“What it takes to keep up isn’t as much about coding, A.I. or algorithms… it’s about being change oriented, it’s about being forward thinking, and it’s about being willing to develop skills in this new world.” –Gerald Kane

What allows some organizations and individuals to thrive in a world of rapid technology innovation – and subsequent disruption – while others fall behind or get stuck in obsolescence?

Exploring these questions and more is an expert on digital disruption and my guest on this podcast, Gerald Kane Professor of Information Systems at Boston College, Carroll School of Management. Jerry’s research explores the role of digital technologies in business strategy, organizational culture, and talent development.

After a six-year study into how digital technologies have disrupted companies of all sizes, he highlights many of the key findings in his newly released book, The Technology Fallacy: How People Are The Real Key To Digital Transformation.

Thousands of interviews with employers and employees went into the research, driving some interesting findings outlined in the book, and it’s the topic of the podcast.

Some of the findings were surprising, to me at least. Much of it encouraging because although many of the coming digital disruptions will be unknowns, there are ways companies, and individuals impacted by them can still prepare.  

To that point, here are a just few of my takeaways as to the why’s and how’s from our conversation. 

1. Adapting to tech disruption isn’t all about the tech

Jerry was a kind guest because I found myself curiously stuck on specific technologies that were disruptive – even after reading the book, and he didn’t wince.

It’s the central theme of his book for heck’s sake; the notion that technology is the key to transformation IS the fallacy.

Jerry said he encounters it all the time. It’s essentially a belief that when digital technologies cause business disruption, the solution then must be a digital one. 

Technology aside…when people ask me where to start I often say, look, start with the culture, everybody needs to move there

– Gerald Kane

His research reveals an organization’s first focus should be on establishing a culture that supports the innovation or tech development desired. 

2. Mindset is fundamental

Most people describe themselves as either a “tech person” or “not a tech person.” Hard skills are no doubt important but when it comes to navigating the ever-changing world of digital tech, Jerry says he found a key indicator of success was mindset. Using the framework created by Carolyn Dweck of “fixed” and “growth” mindsets, Jerry breaks it down.

People and organizations with fixed mindsets believe they already have all the abilities they are ever going to have. Those with a growth mindset believe in their ability to develop new skills over time. They know they can achieve success through effort and their internal resources.

Understand that belief/believing is not ‘on or off’. It’s more like a lighthouse, it’s on all the time, and you either use it for yourself or against yourself.

What do you believe you can’t do?

3. The difference between “doing digital” vs. “being digital”

Analyzing the surveys conducted with thousands of companies revealed shared characteristics between those who are successful adapting to digital disruption.

Digitally mature companies were highly collaborative and agile; they reduced silos and set up cross-functional team structures and encouraged rather than tolerated experimentation.

All of these things changes organizational culture to one that is adaptable and fast, which is vital for driving change across an organization.

Deploying the right tech is critical, but the important thing here is not getting distracted by the hottest, potentially disruptive tech before you’ve done the prep, before you have the organizational ability (the culture) to adopt it.

4. Success correlates, will or skill?

Jerry expounded on research that shows that companies who think simply hiring younger will solve their digital adoption gaps are mistaken. The data reveals that the talent needed within a company is dependent on two main factors, and neither of them is age.

Firstly, hiring growth-minded individuals that will continue to adapt with your company and emerging technology over time is way more critical essential. Even the most tech-savvy person’s knowledge will be obsolete within five years if they don’t keep developing their skills.

Secondly, developing employees is critical for long-term success. That means carving out space for employees to increase competencies. Jerry gives some great examples of how this is done and who’s doing it.

5. Change as necessary prerequisite to growth 

Macroeconomist Ricardo Caballero writes that creative destruction, over the long-term, represents more than half of productivity growth.

In fact, obstacles to the process of creative destruction can have severe negative economic consequences.

This is also true for individuals – you and me – especially in terms of digital disruption.

There are times in our life when we need to face up to big changes, sometimes painful changes, but on the other side is growth, on the other side is a better, stronger you.

And just like economies, resisting change, hanging on to the status quo to avoid the difficult can result in more severe consequences.

Maybe we should use the word metamorphosis rather than change. The process of transforming from an immature form to a mature form. Yeah, that seems more apt.

If you feel nervous about getting left behind as digital technology evolves, then stop –  take a breath and listen to this podcast. The research has a very positive message.

If you have a growth mindset, embrace change and continue developing your skills, then you’re positioned to navigate the digital era successfully.

You can get there from here.

Jerry was a great interview and not only generous with his findings but passionate about them; I think you’ll find this episode timely.  

More of the topics we discuss include…

  • The digital maturity scorecard, what industries lead or lag
  • How to fail at digital transformation
  • Why adapting to tech innovation and transformation isn’t a technology challenge
  • Details on mindset and what makes a difference in the companies that succeed at dramatic change
  • The problem with Six Sigma
  • Defining “will over skill”
  • Similar characteristics companies have that thrive in times of change
  • The importance of culture and what that means really
  • How to stay relevant in the new digital world of work
  • Why workplace success is not about age – and what attribute IS important
  • How to develop employees for long-term success through change and tech disruption with examples of how companies are doing that



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