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The Technology Fallacy and Acute Disruption
Stephanie Wei—Manager, Industry Relations & Education, CSIO
Before the pandemic, we were thrilled that Boston College Professor and author Dr. Gerald Kane would be speaking at our 2020 Members’ Meeting to share the findings in his book,
The Technology Fallacy: How People Are the Real Key to Digital Transformation.
Then everything changed. Our annual CSIO Members’ Meeting was held as a virtual event for the first time and although Dr. Kane didn’t end up giving his keynote, he later recorded a version in his home. All this played out in miniature as a version of something we’ve all had to do since the lockdown started—adapt to disruption, the very topic of Dr. Kane’s research. Dr. Kane is the co-author of a four-year study by Deloitte Digital and MIT Sloan Management Review that looks at what digital enterprises have in common. He spoke with us to explain the findings, how they apply to the current moment and what his new research is uncovering.
What’s the technology fallacy and what can we do about it?
The technology fallacy is the mistaken belief that because a company’s problems are caused by digital technologies, the solution must also be digital. What we find is many of the bigger challenges aren’t technological, they’re organizational—leadership, culture, talent—that need to be updated for a digital environment.
What are some of the key takeaways from your research that organizations should do to thrive in the modern economy?
Where I often encourage organizations to start is with a cultural shift. I often say, I don’t know what technologies your company needs to compete, but I do know what cultural characteristics it needs— risk tolerance, collaboration across boundaries, experimentation, organizing according to cross-functional teams and providing those teams with greater autonomy. What we found is that companies that are more digitally mature not only have more of these characteristics, they’re more likely to be investing and developing these characteristics and using that to drive further change. If you can get the right culture going, you can begin to gain momentum in your transformation efforts.
How does your work apply to our current situation where many of us are working from home?
It really proves the central premise of
The Technology Fallacy
: it was never the technology that was the problem, it was people’s resistance to change. Many of the changes that companies are making to respond to the acute disruption of COVID are the same changes they needed to make to respond to the more chronic disruption of digital transformation.  It’s really an opportunity to modernize companies in ways they wouldn’t have been able to do outside of this crisis. A lot of the organizations we’re interviewing had been talking about adopting technology changes and the lockdown has been the excuse to accelerate these efforts. The resistance to change is down, because we’re all working from home and we’ve got to figure it out. Many companies talk about having done three to five years of transformation over the past three to five months.  I’m surprised that everyone working from home has gone as well as it has. If this had happened ten years ago, it’d be an entirely different story. If you think about the radicalness of the digital transformation that has happened over the last five months—the new way of doing business, the investments companies have made in technology and infrastructure stability—it’s remarkable on so many levels.
What opportunities have been created by the pandemic that can translate to organizations being stronger once it’s over?
The companies that are going to emerge from this stronger are those that are going to use it as an opportunity to innovate through the crisis and make sure they come out not only a stronger company, but a different company much more geared towards the future. They’ll ask,
what are the opportunities for us here? How do we rethink our business model? How can we learn? How do we try new things that might allow us to do things differently on the flipside?
One of the silver linings of this is that those companies that survive might be stronger or more innovative, but they might be more compassionate too. We’re seeing a lot of employees say that what used to define the barriers and the theatre of being a business professional has really dropped and we’re able to see each other much more as human beings. Many leaders have said they’ve been able to be more honest and transparent with their employees. I’m cautiously optimistic that businesses are going to be much more compassionate, agile and experimental because of what they’ve been forced into with COVID.
With it being challenging to work on culture remotely, what’s the one thing you recommend organizations do while we’re still in this challenging environment?
Find ways to innovate, and make sure you reflect when this is done. What are the things you want to keep from the lockdown versus the face-to-face way of doing business? Make sure you don’t just say,
we’re going to be virtual all the time, or, now we can all go back to the office and get rid of all that zoom stuff.
Conduct a strategic analysis to figure out what’s better and what isn’t and create a hybrid of the two. My hope is that we end up coming out of this better—not only as businesses, but as a society.
The Digital Disruption and the Technology Fallacy course is available as part of CSIO’s Digital Broker
eLearning program
These courses are free member benefits for IBAO members.
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