The concept of the Digital Quotient was introduced to provide insight on firms’ capability to succeed in the digital age. But we think it has a much broader application, beyond corporations and their employees. If we look outside of business, to society as a whole, we can learn a lot about our ‘Societal Digital Quotient’.
At Tomorrow’s Work, we see a worrying lack of digital capability in society at large, particularly in government. If we don’t take steps to improve our collective Digital Quotient, our ability to compete will suffer, as we struggle with issues ranging from poor investment decisions, to an inadequate regulatory environment, to a lack of resources dedicated to emerging threats like cyber security.
To determine how to set the proper course, we must avoid the easy answers. Technical abilities like Mobile, and the Internet of Things, have their place, but underlying skills like algorithmic thinking, data science, and agile change management will act as a platform to enable adoption of all new technologies, not just the ‘hot’ ones today.
Thinking about how to build these capabilities system wide, though, it’s easy to see why major technologies take a while to produce their best results, as Electrification did in the early 20th Century. Changing the mental models of decision-makers across the system would be impossible, although there are opportunities for immediate impact. More likely, it will be future generations of political and corporate leaders which generate an increase in our Societal Digital Quotient.
To facilitate this, political office must become more attractive to younger generations, supported by a shift in public perception. Young people also have a responsibility to approach politics feeling that they’re a force for good.
We should also watch that automation doesn’t leave skills gaps in future generations of leaders. Automating accounting processes, for example, may make financial sense today, but how will accounting firms develop soft business skills (eg management and sales) in future leaders, while giving them the ability to draw and provide insight, without the training that used to be carried out on the job?
For the policy makers and corporate leaders responsible for overseeing progress towards the digital age today, creating roles and mandates to ensure skills like algorithmic thinking have a voice in decision making groups is also essential. The codification of the U.S. Chief Technology Officer’s role in early 2017 is an excellent example, and can be replicated at a state level and in other parts of the bureaucracy.
Finally, the study of philosophy and logic would support development of critical leadership skills to underpin the digital age. We should make this mandatory in college, and introduce elements in postgraduate curricula too.
Digital is upon us, but the instructions to get us there safely need more work. To instill the right mindsets and capabilities, we need to find opportunities for immediate impact, while preparing future generations to be leaders who can support the adoption, and harvest the bounty, of new technology.