Alexander Zeitelhack, Associate Dean, Berlin School of Business and Innovation charts the digital transformation revolution during COVID-19 and why it took so long to get us to the this stage
Noun: A thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance.
Transformation is here now; for some it’s dramatic and for others it’s thorough, but for most of us, it’s both.
Let’s think back to March 2020 ago and consider the effect of the pandemic in our lives. Very early on, everybody older than 60 was fearing for their lives, those under 30 were fearful of the safety of their jobs, and everyone else between 30 and 60 feared both – and then we realised that nothing will be the same anymore. Change had struck us all of us like lightning, as well as every aspect of wider society, including football fans, doctors and even politicians.
Those who work within management understand just how hard it is to manage change, however, this was not something that anyone in politics or management decided would be needed. This is a natural catastrophe and isn’t man-made. (Well, you could say humans and our exploitation of nature plays a huge role, but that’s another discussion.)
The winners and losers
With change, there are always winners and many losers – at least in the beginning. In the long-run, change can have a positive impact on us, because if we adapt to our new environment, that’s an achievement, and we’re in the process of this now.
As humans, what we fail to realise is that change drives itself. Our reality and environments are changing, and this is impacting our society and economic system too; therefore, change is necessary for survival and this leads to progress.
However, the winners and losers of this development are clear to see – whether this is entire nations (U.S.) or sectors (travel, events, etc.) or individuals (for example, those who have no access to good hospitals) – their very existence has been impacted.
The winners are delivery companies and home office hardware and software providers, to name just a few. However, would such a sudden and crude impact have been necessary under different circumstances?
Looking to the future
We must realise the importance of everything that we’ve neglected in the last 20 years. Some people are of the view that digitalisation will help us cope better with COVID-19 – but this isn’t the full picture.
Consider how well we would have been coping with the pandemic and its detrimental impact on society, schools and workplaces if we had embraced the digital revolution 20 years ago – and this was possible. Instead, we chose to ignore it in too many fields, and the same lobby groups and stakeholders who are now complaining, are the same people who actively hindered innovations and progress back then, which is why many nations now have poor healthcare and education systems.
If this had happened, we wouldn’t have needed today’s digital revolution, as the world would have started benefitting long ago, and our teachers and schools would be perfectly prepared with parents having the ability to teach their kids about coding raspberry pi tech, (and if you don’t know what this is, point proven).
You may be thinking that a single individual is powerless, but this is the wrong attitude. It might be a little difficult, but you need to take responsibility to prepare yourself, your family, your company and your community for this extraordinary situation, as waiting for politicians to solve things is more than naive. Politicians are stakeholders of old-fashioned networks; they are hinderers and blockers of innovations, and they are the same people who are scared that the sky might fall on their heads (remember Asterix?) and many other excuses – that’s what politics has been all along and we know it.
We need a new public discourse in the style Philosopher, Jürgen Habermas defined it. We can leave this to the tech giants or politicians who use Cambridge Analytica’s tool to manipulate opinions or we can utilise the fourth power in democracy – the media – and take advantage of personal dialogue within neighbourhoods.
The main topics right now are the new definition of work and the workplace, learning and teaching, those who can and cannot access technology, networks and a renaissance of the human touch in all our decisions – this will lead to the reconsideration of our priorities. Change doesn’t always improve things, but most of the time, it does. Our next priority should be climate change – we should learn from the past and aim to tackle this global issue in a smarter fashion!
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