Digital: is it all in the mind?


By Adrian Hancock, Socitm CEO

I am fairly certain I could start reading articles and papers on digital transformation and probably not run out of them before the end of this year – and that’s just the ones published this week! In other words there are plenty of opinions, some of them miles apart or just plain ‘at odds’ with each other.

However, two of them, or at least a couple of points from two of them, struck me as worth more consideration. The first was a study published by Altimeter Group which found that digital transformation in organisations was usually instigated without any drive from senior (C-suite) leadership. It is usually some way down the road, after the vanguard in the organisation have ‘built and proved’the case, begun to win sufficient hearts and minds to get things moving to such an extent that it makes its mark on the horizon of senior managers. See article here

The second, from Wipro, puts the case that the word digital is utterly unnecessary in the phrase ‘digital transformation’. See article here

This is surely because we have reached a stage where it would be inconceivable, virtually impossible, to begin a transformation journey without digital featuring large. If it did not, then the organisation would be incapable of achieving, sustaining or continuing its transformation initiatives.

Digital, which undoubtedly implies the effective exploitation of technologies to enable effective business and client outcomes, nonetheless goes well beyond those technologies and, arguably, needn’t even start there. ‘Digital’ has become a metaphor with a myriad complexions and a great variety of ways of exploiting its attributes.

It encompasses ways of working, approaches to problem solving, expectations regarding what can and should be achieved , ways of developing and sustaining beneficial relationships, a confidence that there is something out there that will ‘fit the bill’ but if not we can build one…..

For sure, lurking in, around and under each of these areas is a technology element, but not so as you would notice. That doesn’t make it any less critical, in the sense that having access to fresh water is critical, we just don’t need to think about it that much (in the west) it’s just there when we need it.

Digital, in the way it is more and more frequently used, is an approach to life,   something you bring with you into areas as diverse as relationships, entertainment, working practices, expectations of what work is or could be…. Digital begins in our mind. It is a mindset.

Unlike many other ‘business tools’ of which you can grasp the theoretical value and then pay somebody else to do it from there on in, digital requires living not just doing.


Here is a paragraph from a LinkedIn Pulse article looking at the ‘digital mindset’:

‘A “digital mindset” is not about using technology alone although that is a large part of it. While heralded by the growth and evolution of disruptive tech, it is characterized by a different perspective of the world. An individual with a “digital mindset” understands the power of technology to democratize, scale and speed up every form of interaction and action. ‘

See full article here:

There are a number of more ‘academic’ pieces covering the digital mindset:

‘According to Dweck (2007) a mindset is a set of assumptions, methods or notations held by one or more people, or by a group of people. In other words a mindset is a set of beliefs, a way of thinking. The term comes from cognitive psychology, where its focus is on people from the point of view of information and information processing. Human beings have limited capability to absorb and process information. Mindsets help to filter what one absorbs and how he/she interprets it. Mindsets are not stable; they are changing over time as a result of new observations and experiences (Dweck, 2007). Bellin and Pham (2007) argue that mindset is important from the point of view of the company because over time, a mindset can help the company to develop its own way, its own unique approach to solving problems and making decisions. Moreover this unique way creates a common identity which can be codified and shared with new employees.

The literature mentions many kinds of mindset. Dweck (2007) talks about fixed and growth mindsets, but there are also environmental mindsets, political mindsets or closer to the field of economics: global mindset or marketing mindset. Every era has its own mindset so it is natural that in the digital age a new kind of mindset is emerging, namely the digital mindset. The topic of the digital mindset will be further discussed in the third chapter, entitled “Theoretical considerations”.’

For the full publication see:

Digital: is it all in the mind?

2 thoughts on “Digital: is it all in the mind?

  1. A very accurate and insightful read. I agree that the ‘digital mindset’ can be translated to mean: ‘the set of beliefs me and/or my organisation hold’. If you take seasoned and experienced ICT professionals, then many will hold a hierarchical view of an organisation, and often defend the need for centralisation of services. These beliefs have been strengthened over the decades by the view of technology being complex, needing high security measures, and can therefore only be trusted with the experts. This has helped to create an ‘us and them’ culture where ICT and business hold a different mindset. What if both groups were brought to a new mindset? or a different set of beliefs? How do you do that?

    Well it is happening anyway as the demographic changes with digital technology being ubiquitous in our daily lives. The real change can only happen through strong leadership. Leaders who can help to bridge (and value) the contributions of all functional teams, and can facilitate a new era of collaboration, will be successful.

    Digital knowledge, skills, experience and technology is one thing. But ignore the mindset and well-entrenched beliefs of stakeholders and you will quickly get derailed. Beliefs and assumptions can be changed, but it is with hearts and minds, not strategy reports and technical briefings.


  2. A really good read; to the point in terms of describing transformation and its inherent dependency on using digital processes, technology and capabilities. And it is without a doubt the digital mindset that is going to help achieve the wholesale change that we need to achieve going forwards, especially in the public sector.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s