The renowned military strategist John Boyd taught that people and institutions collect favorite philosophies, strategies, theories and ideologies over a period of time, and then try to align the future to fit them. The problem with this is the future is rarely like the past, and trying to fit new data into old paradigms often forces us to perform irrational mental gymnastics, which leaves us farther from the truth.
Our resistance to change and unwillingness to question our beliefs in the face of mounting evidence, leads us to analytical and execution failure. A more productive habit would be to continuously review our mental constructs to find out how to modify our interpretations to align with new evidence. This action, however, goes against our human nature that seeks stability and resists change. We see the consequences of these challenges weekly as we read about companies (especially retail) failing as a result of their resistance. In the future, developments in artificial intelligence and machine learning will have the potential to help us overcome many of our own mental weaknesses that cause us problems in our pursuit of truth.
In the digital era, our ability to change our thinking becomes even more critical as it must happen at a faster rate. I remember when updates to an enterprise’s mobile apps required all users to bring their mobile devices into the office to get them loaded and tested. This was a slow, tedious and expensive process. Today, as we all know, this can be done worldwide instantly and for very little money through cloud based app stores. Digital transformation equals speed and accelerated change.
In a world of integrated digital platforms and systems, every new digital innovation can potentially impact everything. This was vividly reinforced as I was studying block chain. Block chain can impact many different areas of a business.
The bottom line – one of the biggest factors determining the digital transformation winners of tomorrow will be the brains of leaders – their mental constructs. Can executives and boards look at new evidence and innovations without biases, resistance to change and prejudices, and grasp how economies, industries, markets and competition will be impacted? Can they learn about new digital innovations, understand the breadth of the impact, and develop new business strategies based on the new realities? Can they overcome themselves?
It is quite the irony that digital winners will be not simply those with the best digital technologies, but those that can best overcome their own human brains.