What the Bible Teaches About Digital Transformation
Leading a transformation can be difficult. There are often problems that rise up along the way: resistance to change, lack of adoption, slower than desired progress, and more.
Overcoming these challenges takes great leadership. While there are many places to turn for advice on leadership, one fantastic source is the Bible, which is really a series of leadership stories, many of which apply today even if written thousands of years ago.
Here are eight lessons from the Bible that can serve as guides for your digital transformation journey.
WORDS ARE THE GENESIS OF CREATION
The very first recorded transformation is found in the book of Genesis. On the first day of creation God said, “Let there be light,” (Gen. 1:3 ESV) and there was light. This shows us the importance of language since, in this case, words precede transformation.
While the things that we say won’t automatically become a reality, clearly articulated words can be a powerful way of inspiring and mobilizing people.
MAKE IT EMOTIONALLY DESIRABLE (LIKE THE FRUIT)
When God created Adam and Eve, He told them that they could eat from any tree in the garden except one on penalty of death,, so naturally they feared it. Despite those deep fears, however, the serpent was able to tempt Eve into eating the fruit of that tree by telling her, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:4–5 ESV).
By painting an inspiring picture of the future on the other side of that fear, the serpent was able to inspire Eve to overcome her fear and take that irreversible bite.
When leading transformation, you very often face individuals, whether executives or front-line employees, with a deep fear of change. But with the right appeal to a combination of their personal interest and the greater good, their mind and their feelings, you can persuade them to overcome their fears.
Once you have them onboard…
BE PERSISTENT LIKE NOAH
God gave Noah a vision of a flood and inspired him to construct the ark. But during the decades it took to build the ark on dry land, many people made fun of him. After all, it seemed crazy, building a giant boat in the middle of nowhere and filling it up with animals. But Noah worked on it with the persistent faith that it was the right thing to do. Sure enough, the flood came and only Noah, his family, and the animals he kept survived.
This is very often the story behind incredibly successful brands, and transformative products. They may seem like overnight successes, but often that success comes only after many years of effort and uncertainty. Their ability to persevere with their vision through these times is critical. For example, mammoth successes such as AirBnB, Skype, and Venmo took years to catch on ; it took time for people to realize that their vision was to help their customers.
It’s not just persistence, but persistence in the face of adversity and the ability to…
SEE DISASTERS AS HIDDEN OPPORTUNITIES LIKE JOSEPH
Joseph had the ability to see and interpret dreams. His ability initially sparked jealousy in his brothers and led to him being sold into slavery and subseqently being imprisoned in Egypt. Despite this dark turn, he continued to use his gifts to interpret the dreams of prisoners and guards, which then led to him being called by the pharaoh to interpret his dream. Ultimately, he rose to power and became the second most powerful person in all of Egypt.
Sometimes businesses go through dark periods where seemingly disastrous things occur: your competitor comes out with an amazing product; your digital transformation initiative is facing massive resistance; you lose a key person, funding, or lawsuit.
Your ability to see difficulties as an opportunity to use your gifts and abilities to help overcome these disasters will allow you to…
MOVE FORWARD LIKE MOSES PARTING THE RED SEA
After escaping from Egypt with the Egyptian Army chasing him and his people, Moses found himself in a predicament. He had reached the edge of the Red sea. There were mountains on both sides, and the army of Egypt was right behind them. He seemed trapped, but what did Moses do? He moved forward, and as he did, the waters of the sea parted.
In the middle of your disaster, you need to be able to move forward, even if the path is not clear. The waters did not part before Moses moved forward; he moved forward and then the waters parted. This one moment in the story of Moses offers a reminder to keep moving even if you don’t know what will happen and have faith that everything will turn out for the best.
As you move forward, remember that there will be moments where…
YOU WILL LOSE CONTROL OVER YOUR PEOPLE
After God parted the Red Sea and led the people of Israel in the wilderness, Moses went to get the ten commandments and the people of Israel decided to build and worship an image of a golden calf. We can see this theme of idolatry throughout the iblical narrative; God’s people continued to engage in forbidden activities despite being told not to and despite all the things that God had done for them.
As a leader, while you have control over the vision, the direction you want the company to go, and the activities that you want your employees to engage in, you have limited control over their ability to completely and faithfully carry out your instructions. Don’t beat yourself up over it. The Bible teaches us that not even the greatest leaders can fully control their followers.
People are very independent and a leader’s ability to get everyone to work together is a great accomplishment, but don’t expect you’ll be able to do that all the time.
And remember, no matter how challenging things seem…
IT’S NEVER OVER
Just because something doesn’t work out at the moment you want it to doesn’t mean it’s entirely over. Our examples so far have come from the Old Testament, but let’s end with one from the New. When Jesus was killed on the cross, it certainly seemed like the story was over, but the story of resurrection reminds us that nothing is ever over.
We see this in business, as well, with bankrupt companies roaring back to success, for example.
Whatever your religious views, the Bible is the bestselling book of all time for a reason. There’s a lot of wisdom in it. If you feel stuck in your business (or life), try reading a few pages; it just may contain an insight that can inspire you with the path forward.
In my Wall Street Journal bestselling book, Winning Digital Customers: The Antidote to Irrelevance, I walk you through a simple five-step process to successful digital transformation. This is the methodology that I use to help my clients succeed in their digital transformation journey and win the love and loyalty of their customers. You can access the first chapter for FREE here or purchase the hard copy here.