Digital mindset: A whistlestop tour

Digital mindet model

This post is a companion to the 8 tribes of digital piece I wrote earlier in the year. It describes the qualities which I use to define the digital mindset. I am putting to one side my ambivalence about the word ‘digital’ and will come back to that another day.

But first some back story (or references for those of you who like that kind of thing). This model has its roots in a number of different areas and is influenced both by the work of Wellman & Raine as well as Howard Rhinegold. It builds on work I did on context collapse and networked power as part of my doctoral research and I’ve also sense checked it against the 21st Century public servant research from Inlogov. I have also tested it with a number of different leadership teams as part of various workshops and its now part of a diagnostic tool we are working on. In short – its got form.

Here is a run down of the model. Its created as a flow and the ordering of these is deliberate. At some point I will do a more in-depth post of each of these but here are the highlights:

  • Self-Managing and engaged: Self- management of self is an essential aspect both of self-managing teams but also of multidisciplinary teams where you may find yourself as the only specialist from your field in the team you are working on. Engaged refers to a need and the capability to work with tools directly, to problem solve and to look beyond the process into the purpose. Digital is not a spectator sport and it favours people who can both think and do.
  • Clear on your own relevance and contribution: This is linked to networked power but is also an artefact of an end of an age of deference as well as changing nature of work and the increasing need to continue to learn and development — and perhaps pivot throughout your career. Your job title will not give you status without a clear personal contribution.
  • Able to work with networked as well as hierarchal power: This is a recurring theme in lots of leadership literature (and particularly system leadership) but a clear link to the framing of the networked society. Networked power is more organisationally porous, purpose driven and is less controllable than hierarchical power. Exhilarating!
  • Able to take data driven decisions: This is critical – the ability to be able to understand the provenance, underlying assumptions and nature of data and weave it into decision making processes is essential. We will never have all the information ever again – there is too much of it – we have to be able to take effective decisions based on knowing we have enough of the right data.
  • Confident in using iterative and experimental approaches: This links to the point about data but is also about method. Agile and other iterative approaches share much with the scientific method and understanding how to run disciplined experiments turns random ideas into shared and accelerated learning.
  • Open: Confident about sharing work in progress and thinking in public: There are two aspects to this. One of the consequences of an always on and always changing digital and networked world is that nothing is ever finished. If this is the case then you either share work in progress or you will never share anything at all. Sharing your thinking in public is something slightly different – being open with ideas is both a cultural quality of the social web but also a core capability for collaborative working.
  • Collaborative and multidisciplinary: And this brings us to the last aspect of the digital mindset. We often focus on the need for collaborative working without really thinking about the craft of multidisciplinary working. You can’t just put 5 different disciplines in the same room and expect them to collaborate – they need to form a multidisciplinary approach. This links back to the 8 tribes model and the need to start by forming a multidisciplinary team from your different tribes of digital thinking.

For me the digital mindset is about understanding what skills and capabilities you will need to survive and thrive in a digital and networked world – and I am increasing of the believe that it, or something like it, needs to form the fundamentals of workforce planning if we are really going to deliver on this promise of digital change.

But primarily this is a call to action for leaders – if you don’t have a digital mindset there is little chance that your organisation will have one. We have a responsibility to make sure we are leading with the skills that will make us and our organisations relevant for the 21st Century.

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