Digital Strategy

The digital era is also known as the “Age of Distraction” (Schwartz, 2013).  In myself, I see myself trying to do many things at once, aka multitasking, which it seems that communication technology seems to lend itself to (driving and talking/texting, looking at my phone when I am with people, eating, shopping, etc.).  Schwartz (2013) purported that multitasking is better described as “continuous, partial attention”, and recommended that one schedule a “digital sabbath” daily (p. 2).   This is a good reminder for me to be more intentional about my use of digital communication technology, both at home and at work, and I must think of it as “protected time.” (Schwartz, 2013, p. 2). 

This has led me to highly value skills in people who can put the technology down and focus and clearly think about a task, or subject through its completion.  I suspect fewer mistakes are made when a person has this kind of focus.   As a leader, this causes me to look for employees who know how to focus and prioritize.  Schwarz (2013) pointed out psychologist Daniel Goleman’s statement that “because attention is under siege more than it has ever been in human history, we have more distractions than ever before, we have to be more focused on cultivating the skills of attention” (p. 1).  Schwartz (2013) discussed New Zealand longitudinal study on concentration done with 1000+ children by Moffitt and Caspi from Duke University who found that “the ability to concentrate was the strongest predictor of success.” (p. 2). 

According to Mercurius (2006), a digital-age thinker is one who is values globalization via “strong human relationships, a constant effort to unite people . . . around topics which they feel passionate . . . and are change practitioners (p. 3).”  He noted that “digital-age leaders must bring the past and the future into alignment by being:

  • Knowledgeable and literate in their field;
  • Systemic and strategic thinkers;
  • Successful at implementing major projects or programs;
  • Able to communicate, motivate, and cultivate;
  • Confident in making important decisions with limited data;
  • Self-assured;
  • Attuned to the values and benefits of globalization; and
  •   Infused with technological savvy (Mercurius, 2006, p. 3).”

Digital-age thinkers are “motivated by their freedom” and this encourages the use of laissez-faire leadership that allows employees to carry out the business’s mission and vision without undue oversight.  Thus, these knowledge workers are best led by those who possess:

  •  “Agility — the ability to make decisions quickly and decisively,
  • Capacity — the innate ability to thrive on ambiguity,
  • Authenticity — the ability to be consistent and credible,
  • Connectivity — the ability to bridge differences and generate trust,
  • Inimitability — the ability to capitalize on talents and intangible qualities, and
  • Passion — the ability to infuse passion for building teams and great organizations” (Mercurius, 2006, p. 7).

Wilson, Goethals, Sorenson, and Burns (n.d.) believed that leaders in the digital age should be:

“flexible and adaptable, and possess wide intellectual curiosity and a hunger for new knowledge. They must be willing to see value in sharply different perspectives, and be comfortable with uncertainly, and like all leaders at all time, must possess true passion for what they do. They look globally for solutions and challenges, and also hunger for constant learning and insist on constant learning from their collaborators and followers. They maintain a more egalitarian and results oriented approach than earlier leaders needed.“ (p. 3). The authors go on and noted what I think is the most important attribute, that of a strong moral compass to direct their actions. 

As recommended by Larson, Miller and Ribble (2009), I plan on staying up to date with the trends of technology, but not try out every tool available to me.  I need to be aware of what is being used in my field and be proficient with that technology.  The best way for me to master new technological skills is to teach it/share it with others.  Perhaps I will need to seek out a technology mentor!  Thank you Dr. Watwood for showing me where to look to stay up to date with technology.  I will be more mindful of my “digital citizenship” (Larson, Miller, and Ribble, 2009) and the responsibilities therein.  I plan to write down my own digital strategy for personal and professional purposes. 

References

Friedman, T.  (2007).  The world is flat. New York, NY:  Picador.

