How to find a digital mindset in your origin myth
Taking this few days to reflect and synthesise some of the things I have been learning since joining CRUK has been hugely valuable. As part of this I’ve been revisiting a couple of the models which I have developed previously and dusting them off to see if they still fit the world that I am now observing and working within.
I’m going to use the digital word here — but please read this if you want to understand my decidedly ambivalent view on the term and why I think digital is a broken word.
The digital mindset model is really about organisational and team design — its about culture and most importantly its about a different kind of leadership culture. I created it as part of the development work I did with senior teams to help them to get their heads around the digital agenda. Taking a step back — and also seeing it as someone who has to make it happen rather than advise other people — I am still seeing these qualities as being central to a 21st Century organisation. My more recent reading about the future or work or my explorations of the way full agile teams and organisations (such as Netflix or Spotify) also uphold this as as a relevant list of cultural qualities.
What is fascinating is how these qualities come to life within a living and breathing culture and how you can use this abstract list to help actively shape an approach to cultural change. I have for a long time been drawn to the power of origin myths — the stories we create to explain the beginnings of things — and how these can also be found in organisational cultures. Creation myths to a great extent create organisational culture. There is still something of the arrogant freshman who built a tool to judge women in the culture of Facebook and if you read about the story of the Patagonia brand it really is all about the founder’s desire to go surfing.
At CRUK research is core to our origin myth. We exist to fund research that will cure cancer. Simple and powerful and truly inspiring every single day.
In terms of how it helps our digital mindset emerge its clear that the concept and methods of ‘test and learn’ has landed very much into that culture and speaks to the need to take data driven decisions as well as the need to be confident in using experimental and iterative approaches. What we have not done yet is to make the connection and to spotlight how this alignment can help accelerate our transformation. We haven’t yet told this story but its right there ready to be told.
Our new ‘Future of Work’ programme is about bringing some of these qualities to life for people — in particular helping teams be more collaborative and multidisciplinary — at the same time as giving them the kit that they need to actually work in these ways. We will be using both story telling and spotlighting to help with this work.
When you spotlight something you shine a light onto a story or a fact that helps make sense of the story that you are telling and the change that you are trying to make. The power of reaching into the organisational culture and positioning a change like this in the context of the way in which the organisation already sees itself cannot be underestimated. Storytelling can help change feel like an evolution rather than a disruption and connecting that story to what has gone before shows respect for the work that has already been done. Spotlighting can show that change is already happening and break the sense that ‘this is not how we do things round here’.
The digital mindset will be a short lived artefact because we already see organisational cultures being changed by the working preferences of the millennial and all those people we called the digital natives — the digital mindset will become ‘how we do things round here’. Right now its still a useful tool to help us navigate the choppy waters between old and new ways of working.