Here are some of my thoughts about what never-ending social and digital technology trends mean for professionals in all functional areas, at all career stages, and in organizations of all types and sizes (in other words, everyone!). Armed with this knowledge and insight, I hope folks will give serious consideration to how they will bridge the “digital divides” in their professional lives to enhance both their own technological competencies and those of the individuals, groups and organizations with which they work.
For more of my thinking on adapting to technology trends and Digital Era realities, check out these SMART Resources. I'd love to hear other people's ideas as well.
What do technology trends mean for you, your peers and leaders, and the organizations of which you're a part? Here are some bottom-line considerations...
1. In case you’re still wondering, the Digital Era is not coming, and it’s not just getting started. It’s HERE. In fact, we're in at least the sixth decade - maybe even the eighth depending on how we view its origins.
2. While many new technology trends, like public social media platforms and mobile technology, have reached a certain maturity level, there is still significant upside potential with respect to both growth and opportunity. We are nowhere near saturation.
3. New technologies, platforms and tools, as well as new applications for existing technologies and tools, are being developed Every.Single.Second. Every.Single.Day. And there is no end in sight. Truly the only constant is change.
4. Technology development and adoption may happen first and fastest in the individual consumer space, but they eventually reach and spread throughout organizations. That said, the translation and transition from consumer to professional applications is generally neither direct, simple, nor smooth.
5. There has been a convergence among four main technology trends: social software, mobile devices and access, cloud and network computing, and (big) data analytics (aka SMAC). Individually, each one of these trends is incredibly powerful. Together, they have the potential to create dramatic transformations. That transformative potential is now being further strengthened by wearable technology and the internet of things, as well as the ways in which computer processing itself is getting smarter (e.g., through deep learning).
6. Now more than ever it’s incumbent upon organizational leaders to be focused on the future and to operate with a big-picture, holistic, strategic perspective. Change is happening too fast and in too many different dimensions, and falling too far behind could ultimately be disastrous. Rather than wait for the seemingly inevitable digital disruption, leaders and their organizations would be better served by developing and implementing a long-term digital transformation strategy.
7. To guide their organization's digital transformation efforts, leaders of all types must have at least a high-level understanding of how social and digital technologies work. Lacking that understanding can be viewed as irresponsible – and possibly even a breach of their fiduciary responsibilities.Leaders who don't see value in pursuing the opportunities presented by new technologies must still be prepared to manage the unavoidable challenges and risks.
8. The Digital Divide is increasingly being defined by lack of knowledge and use rather than lack of access. Professionals at all levels and at all career stages who are socially savvy and digitally engaged will reap both direct and indirect rewards, especially as the differences between them and their less-savvy peers grow. Being a “digital dinosaur” is increasingly becoming a luxury few people can afford.
9. Individuals and organizations should no longer assume that an LIY (Learn It Yourself) approach to developing digital competencies is an effective strategy (if it ever was). People need help to climb their learning curves efficiently and effectively – and providing that help in both structured and unstructured ways is a critical investment that will pay dividends in both the short term and over time. A paradoxical reality of the Digital Era is that we need to teach people how to learn, in new ways and using new tools. We have to stop thinking about technology education and training as an (unnecessary) expense once people finish their formal education. Given the rapid rate of change, none of us can afford to stop learning.