For big organizations especially, the pressure to change—to adapt to new market pressures and seize unprecedented opportunities—is high. That’s why I sat down at this year’s Minds & Machines conference in San Francisco with four experts from around the world who have led change in their own organizations, especially in the face of digitization... Here’s a distillation of their advice to changemakers everywhere.
Dr. Ahmed Balkhair (Director of the National eHealth Strategy and Change Management Office, Ministry of Health, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) says:
Empower People with Information
Dr. Balkhair has been tasked with helping the Saudi Health services realize the full benefits of digitization on behalf of their population. He says that making new information available to the users of a system isn’t enough. You have to make people aware of their newfound access and make them feel empowered to make the most of it. Focusing on user experience helps the way that he and his colleagues have achieved this in Saudi Arabia via social media, where Saudi eHealth is among the most-used accounts on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. If the user experience is easy, says Dr. Balkhair, solutions will follow.
Christophe Mueller (Chief Digital and Innovation Officer of Emirates Group) says:
Christophe speaks from an industry that saw the effects of a major digital change two decades ago: the rise of automation in the form of autopilots. There was just as much anxiety in his industry then as there is in many other industries now, he says. But the upshot for commercial aviation was that life became both easier and safer. Even with autopilots, human pilots still make a major contribution to the industry, and they didn’t have to become tech geeks to do it. Communicating this potential to the members of industries that are currently digitizing is key. If we can transform anxiety about the future into excitement about future potential, we’ll be alright.
Gene Seroka (Executive Director, The Port of Los Angeles) says:
Focus on Collaboration
A global port is at the center of a dizzying array of stakeholders: businesses with international supply chains to depend on, shipping companies, national governments, port workers, and its city of residence, to name a few. When he took on his job, Gene had to lead them all down a path of digital transformation. He did it by finding one piece of common ground they could meet on (the need for information sharing) and identifying and overcoming what was preventing consensus (fear of losing strategic advantage). How did he do it? By accepting and understanding legacy systems, moving as fast as possible but not too fast, and by inviting every major stakeholder into the process as a co-creator of the solution.
Dr. Linda A. Hill (Wallace Brett Donham Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School):
Change Starts With Purpose
In Dr. Hill’s quest to know why some large organizations innovate while others stay paralyzed, she’s come across a major insight: leading innovation isn’t the same as leading change. When you’re leading innovation—trying to find the next new invention or process—the key is to give people the okay to think about what’s possible, and to find everybody’s unique contribution and bring it forth. When you’re leading change, it’s not about expanding possibilities, but focusing people around a single point—the purpose behind the change. Once you can answer the question, “What’s at stake with this change?” and communicate the answer to everybody involved, you’ve taken the first step. The catch? You have to discover and believe that purpose yourself before you can communicate it to others.
About Beth Comstock