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Turning Digital Threats into Digital Opportunities

In the fantastically deep book, The Unfettered Mind – Writings of the Zen Master to the Sword Master, the author Takuan Soho quotes a Zen stratagem: “Grabbing the spear and contrariwise, piercing the man who had come to pierce you”. If Takuan had been around today, he might have written: “Identify your biggest digital threats, and move swiftly and accurately to turn them into advantages.” 

Digital Threats into Digital Opportunities

“Identify your biggest digital threats, and move swiftly and accurately to turn them into advantages.”

I was reminded of this stratagem when I attended my first Leading Edge Forum event in Washington last week, with around 50 smart digital leaders discussing how to raise Digital IQ. When Dan Wakeman from Educational Testing Services spoke, it felt like the floor was falling away from us. He pointed out how, ironically, the education industry has arguably the most fixed concepts and assumptions about learning – the years you must go to school, the times you must take exams, the nature of testing, etc. As well as online learning and remote learning, Dan also talked about whether the notion of testing (his main business) would be valid at all in future – if we can continually monitor learning, do we really need periodic tests? And what role will machine intelligence take in learning and testing? David Moschella of LEF talked more generally about machine intelligence in the matrix in a very thought-provoking session. To summarize: “We’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy”.

Dan Hushon, CSC’s CTO, discussed CSC’s transformation and reduction of bad complexity. Dan ‘ate our own dogfood’ by using the value mapping methodology, which Simon Wardley (originator of said methodology) also applied in a tour-de-force session to help us think about China vs Silicon Valley, and machine intelligence.

Dave Goldsby, Digital Innovation Manager at National Grid, showed us how it had built on an LEF Xperience Lab to solve multiple problems. Dave brought a ‘hole in the street’ all the way from England, and demonstrated how applying simple consumer technology to hole filling could save the company £1m a year. This was underpinned by LEF’s Lewis Richards (aka The Digital Chef and leader of our consumerization and Xperience Lab work) who talked more generally about the need and opportunity to become more digitally literate and to experiment, both personally and organizationally.

Professor Ed Hess gave a fascinating talk on learning, including insights on the importance of listening. This is perhaps best summarized by the title of his book, which we were all given: Learn or Die. LEF’s Bob Barker and Thomas Power fascinated us all with a very practical exposition of the importance of social media, to listen, connect and build our brands. And LEF’s Ibrahim Jackson and Dave Reid discussed internal relationships and BRM with Professor Robina Chatham and Forum attendees.

Turn your biggest digital threats into your biggest advantages by sensing them faster, and adapting.

The big lessons I took away:

  • The change that the digital world represents is deepening, and challenges many of our assumptions about what machines can and can’t do, the sources of value and advantage in each industry, the nature of ecosystems, and the need to learn.
  • Look to turn your biggest digital threats into your biggest advantages by sensing them faster, and adapting.
  • If you are good at sensing and listening, personally and organizationally, you will see the threats faster and more completely, and this will give you a head start on ‘turning the digital spear around’.
  • Deepening your listening allows you not only to sense faster, but also to slay the sacred cows and challenge assumptions that are obstacles to acting on what you sense.
  • Haptic learning through experimentation and deliberate use of all channels, including social, can turn you and your business into digital winners.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to sharpen our digital spears :)


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Research Commentary

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