Mercurius, N.  (2006, March 1).  Leadership:  Become a digital-age thinker.  Retrieved from  http://www.techlearning.com/ideas-

          and-opinions/0021/leadership-become-a-digital-age-thinker/43352#

Schwartz, K. (2013, December 5).  Age of distraction: Why it’s crucial for students to learn to focus. Retrieved from

           http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2013/12/age-of-distraction-why-its-crucial-for-students-to-learn-to-focus/

 Wilson III, E. J., Goethals, G.R., Sorenson, G., and Burns, M.  (n.d.).   Leadership in the digital age. 

           The Encyclopedia of Leadership.  Retrieved from http://www.cidcm.umd.edu/leadership/Leadership_in_the_Digital_Age.pdf

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16 Responses to Digital Strategy

  1. arizona126 says:

    Great reflection on how the modern digital world has created an era of multi-tasking. So true! Earlier today I was working with 3 computers, an ipad, live meeting, and a smartphone. I am constantly surrounded by technology. We all are. It is all around us. It is not going away. Sometimes it is, however, too much and requires us to do too many things at the same time. How effective can we be doing 5 things at once? We cannot expect to do them all well, can we?

    At the same time, hasn’t technology saved us a great deal of time and energy and made us MORE productive? Our phones have the weather, maps, timers, alarm clocks, and all types of tools that help us make better use of time. Hasn’t that helped made up for some of the multi-tasking that we now do?

    On balance, I think technology helps us more than it impinges on our time. However, we should be careful and maintain some level of awareness on how much we use technology and how many things we are doing at a given time. We should always reflect on what we are doing and why. And, every once in a while, take a day off without technology!

    • lybrarylyon says:

      Thank you. Sometimes I feel like a kid around all of the technology that is around me . . . I do not want to shut it off as I might miss something! That sure does set me up for exhaustion, like the child who won’t go to bed. Just like we require adequate sleep on a daily basis, we also do better when we have time daily without technology to focus on those people in our presence . . . it makes for a better connection!

      I agree that technology has made us more productive, but I suspect that some of that production is not well thought out and we lose some of the emotional expression when we communicate via technology. Reflect back on the last time that you hand wrote a letter to someone. Think about the amount of emotion that can be expressed via your handwriting. It is darker or lighter, is it neat or not? The person receiving the letter/card knows that they are extra special because you took time to write and mail it. I challenge you to occasionally go old school and write that letter and send it or spend an hour with those you care about completely unplugged. They will understand that you have devoted time just to them. That speaks volumes.

      Don’t get me wrong, I value technology as much as the next person. However, I am starting to realize the importance of being unplugged and focusing on the people around me and not allowing myself to be distracted by being always available. I am still working out how this will occur in my own life, but I believe I need to set firmer boundaries with technology.

    • This week, a colleague in the midwest posted a picture of his office in Facebook which showed he had added a third monitor to his desk … so that he could have a Christmasy crackling fireplace showing on his desk…

  2. rgzinkan says:

    Thanks for sharing your insights from the course. I like the description of authenticity as the ability to be consistent and credible. I have also equated authenticity with imperfection. Sometimes when I’m doing writing at home for my job, my wife will hassle me for being a slow writer. She reminds me that every leadership communication does not have to be perfect and that it comes across as more authentic when it is not perfectly crafted. (She is clearly smarter than I am!) :) That has been a growth opportunity for me in the world of immediate communication — realizing that everything doesn’t have to be a polished communication and that greater authenticity can result.

    • lybrarylyon says:

      I see authenticity as a breath of fresh air! I believe it encourages honesty in those around us as they realize that perfection (something unrealistic) in not the expectation. As long as I see people doing the best that they can with the resources that they have available to them, I see it as a positive effort.

      • Maybe I am just lazy…but the short videos I made for this class certainly were not perfect…yet I think that actually makes me more “real” to those who take my classes.

      • lybrarylyon says:

        I agree. It is okay to not be perfect. I see it as you putting forth the effort to make the video when it it not required. It is this extra effort that good leaders do out of habit. I like the weekly videos that faculty do because it makes it more personal and feel more like an on the ground class. Thanks!

