People First! with Gerald Kane

The Technology Falacy


By Morag Barrett

Dr. Gerald Kane is a professor of information systems and the faculty director of the Edmund H. Shea Jr Center for Entrepreneurship at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management. Let me tell you, his qualifications are as extensive as his title! Gerald researches and teaches about how companies understand and react to digital disruptions to undergraduate, graduate, and executive school students and has published over a hundred papers on the topic. 

Back to the Basics…
We’re not heading all the way back to middle school, but Gerald was a United Methodist minister working at a large church in Atlanta. Eventually, he went back to get his Ph.D. before moving into academia. This experience has been extremely helpful in allowing Gerald a unique perspective that most information systems professionals do not possess.

Command and Control
Social media is an interesting space because there aren’t the usual structures of law and order, command and control, that exist in other areas. This is a good learning space for organizations as they move into the digital realms and feel a similar loss of control. Gerald learned some great motivation skills while working with volunteers. If you can’t fire someone and they aren’t depending on a paycheck, being able to create and sustain motivation is crucial.

Digital Transformation
One of the great challenges with digital transformation is not that technology moves too quickly, but that it moves at different rates for different organizations and individuals and even public policy. It’s a chronic condition -- it’s slow and able to be ignored. While it’s easy to become enamoured by the new shiny objects, because of the way that technology moves and changes, people are the real key to digital transformations. If people are too afraid or not equipped to use a technology, the technology will not succeed. 

A Fallacy By Any Other Name
The technology fallacy is the mistaken belief that just because an organization’s challenges or struggles are caused by digital technology does not mean that the solution must involve digital technology as well. Many of the biggest challenges were organizational, leadership based, or staff talent based. COVID has proven this to be true in that the technological adjustments that have been made to adapt to different workflows have largely been flawless. The issues that arise are based on people!  There is nothing like an existential crisis to shake up our habits and routines. 

Mind the Gap
The knowing and doing gap is a theory coined in the 1980’s that describes that there are things that we know we should do but we don’t follow through and actually accomplish them. (How many of us can relate? My hand is raised). Twice as many survey respondents said that digital technologies will transform their industry than said that their current organization is doing enough to prepare. This gap has shrunk during this work-from-home era, and some research shows that the disruption of these organizational barriers has ushered in decades of change in just over a year.

What Characteristics are Necessary for Digital Transformation
The biggest characteristics for future success in this world of lightning quick digital chance is the ability and willingness to be forward thinking. In some interviews that Gerald has engaged in previously, he found that WalMart is looking ten years down the line, not just at the technical changes that they will need to make, but also at the cultural shifts that they need to foster in order to remain relevant. Along with the ability to look to the future, success is found by those who are able to move quickly, boldly, empathetically, and accurately. Disruption is the new normal--it’s not going to just stop when the impacts of COVID are over. So leaders and organizations who are well-prepared to navigate disruption will continue to thrive.

Excited about the future
We need to not only create great businesses that deliver value to their customers but also businesses that end up creating a better society as well. It’s not just, “What can I do with this technology? but, “What is the world that we are trying to build?” The superpower for the next 20 years is going to be continual learning. We need to embrace a growth mindset and s spirit of continuous learning to be able to succeed in the coming digital transformations. Keep growing and expanding your skillset. 
Looking to the future we also see an opportunity to create more collective access. The educational/access gap isn’t indicative of the knowing/doing gap but it is relevant to the knowledge/doing gap that we as a human race need to close in order to forward together. 

Watch away: Here!

Resources:
Website
The Technology Gap
The Transformation Myth
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