Corporate culture is not digitally friendly

Forget perfection and control, the way forward with digital is moving fast and taking risks says Luke Atkinson in an opinion piece that first appeared in Encore.

No doubt your business is already embracing digital; large investment into digital infrastructure, evolved business models, channel expansion, the use of social media. An occasional victory, the odd competitive advantage have probably been achieved.

But you probably also still feel digitally hamstrung, or even threatened. Adoption hasn’t created a big, sustained win. Change keeps out-pacing you. Adjacent categories look threatening. Technology start-ups are the competitors that worry you most.

One of the major causes of this limitation or threat is your internal corporate culture. Corporate culture and your people have long thrived on experience, knowledge and risk management; control. All predicated on people doing business using familiar models, channels, technologies. These are not digital-friendly predications.

Digital change is so fast paced that the people side of your business, especially the members of the workforce already expert in traditional behaviours of control, can’t, by traditional cultural standards, keep up with it.

If your people can’t change quick enough and you can’t find candidates elsewhere, then you have to change your culture to cultivate and breed new types of workers and working practices.

This new type of culture is going to have to relax its attitudes towards control and controlling behaviours. Instead, businesses will have to foster a culture that can encourage the risk taking that comes with making technology a competitive advantage. This new culture is going to have to champion digital entrepreneurialism as an equal to experience.

Last, certainly not least, corporates are going to create cultures that love, rather than tolerate, being in ‘beta’ as a means to competitive advantage.

Today, the idea of putting something into market that isn’t perfect and evolving it is repugnant to most corporates. Tomorrow, the companies that will use digital to win are the ones with cultures that demand beta, along with a deep-seated adoration of risk-taking over control and entrepreneurialism matched with experience.

It is time to prioritise cultural change over investment change when it comes to winning with digital.

Luke Atkinson is the deputy head of planning at Leo Burnett Sydney.


This feature first appeared in the tablet edition of Encore. To download click on the links below.


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