  3. acc07855 says:

    I suspect tthat the reason why Schwartz (2013) refers to the digital era as “the age of distraction” as more to do with how rapidly technology evolves such that, before you get used to one technology, it is displaced by an emerging one that displaces it and so, requires a constant state of reorientation as you and your emotions adjust to your redefined life around the latest greatest thing. It’s like we never have time to get too comfortable with what we used yesterday, that we have to move ahead with the new technological toy. However, the focus is not on the technology, but the technology’s ability to connect us and help us negotiate what we want ro think we want. If you look at the list that you collect from Mercurius (2006), you aren’t mentioning skills like ability to use and manipulate a software program or write code; it is non-technological things. The list boils down to three affective skills: competency, manipulativity, and project management. The last item in Mercurius (2006) list is “technological savvy” which translates to: “know how to run the programs to get us there”.
    If you think about it, that’s kind of deep. What’s valued isn’t computer programming or testing; it’s being able to manage technology in the same way you manage anything else, including people The interactions are like those with people. Very curious….

  4. Nice post…has me thinking about how the concept of a “digital-age thinker” has evolved since Mercurius wrote his article 7 years ago! In some ways, the web has infiltrated our lives and those of our workers / patients / students, such that analog thinking seems quaint now. Yet, you make good points about unplugging and authentic interest in people. Tom Peters notes that one of the most underused leadership tricks is the hand written thank you card.

    You note that you will work to stay current in your field…which is great! I would suggest for all of us that we keep a somewhat broader eye out and when we see a technology being used somewhere else, ask the question – “How would my field benefit if we implemented this?” I was having lunch yesterday with someone in occupational therapy, and she noted that her field could learn much from how the service industry (Ritz Carlton) made people feel special.

    Been fun working with you this term! Best of luck in the future.

    • lybrarylyon says:

      Thank you. You mentioned Tom Peters recommendation that leaders write hand written notes. I see that as a leader going the extra mile to make sure that appreciation is expressed in a genuine fashion. Is that not one of the key traits of a leader, to provide the extra effort necessary in given situations? The leaders that I admire the most do what is right despite uncomfortable or even dangerous situtions (Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, Jr., etc.).

      I, too, will keep a “broader eye out” regarding technology. That is something that this class has been helpful in pointing out where to look in order to remain up to date and consider how to learn from other professions and think about how to apply those resources to my own work.

  5. jvap2013 says:

    Great final reflection on our course this semester. I especially appreciated your comments about the importance of staying “Attuned to the values and benefits of globalization” (Mercurious, 2006). In my opinion, that is critical. As Friedman (2007) made clear in the closing chapters of his book, technology in our flattened world can be used for either good or evil. We must, as Friedman (2007) stated, promote the growth of “The generation of strategic optimists, the generation with more dreams than memories, the generation that wakes up each morning and not only imagines that things can be better but also acts on that imagination every day”

    I also value your comments about the importance of the “digital daily sabbath” (Schwartz, 2013). We do live in the age of non-stop digital interruptions and we need to make time to stop and focus on what’s important (Friedman, 2007). I hope to do more of that in the new year.

    References:

    Friedman, T. (2007). The world is flat. New York, NY.

    Mercurius, N. (2006, March 1). Leadership: Become a digital-age thinker. Retrieved from http://www.techlearning.com/ideas-and-opinions/0021/leadership-become-a-digital-age-thinker/43352#

    Schwartz, K. (2013, December 5). Age of distraction: Why it’s crucial for students to learn to focus. Retrieved from

  6. millervr says:

    I enjoyed reading your post. As you mentioned, new skills are needed and leaders must assess and prioritize. I recently met with an organization that is looking to revamp it’s approach to technology, but has spent the last year developing the strategy, researching capabilities, and seeking best practices, before finalizing the future operating model. This ensures the bridge of the past and the future as you stated.

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