Why doesn’t technology live up to the hype?

Read the newspaper recently? By all accounts we are about to be overrun by a swarm of nano-drones controlled by machine learning robots as we mindlessly sit in our driverless cars access Facebook through Google Glass. Compared to that vision, our daily experience of technology may be considerably safer, though a little underwhelming. This is not a new phenomenon, since 1986 we’ve been waiting for our hover boards (at least ones that actually hover and don’t spontaneously combust), our self-lacing shoes and time travel…and none of these appear particularly close.

Jason Bardbury Hoverboard

 

So why is there consistently such a gap between the hype of technology and our reality?

 

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There are in fact two gaps: the Hype Gap and the Potential Gap. The Hype Gap is the gap between the hype of technology and its real life potential. Part of this gap has to do with overly inflated expectations we have when it comes to new technology as beautifully depicted in the Gartner Hype Cycle (according to Gartner we are close to peak hype for autonomous vehicles, the Internet of Things and machine learning). A heady mix of sales pitches, misleading news stories, poor understanding and our general excitability we set our expectations a tad high and it is unsurprising that this is ultimately unachievable. According to Gartner, our expectations then drop into the trough of disillusionment before eventually moving towards the plateau of productivity.

The Potential Gap is the gap between what technology is capable of delivering and what we actually get out of it. Whereas the Hype Gap is when technology fails to live up to expectations, the Potential Gap is when we do. The Potential Gap is a combination of not using the digital tools that are potentially available to us and not using the digital tools we already have to their full potential.

I’m not singling you out specifically. The truth is that ALL of us fail to realise the full potential of digital technology. Though clearly there are some people and some organisations doing a better job of it than others…and the results can be significant. Research from Capgemini and MIT from a couple of years ago showed that digital leaders, the organisations that invested most heavily in both digital projects and digital capabilities, were 26% more profitable than their industry average. Conversely, the digital beginners were 24% less profitable.

So how can we close the Potential Gap? Firstly, we can invest in new digital tools. Secondly we can invest in developing technique. The maturing of mobile, cloud and social technologies over the last decade means there are thousands of new digital tools now at our disposal. Each might solve just a small business problem but added together they represent hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars in potential value. At the same time we have existing tools that we don’t use well. One of my good friends Dermot Crowley, author of Smart Work, runs Microsoft Outlook-based productivity training. The incredible demand for his training and the extraordinary results he achieves…using a set of digital tools we’ve had access to for near on two decades, highlights how lacking most people are when it comes to digital skills.

At the end of the day, the reality of technology will never live up to the hype, but there are still things we can do to realise its potential.

Image credit: Stephen Muchmore, Design Agency UK

Want help closing the potential gap? Once a month I host a net-together (like a meetup but without the travel time and parking hassles) for people who want to better understand digital disruption and the opportunities it is creating for businesses.

 

News from the Digital Champions Club

Normally I’m not one for much self promotion but I’ve mentioned the Digital Champions Club a few times recently and want to give you a peek behind the curtain so you can see what’s being going down.

Curious? Read on!

Damn it, I have some other pressing spam messages to delete but what the heck

We held our first Digital Champions Club Boot camp for seven enterprising digital champions at the beginning of March. The event included the extraordinary Mykel Dixon hosting a conversation about culture and purpose, the enigmatic Paul Gaudion discussing digital projects at John Holland and the wonderful Kate Fuelling helping mentor and support members. Thankfully, we also had Dave Dixon there to capture the event on film and he’s pulled together a short video which brilliantly captures the intent of the Digital Champions Club…in under 1 minute. Take a look.

And everything now looks shinier

Whilst this has all being going on behind closed doors we have also been working on changing things out the front. To make it easier for SMEs to connect the dots between their people, work and technology, we’ve just launched a new website (you can check it out at digitalchampionsclub.com.au) and added some great new events…and the first of these is completely free.

Yes, some things are free…

Every few weeks I will be hosting a virtual conversation with small business owners on how to identify the next generation of digital opportunities for their organisation.

You can find out more by visiting the website and clicking on ‘Join in the Conversation’. Each virtual conversation is limited to just 20 participants to give space for interaction and questions so it would be wise to book early to get your preferred date and time.

…but others are not

Apart from the free virtual conversations, I will be hosting a series of breakfasts at the end of May for organisations who want to take the next step in identifying and developing their digital champions. The ‘Breakfast of Champions’ will be held in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane and will cost $79 for a double ticket including breakfast and a copy of my new book The Digital Champion: Connecting the dots between people, work and technology.

We will have the dates finalised shortly, but if you are interested please email me so you are at the top of the list once the events are launched.

Did you say a new book?

Yes I did. Almost a year to the day after publishing Analogosaurus: Avoiding Extinction in a World of Digital Business I am just finishing the final draft of The Digital Champion: Connecting the dots between people, work and technology. In a way the first book was a book for the managers and executives who needed a gentle shove towards embracing a digital future, the second one is a practical guide that shows organisations how to do it.

