Digital. But is it also useful?

If it can be done, we do it. We don’t ask questions about the sense or purpose of new technologies until later, if at all. Yet a short-term technology hype can soon turn into an expensive flop. Genuine utility, on the other hand, has sustainable value. What does this mean for organisational culture in the digital era?

Digitisation should make sense for people

Whether it’s Google Glass, Apple’s Newton or Microsoft Windows Phone: even the big players in the digital economy who are accustomed to success have been known to give into the temptation to do the doable without first asking themselves whether anyone actually wants or really needs the product in question. And in the light of the much lauded digital disruption, the temptation remains great for many companies, especially those from the old economy, to digitise anything that can be digitised in some shape or form – in the vague hope that that they will end up as one of the creative disruptors rather than joining those who are being disrupted.

From an end in itself to something that makes sense.

“In terms of its recognisable benefits, digitisation was for many, many years an economy of scarcity”, postulates Wolf Lotter in the German business magazine “Brandeins”. We would like to add to this: These “many years” are not yet over. Yet, at the latest, when the excitement of the new which still today spurs on digitisation has to make way for the inevitability of normality, the make-or-break question will no longer be: What can technology do? But rather: What benefit does it bring us? What purpose and value does it have – and for whom?

According to Wolf Lotter, we need to “develop a new understanding of digital usefulness that isn’t focused on the latest developments in technology but rather on the needs of the people who have to work with it”. For companies, this first of all means cultivating their knowledge of the possibilities offered by digital technologies throughout the entire organisation, and no longer seeing this as the sole domain of software engineers and digital nerds. And secondly, it means consistently filtering these possibilities according to their real value beyond being just as an end in themselves in technical terms. In this way, digitisation can make sense for everyone – for the organisation, for its employees and above all for its customers.

You can read Wolf Lotter’s complete essay here online (only in German).

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