Digital Disruption: A Multi-Generational Mindset

Daniel Burrus
January 22, 2020

Daniel Burrus

One of the World's Leading Technology Forecasters and Business Strategists
Digital Disruption: A Multi-Generational Mindset

Being anticipatory is a multifaceted offense in a world of rapid digital disruption. In some cases, it's about identifying opportunities for major disruptions within your industry that you yourself can introduce, such as Airbnb did to the hotel and timeshare industry or Uber did to the taxi and rideshare industry.

Yet it is important to remember that being anticipatory also requires you to be aware of disruptions from others that may impact you and knowing how to prepare accordingly.

Let's consider the relationship between two important forces: digital disruption and the people in your organization, and how this affects you and your anticipatory thinking.

The Continuing Digital Disruption

Recent research indicates that many business leaders anticipate their organizations will be digitally disrupted within the next few years, upending everything they have come to know.

Many leaders see digital disruption as a decidedly positive trend, considering the possibilities that digital change brings to the table in the way of boosting productivity, innovation and other workplace attributes. On the other hand, many also worry it will alter and possibly eliminate jobs, so many view it as this invisible enemy of a paradigm shift.

Acknowledging the expected benefits of being digital is by no means the same thing as being digital. More importantly, simply expecting something to happen doesn't adequately prepare your workforce to use new digital tools to successfully drive innovation and uncover new opportunities.

Strong leadership should encourage a positive, constructive future outlook, which I strongly encourage in my Anticipatory Organization Model, and actively support that through collaborative technologies and widespread employee engagement and education.

Employee Expectations

There are many positive aspects to increased use of digital applications in every organization.

Leaders will find that many employees are excited about the possible advancements from greater use of digital technology, particularly innovation. Even more traditional attributes, such as agility, were cited as benefiting from greater use of digital tools.

By a wide margin, employees said they expected digital technology to transform the way they work over the next several years, many adding that they anticipated the level of change to be significant.

Nevertheless, it's interesting to observe that employee attitudes toward digital disruption often go beyond mere anticipation. In effect, employees expect their organizations and leadership to commit to adapting and embracing the different work environment that digital technology can introduce. That's particularly the case with younger employees, starting with millennials.

One of the main reasons for this is that, as you can imagine, younger employees are far more digitally savvy than prior workforces, so not only are they inherently more comfortable with digital technology, they are already proactive in their preparation for digital change and how it will impact their careers.

According to different workplace studies, more than 70 percent of employees said they are proactively learning new digital tools and skills to better adapt to digital change. However, those same employees believe that it shouldn't be a solitary effort. In turn to their anticipation, they also expect access to the best digital tools possible, allowing them to do their job as it evolves with digital change and subsequently looking askance at any organization that fails to recognize the value of sufficiently adopting and investing in digital systems.

A Changing Mindset

These and other factors are also contributing to a very different mindset regarding the workplace, one that leaders need to anticipate and prepare for. As we have seen in the past few years, younger professionals truly value their working environment as much as their salary. In addition, it is imperative to keep in mind that younger professionals see a less distinct separation between their personal and professional lives. They're used to being in touch and available as they are a generation with extreme connectivity who's comfortable with indistinct lines between home and work.

To me, this comes down to a different expectation of leadership. Since technology can make work more independent and flexible by nature, younger employees expect a new level of autonomy and freedom from their leaders. They value control of where and when they work and a reasonable amount of freedom in what they do.

In my consultations with organizations of all sorts, it's evident that digital disruption is a Hard Trend shaping the future of all industries, so what are you doing as an employee or leader to anticipate those changes and prepare accordingly?

Eager for more insights? You can read more in my new book The Anticipatory Organization, now on Amazon.com. To continue learning how to become more anticipatory in your thinking by way of paying attention to the Hard Trends shaping your industry, check out my Anticipatory Leader Membership with live webinars each month.

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