If you would like to make a small contribution to the book, you could help by giving your feedback on the cover design. I’m currently running a design contest on 99 Designs and you can have your say here.

The crowd’s not that wise…but there is still a lot you can learn

The other day I was talking to a potential member of the Digital Champions Club. He loved the concept but was concerned that his organisations (which worked in software development) might not get a lot of value out of his membership. One of the really cool aspects of the Digital Champions Club is a quarterly peer learning bootcamp where member organisations get together and share information about the digital projects they are working on. Given that he worked for a software development company that was already fairly tech savvy, he wasn’t sure there was a lot he could learn from other organisations in the program.

Crowd

In one sense he was perfectly correct. His organisation would have been right near the top when it came to technology use and if he was to engage one on one with any other member of the program he would probably have more to give than to get out of the conversation. But if he was to compare his organisation to the collective knowledge of ALL the members of the program then it would be a quite different story.

The idea that the collective can determine a better outcome than the individual dates back to 1907 when Charles Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton discovered  that the average of all entries in a ‘guess the weight of an ox’ competition (yes really) was more accurate than any individual guess. We explicitly rely on this concept for a whole bunch of things such as determining the price of shares on the stock market, and determining the odds when you bet on a sporting contest.

Except it turns out that the crowd is not that wise. Firstly we know that stock markets fluctuate and the underdog in sporting contests sometimes wins. In fact recent research has shown that unless very specific conditions are met, such as having a large, diverse and unbiased crowd then their predictions are not that great. Given that the number of organisations participating in the Digital Champions Club is relatively small and not really that diverse* this seems to undermine the value proposition that the program offers. After all, if the crowd isn’t really that wise, wouldn’t you just be better off going it alone?

[tweetthis url=”http://goo.gl/aga0nd”]We are not using the crowd to predict the future. We are just using the crowd to test it.[/tweetthis]

Just because the crowd isn’t that wise doesn’t mean there isn’t still a lot to learn. The difference between the Digital Champions Club and say the stock market is that we are not using the crowd to predict the future. We are just using the crowd to test it. By having a whole bunch of different organisations identifying, investigating and implementing digital projects and then sharing what they have learnt with the group, the whole group is going to learn faster.

I consistently hear that one of the biggest challenges for small and medium sized businesses (and even big ones) is getting good advice on which digital tools to test and deploy. Ultimately, being a part of the Digital Champions Club allows organisations to tap into the collective knowledge of the crowd, rather than the wisdom of it.

*They come from a variety of industries but are mostly small and medium sized businesses
There are still a handful of places left in the first intake of the Digital Champions Club. If you or your organisations want to find out how to tap into the collective knowledge of the Club please get in touch.

Curiosity is the antidote to unlimited choice

If we look at the current digital landscape we are spoiled for choice. There are thousands of options when it comes to hardware and millions when it comes to apps and software. But this wasn’t always the case. For much of the digital revolution choice has been somewhat limited.

Crossroads

Even as recently as 2008 Windows held about 95% market share for computer operating systems but with the rise of iOS and Android this has now slipped to about 50%.*

But not only are we now faced with choice about what type of device to use and what software to use with it, we are also faced with new dilemmas about WHERE we use it and HOW we use it effectively.

Once again, the WHERE bit use to have a simple answer…we would use it in our office. Mainly because most of our old hardware wasn’t really portable and even the portable stuff had a terrible battery life and we needed to keep it plugged into the wall if we wanted to use if for more than 30 minutes at a time. Also, up until about 10 years ago WiFi was still a bit of a rarity and if we wanted to access the Internet we needed to have one of those blue cables plugged into the back.

But the WHERE is now anywhere. We now have the choice to work from our office, on the couch, at the local coffee shop (where I am now) or from home in our pyjamas. The question is no longer where can I work, but where should I work.

The HOW we work is even more complex. In fact, it probably represents a large multiple of complexity over WHERE. The how we work is a complex interaction of who we are working with, what we are working on, where is the best place to be doing said work, and the tools we choose to work with.

But somewhere in all the complexity is the opportunity to do our work significantly better than we do right now. Not because the way we work is necessarily ineffective (though it probably is), but rather that given such a range of new opportunities it seems statistically improbable that there aren’t better ways of doing things.

And this brings us to Curiosity.

The more choices we have the more we need to invoke a sense of curiosity. We need to be willing to explore and experiment with different ways of working to find out what works and what doesn’t. We know the old ways are just a little bit broken but we won’t find the alternatives unless we are willing to get our hands dirty.

As the power of digital technology is growing exponentially we will be faced with both more and better choices each and every day. As such the need for curiosity and experimentation when it comes to digital technology will also grow.
Unfortunately I think years of limited choice and unreliable technology tools has dramatically reduced our appetite for both.

