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  • Writer's pictureTom Bryant

Digital transformation and swimming with sharks…literally!

Naturally, while advising on the people and culture side of digital transformation, I often see the very real barrier of ‘fear of change’.  Some anxiety is inevitable when we see the way we work, communicate, develop, recruit, reward, etc. all changing due to digital. 

I’ve also seen it throughout my career in change navigation, long before the word 'digital' was omnipresent.  During the past two decades we still had to guide impacted colleagues beyond their crumpled comfort zones when it related to ERP implementations or creating Shared Services.  Change is still change.  There is not a drastic difference when you strip away the ‘digital’ badge.  We are still talking about new tools or new ways of working that push us out of BAU and out of our comfort zone.  And with digital of course the changes are in practically every area of our lives.

So, what on earth does all this have to do with sharks?

Well, for me personally, fear of sharks is the closest thing I have to an actual phobia.  At the tender age of 7, I was taken to see a little known film (ha!) called 'Jaws'.  I also grew up on the coast of South Carolina in the US where there is the actual threat of real shark attacks.  Needless to say, this niggling fear of being in the water with these formidable (although misunderstood) animals has always stuck with me...until recently.  

Making a career in business and behavioral change, forces the professional to constantly examine the fear of change, the removing of barriers and advising others on pushing boundaries.  How can I do that without finding new ways to push my own boundaries? 

And so you probably see where this is going.  The London Aquarium provided me with the unique opportunity to face my fear and get into a shark tank with 15 sharks, some almost 10 feet long!  Huge trepidation when putting on that wet suit but then huge awe and respect once in the water.  They weren't the Hollywood-manufactured monsters I expected and my attitude changed.  No small feat for me even though I was behind a net and knew they were recently fed.  This experience is certainly not the same as an organisation going omnichannel or embracing digital but I still could relate it to business change.

Yes, business change is challenging and, yes, can be scary but it’s never going away.  You make a choice at some point to resist it or just go with it.  

Let’s face the pervasive digital era with renewed courage and sense of adventure. 

One thing I always impress upon companies and teams I advise is to proactively hone ‘intellectual curiosity’ about digital and emerging technology trends.  Contextualise and ask the questions.  How is IoT, the Sharing Economy and mobility, etc. going to change my industry, my company, my role?  Get curious about disruption. 

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