In the modern business environment, the mantra for many companies is "adapt or die," especially when it comes to technology. Whether it's automation or artificial intelligence, the rapid convergence of technology and business often determines competitiveness and, in the most extreme cases, survival.
For businesses, survival of the fittest means developing nimble, adaptable processes driven by data, automation and constant communication. Failure to follow the course of this evolution spells disaster for any company. In fact, a study from the John M. Olin School of Business at Washington University estimated that, in the next decade, 40 percent of today's companies on the S&P 500 will be gone. This is disruption in action.
Even as technology is driving these immense changes, it's important for companies to keep in mind what drives technology: human beings. Technology doesn't develop in a vacuum, and it isn't implemented in one either. Neglecting the human side of your business for a machine-centric approach could be as much a detriment to your business as neglecting technology altogether. [Businesses' biggest cybersecurity risks are due to human error and oversights.]
Humanizing the digital revolution
At the Global Innovators' Roundtable led by University of Virginia Darden School of Business professor Edward D. Hess, executives from companies including Capital One, IBM and Siemens discussed digital transformation and how it impacted their companies, as well as how to react to the changing landscape in a successful manner. One participant highlighted the need to foster a human openness to technological innovation.
"Embracing digital requires a new mindset," he said. "The ability to adopt a new mindset and change the ways of operating is excruciating for many people."
This is where leadership comes in. Leaders shape company culture in a number of ways, but the most important is leading by example. For the company as a whole to adopt an attitude of acceptance toward change and technological innovation, leaders first have to truly embrace it and practice what they preach. Technological development needs to be more than just another investment, but a complete integration.
At a time when technology is essential for business success, ensuring that it works in a symbiotic way with your human employees is key. After all, what good is technology if it remains unintelligible or intimidating to the humans who need to leverage it? Ultimately, it's about what your team gets out of technology; the tools you choose should make your team well informed, agile and surgical in their execution of your business strategy.
When it comes to humans and technology, it's a team effort.