That is why I think that Curiosity is one of the three key characteristics of a digital champion. If we lack the motivation to be curious about technology ourselves then we need to ensure that we have curious people around us. People who will do some of the explorations and experimentation for us and then show us the answers. If you can’t be bothered studying for the test then the next best thing you can do is sit next to the star student and copy their answers.

For organisations that are interested in developing the curiosity to identify new digital opportunities in your business you might be interested in the Digital Champions Club. The Digital Champions Club is a training program for the digital champions in your organisation that is guaranteed to return $100,000 in the first year.

*Yes, iOS and Android are computer operating systems. A computer is a computer is a computer…regardless of whether you touch the screen or not.

I am currently looking to work with a small number of businesses to help them develop their digital champions. If you are interested to find out what this might look like and the benefits that this could bring to your business please get in touch.

 


Champions_of_Disruption_white_paper

DOWNLOAD THE CHAMPIONS OF DISRUPTION WHITE PAPER

Download my white paper on how digital disruption is impacting your business and what you need to do about it.

 

 

Will you be your Champion’s champion?

What to do about digital disruption

As a speaker for The Executive Connection I have spoken to over 400 SME executives about the impact of digital technology on business over the last two years. Almost without fail, these CEOs have acknowledged the pressing need to take a more proactive approach to digital technology and identify opportunities to disrupt their own business (before someone else does). Yet for all the urgency around digital disruption, theirs has generally been a large amount of inaction and the biggest frustration for many of these CEOs has been in knowing what to do next.

 

The reason for this is that the ‘what to do next’ is different for each organisation. Every one of the CEOs I spoke to was dealing with a unique organisational problem based on available skills and experience, legacy systems,  and industry requirements that shaped their opportunities and defined their needs. As such any cookie cutter solution imposed from the outside would be unlikely to have any meaningful long term impact. As a result, one of my great frustrations has been in knowing how to support these organisations in a way that was both effective and cost effective.*

What is missing is a Digital Champion

What I now realise is that these organisations don’t need someone from the outside telling them what to do. They need someone on the inside making things happen. They need an internal resource that was tasked with helping the organisation identify, prioritise, and implement against digital opportunities as they occur This is the role of a Digital Champion.

In larger organisations, the Digital Champion might otherwise be called the Chief Digital Officer. According to McKinsey, the number of CDOs in the world is growing at 200% per year (with Melbourne City Council being the latest organisation to add one) and this extraordinary growth is a direct reflection of the growing need for organisations to take a proactive rather than ad-hoc approach to digital technology. In smaller organisations, budgetary and resourcing constraints mean a full time CDO is unrealistic. Instead SMEs need a Digital Champion that can provide a similar set of skills on a part time basis.

Given the extraordinary (and growing demand) for digital skills, there is little chance that SMEs will be able to hire the Digital Champion they need. Instead, they are going to have to develop them.** Although there is a good chance that a potential Digital Champion already has a passion for technology, they will need help and support to channel this passion into relevant (and valuable) business projects. They will need help identifying and prioritising opportunities, leading and influencing others, and implementing the projects that matter.

Welcome to the Digital Champion’s Club

The Digital Champion’s Club is my answer to what SMEs need to do next in an age of digital disruption. In essence, it is a support group for Digital Champions, giving them all the resources they need to identify and launch successful digital projects. A member of the Digital Champions Club will get

  • A tailored development plan and development goals
  • Expert one on one mentoring on a monthly basis
  • Lightning email/phone support as required
  • Access to a resource library of templates, models and other useful stuff

Best of all, they will get to participate in the quarterly Club Days with their peers. Club Days will provide a unique learning experience where a group of between ten to 20 Digital Champions from different organisations get together. During the day there will be a combination of expert tuition, peer learning sessions, and the opportunity to work on their digital project in a supportive environment.

Through this model it is expected that Digital Champions (working on a part time basis) should deliver between $100,000 and $500,000 in benefit to their organisation per year.

Will you be your Champion’s Champion?

Through the Club I see my role as being the champion of Digital Champion’s, but this is not something I can do alone. I can provide external support and the ‘push’ to help your Digital Champion develop but they will also need an internal champion to provide the ‘pull’, someone who can provide the resourcing, internal support, and influence to help them deliver the projects that disrupt your business for the better. The question is, will you also champion your Champion?

Applications are now open for the Digital Champions Club. If you see the opportunity in developing a digital champion and think this might be your ‘what to do next’ about digital disruption, I would love to talk to you – champion to champion.

*Coming from a small business background I am incredibly conscious of the challenges that these organisations face, especially when it comes to ensuring that limited financial resources are channeled into the types of projects that have a high return on investment and a good chance of success.

**It is unlikely that this is a role that you will recruit for, primarily because the person you need would be either unavailable or prohibitively expensive. Instead, your digital champion is probably someone already in your employ. It is likely to be the person that you or your other staff turn to when you’re looking for advice about new technology.