The Emperor’s New Clothes is a short tale written by Danish author Hans Christian Anderson about 2 weavers who promise an Emperor a new suit that they say is invisible to those who are unfit for position, stupid or incompetent. When the emperor parades before his subjects in his new clothes, no one dares to say that they don’t see any suit of clothes on him for fear that they will be seen as “unfit for their positions, stupid or incompetent.” Finally a child cries out “but he isn’t wearing anything at all.”
This story strikes a chord with all of us and we can all blush with embarrassment when we recall an instance we have behaved as the devious weavers (selling or promoting things or ideas we know won’t work) or the vain Emperor (believing our own hype). We all need the insightful child within us to bring us back to our senses. The digital world however increases the scope and provides much more space to behave as a vain leader who either doesn’t wear any digital clothes or digitally ‘glams up’ (having been sold digital stuff by digital weavers) and is unaware of how they look in the digital world. In their book Leading Digital the authors Westerman, Bonnet and McAffee describe these positions as:
Beginners – who adopt a wait and see strategy, trying to gain certainty before starting the process of digital transformation and
Fashionistas – who flaunt their technological trendiness but don’t change what’s behind the veneer because they lack digital leadership and governance, wasting most of what they spend.
Both these types of leaders impose their view of the future on their organisations and most organisations don’t have the capacity or freedom to challenge their view and hence bring to life Hans Christian Anderson insightful story. Industry sectors can compound the harm when nearly all the other organisations in that sector cooperate in the make believe. The worst sector of all is the public sector where many leaders are afraid to step out of line in case they will be seen as “unfit for their positions, stupid or incompetent”. We all need the childlike insightful wisdom within us to help us change this story.
What can you do to change the story?
The first thing to do is to change your leadership mind-set by participating in a Digital Transformation Leadership Course. You can then change the mind-set of your organisation. It’s similar to aircraft safety advice to put on your oxygen mask first before helping others. You must change your leadership mind-set first before changing the organisation’s collective mindset.
The second thing to do is to work within a Digital Transformation Framework – this gives you the ability to metaphorically see yourself in the mirror – to understand how you appear to your customer, citizen or competitors – where you sit in the marketplace or environment and what you have to do. It allows you to develop and implement your strategy aligned with the digital world.
Digital transformation will either be done to you (with little or no benefits) or it will be done by you (allowing you to maximize the benefits). Don’t be the Digital Emperor and don’t be taken in by Digital Weavers. Change your leadership mind-set, work within a Digital Transformation Framework and change your Digital future.