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Posted By CAPITA

Behaving like the council of the future

Is a ‘digital mindset’ the key to the future success of your organisation?

Recently, I’ve spent some time talking to top teams in local public services about what it is to be ‘digital’.  Often, there’s a room full of people listening intently and nodding; they recognise that the world has changed and that the next industrial revolution is unfolding before our eyes. But most also recognise that their own personal experience is by no means representative of the experiences of the people they serve or the organisation they are trying to build. Given that digital is as much about ‘doing’ as anything else, how do organisational leaders understand enough about this to become relevant to lead this ‘doing’?

One view is that without personal experience you can’t be relevant or authentic – if you can’t connect over common experiences, this theory goes, you will struggle to communicate. This then turns into a potentially awkward series of questions, along the lines of: does your home have an Amazon Echo or Google Home? Being accustomed to online banking, have you branched out into quantified self? Are you renting out your home PC’s processing power to contribute to science and earn a few more bitcoins? And how many new neighbours has Next Door allowed you to meet this month?

So far, so superficial. So, could we mean something different? When we talk about digital, we are talking about making interventions into social systems that will cultivate new behaviours – where these new behaviours make the outcomes sought more likely. Technology is often part of the solution, but it’s a means, not an end in itself. So, the real question is not ‘what new technologies are you using?’ but instead ‘what new behaviours are you developing?’. Could – or does – your organisation have a ‘digital mindset’?

What might that look like? What might you see in an organisation with a digital mindset?

  • It’s likely that in a world of continuous reinvention and improvement – not to mention complexity – you will need to learn as you go along; how confident in using iterative and experimental approaches are you?
  • Given that ideas are usually improved through the input of others, how open are you? Are you confident about sharing work in progress and thinking in public?
  • The new world is more networked and connected. How ready are you to collaborate across disciplinary (and sector) boundaries to bring in the people with the knowledge needed to solve difficult issues? As a leader how ready are you to create a safe space for these diverse teams to work together to that end?

The answers to these questions will determine how far down your organisation is on the road to a digital mindset. If being digital is about behaviours – after all, digital is not a spectator sport and requires active participation – then I think it’s important that the things that organisational leaders do enable others to do more too. So, rather than making occasional use of a new bit of kit, I would recommend adopting a digital mindset, and seeding the behaviours that allow organisations to be successful in the future.

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