Can a CEO “get” the digital mindset without “being” digital?

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Chief Digital Officer - digital mindset the myndset brand strategy Source: http://bit.ly/1kFFopu

Can an executive claim to have a digital mindset and understand how to use and invest in digital tools and applications if he/she is not actively using the digital tools and platforms? This is a profoundly important question for companies engaged in any project of digital transformation. I recently tweeted about how odd it was for someone (a senior executive at an FMCG company) to try to persuade me that his company “is” and “gets” digital when proof to the contrary is desperately visible. I am reminded of a saying that if you have to say it, then “it” may not exist or be true.

“Saying you’re patriotic is like saying you have a big cock. If you have to say it, chances are it isn’t true.” – Bill Maher

The tweet below, referring to my offline conversation, earned a few rebuttals and an interesting conversation ensued on Twitter. Happily, I pursue the conversation here.

This was my initial tweet:

Being digital = having digital mindset

The senior HR executive with whom I had this offline discussion (who, of course, has zero online presence himself, not even an account on Linkedin) tried to persuade me that his CEO was absolutely “on board” with digital and was dedicated to the digital transformation mission. I was mildly amused. His supporting evidence was that, just recently, the company had hired a Chief Digital Officer (CDO), reporting directly into the CEO. My feeling is that, for a large FMCG company in 2014, that’s almost like saying in 1993 that the fax machine is the future. Better late than never, surely. However, it is a far cry from persuading me that the CEO in question really understands digital. Even if Twitter isn’t everything, I find this statistic relevant: the new CDO in question has been on Twitter since 2008 and, despite some 1500 tweets has managed to earn less than 800 followers, which happens to represent the sum total of the followers of all the entire Executive Committee for that FMCG. Moreover, the prior “head of digital” (still) has a private Twitter account with a couple of hundred followers. Hum!

digital mindset - Myndset brand strategy

How do you “get” the digital mindset?

So, the question remains: can someone “get” (i.e. fully understand) digital without actually being digital? On the one hand, a key question is defining exactly what “digital” entails. There is digital marketing and then there is digital in the broader sense: platforms, devices and services that can be applied and embedded into other parts of the business. Making abstraction of digital in the broader sense, when I look at a company’s digital mindset and digital IQ, there are a number of recognizable signals.

  • What is the level of engagement of the brand/company on social media (including Linkedin)?
  • What type of presence do key executives (including the CEO and Executive Committee) have online?
  • How is the conversation about the company online by employees past and present (e.g. Glassdoor, Meilleures Entreprises, forums, blogs, etc.)?
  • How digitally wired are the (internal) conferences?
  • Is wifi easily accessible in the office? (Is the infrastructure adapted?)
  • How active (and broad) is employee participation in the internal social networks (Chatter, Yammer, etc…)?
  • How often/much is social media moderated (for example in conferences, in the internal networks)?
  • Is BYOD an accepted practice? (BTW does the CEO “get” the acronym?)

Can intelligence tame the digital beast?

When talking about digital transformation, the challenge is all-encompassing. Ideally, it must involve everyone. Getting digital right means aligning the options to the business objectives and strategy. {Tweet this!} Ultimately, digital transformation is a question of mindset and needs to be embodied throughout the organization. Time invested in fiddling and diddling with the various platforms is important for nourishing the digital IQ. Personal experience helps to craft one’s own opinion of what makes for a great User Experience. My observation is that intelligence is not enough to get digital. You need to plunge into the water and learn to swim. {Tweet This!} If the CEO is heavily introverted and not interested in self-promotion, that is totally acceptable. The challenge is to make sure that there are enough people in the surrounding team (not just the CDO) that truly are digital in order to help drive the digital agenda throughout the organization.

Do you have any examples of companies who are doing a great job in digital marketing where none of the top executives have a strong presence online? I’d be most curious to hear about any counter examples?


2 Comments, RSS

  1. […] Can you claim to have a digital mindset and understand how to use and invest in digital tools and applications if you are not actively using the digital tools and platforms?  […]

  2. […] sherpa, someone who personally takes them through the first steps on the road to understanding the digital mindset. It’s one of the defining elements of the iPhone which, because it doesn’t come with […]

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