
Stay aligned to the purpose
It is very important for individuals to realize that they are part of a large, moving ecosystem of work. Getting a deep understanding of the big picture enables one to contribute in extraordinary ways. Even when the current role is at risk due to digital technologies, one will have adequate understanding of how else value can be added and what new capabilities one should develop. Go beyond your current role and understand how your work is playing a part in the overall value creation process. Identify new opportunities to contribute outside your realm of work.
Embrace intelligence systems
Chess grandmaster Gary Kasparov in his scintillating TED talk makes an ardent plea to embrace intelligent systems instead of fearing them. His wisdom comes from his own experience of losing to the IBM Big Blue supercomputer and years later, humans making a comeback in the 2014 Freestyle chess championship where the human and machine combination systematically beat the machine. When deployed intelligently, technology can expand the reach and impact of individuals and teams. For this to work, individuals need to be proactive in embracing new technologies and experimenting with innovative ways of working.
Pick progress over perfection
Most of us like to showcase only our best work to the world. This comes from years of conditioning where we are rewarded for delivering the best quality work. In today’s business environment filled with uncertainties, this way of working comes with a huge risk. By not including others early in our work process, we are robbed of critical insights that would have helped increase the chances of success. By the time we deliver, there is a risk we have produced the wrong thing or have missed the opportunity to learn. Instead, do work in small, incremental chunks that allow you to share your work and gain crucial insights sooner than later.
Connect and share
Today one can connect with experts, colleagues and thought leaders like never before. Online resources are available in abundance. Despite this, very few individuals leverage the full potential of digital resources. To do this effectively, individuals must find ways to bolster their reputation in their area of work. This is not a one-time activity, it is a commitment to constantly add value to others who may be interested in one’s area of work. The more one shares insights online, the more one can build a meaningful professional network. When used well, the network can point you to the right resources to get ahead. The network, in other words, is your superpower.
To sum up, the best way to deal with digital change is to take charge, find a purpose, add value, embrace intelligent systems, produce iteratively and leverage the power of the collective.
Rajiv Jayaraman is founder and CEO of KNOLSKAPE, an end-to-end learning platform, and author of Clearing the Digital Blur.
Work in the Digital Age discusses the skills and capabilities individuals and teams need in the hyperconnected workplace.