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The digital transformation is no joke

4th Jun 2020 | 03:02pm

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I’m in the pattern recognition game. Here are three topics that keep coming up in my virtual travels.

  • Communicating is everything. It’s a cliché that the key to good leadership in time of crisis can be summed up in three words: communicate, communicate, communicate. It’s true that good leaders are telling their subordinates the good, the bad, and the ugly right now. They’re giving honest assessments of where things stand, even if one of their assessments is: I don’t know. But they’re also showing empathy. They acknowledge that while they don’t necessarily have the answers to society’s ills or a clear understanding of what their organizations can do about them, they can listen, react, and adapt. This extends beyond leaders, of course. We all need to communicate as well as possible right now, even if it is merely to check in with someone who might appreciate the call (or the Zoom or the text or the email).
  • Talk to your peers. Repeatedly in recent days I’ve heard tales of top executives carving out time for regular meet-ups, typically over Zoom, with counterparts at other companies. This might be with competitors, maybe in small bunches, perhaps one-on-one. Call it group therapy or a virtual replication of the best aspects of a no-agenda happy hour. But chit-chatting and comparing notes with peers who aren’t colleagues is a great way to level set, to commiserate, to share best practices. I’ve informally done this in past weeks with some non-Fortune journalists I respect. The chats left me feeling more confident and less alone. I have a shelter-in-place advantage over many of my co-workers: I’ve been working 3,000 miles from HQ for 21 years now. I’m used to reaching out because the “water cooler” isn’t always available. What feels natural to me might be learned behavior for others.
  • Digital transformation is no joke. To the extent I pooh-poohed this buzzphrase before, it wasn’t because I didn’t believe in it, so much as that I distrust the odor of hype. The aroma has nearly vanished. Every business in the world is learning right now the importance of digital operations, from communicating to selling to business processes. In fact, another truism, that the pandemic is accelerating shifts that eventually would have happened anyway, has become obvious. The ramifications of digital transformation are massive and terrifying. Every worker, every leader, and every organization will be affected by it, and many will be left behind.

Adam Lashinsky



This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman.