How to Build an Executive Digital IQ?

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As part of a speech, my pal and fellow speaker, Andrew Grill, came up with six questions designed to evaluate one’s digital curiosity and posted it on Linkedin. Obviously this was part audience participation, part shock value. In any event, check out Andrew’s list and see how you fare!

  1. Are you on LinkedIn?
  2. Have you “googled yourself” lately?
  3. Do you consume newspapers & magazines digitally?
  4. Have you bought your own domain name?
  5. Do you use 2-factor authentication on all of your social accounts?
  6. Have you bought some Bitcoin? 

How did you do? Although these questions aren’t necessarily in order from easiest to most difficult, they cover a fairly broad spectrum and get the braincells ticking as to whether you are staying digitally curious enough.

Digital Curiosity to Digital Skills & IQ

Andrew’s approach on digital curiosity got me thinking as to which digital skills an executive should have today? The skills that might have been novel ten years ago, are they still valid? Are there some skills that are evergreen? A PwC survey in 2017 suggested that Digital IQs of business have been declining. According to that PwC survey, just 52% of businesses would rate their Digital IQ as “strong” in 2017 versus 67% in the 2016 edition of the survey. Hard to fathom, but in the 2018 edition of the survey, 37% of businesses still equate digital only with IT. The way I read these results is that executives are not staying up-to-date with the ever-evolving digital world. There’s quickly a feeling of self-satisfaction or saturation… Relying on Learning For Development (LFD) programmes and old-fashioned teaching methods clearly isn’t sufficient. Bottom line: treading water just won’t cut it.

Evaluate your Digital IQ

Leveraging where Andrew left off, and in the spirit of pushing the button further, I have created a list of 16 questions designed to evaluate an Executive Digital IQ. The nature of these questions could be converted to a sliding scale, but for the sake of this post, I’ve made them boolean:

  1. Can you type over 60 words per minute (WPM) on a regular keyboard without error? Take the test here.
  2. Do you use emojis and GIFs appropriately?
  3. Have you turned off all your notifications except for the most strategic/important sources across all your devices?
  4. Have you set up shortcuts for regular expressions and information on your smartphone? 
  5. Do you regularly contribute, share and ‘like’ valuable content online?
  6. Do you regularly listen to an array of podcasts that are relevant to helping your stay abreast of all digital and new technology advancements? [NB You don’t just listen to the news]
  7. Do you have a good (and up-to-date) understanding of how the algorithms work on the key social media sites?
  8. Have you checked out your email(s) on HaveIbeenpawned in the last month?
  9. Do you change your passwords frequently and use a bona fide password manager (such as LastPass, Dashlane or 1Password)?
  10. Do you know the basics of some code, for example: html, javascript? 
  11. Do you have a secure VPN service you use across any of your devices?
  12. Have you explored how advances in genomics could alter your marketing, data collection or business paradigm? [At the very least, have you checked out your own genetic code, such as 23andMe or AncestryDNA?)
  13. Do you have a good grasp of the different levels of autonomous driving cars and the impact that could have on your business?
  14. Have you tried to design and print your own object on a 3D printer?
  15. Do you understand the advancements in and the links between miniaturisation, IoT and energy storage?
  16. Do you know the difference between artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep learning and artificial general intelligence?

How did you do? If you’re an executive who answered at least half of these with a resounding yes, then you’re probably above average (and/or you work in the digital space, where the scale is different). If not, you’ll want to start rethinking how you consume information and learn. You might start by finding and/or hiring a geeky friend to help you on your ongoing path! [I’d also cheekily suggest taking a read of my book Futureproof (co-written with Caleb Storkey and published by Pearson). It will help get you up to snuff on some of the big new tech topics.]

The Threat of a Low Digital IQ to your Organisation

In its 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report, Verizon showed that top bosses are 12x more likely to be targeted by “social engineers” than in previous years. Hacks of cloud-based email servers and compromises of payment card web apps were also notably up last year. And because the weakest link in the chain is systematically the human being, it’s critical that the executives (who have access to key data) lead by example and learn to stay secure as best as possible. Cyber security is a strategic consideration, not just because of IP, but because of privacy concerns and data protection laws.

Leading through Learning

Whether it’s assessing an acquisition, leading digital transformation, gauging the validity of a social media campaign or the user experience of a mobile site or app, having the most appropriate payment options or hiring new digital talent, executives are being called on to make decisions and allocate resources with a dangerously low understanding of the impact. For each of these tasks, weakness in digital IQ will skew your perception. If you and your executive team don’t have the continuous learning mindset, the chances are you are falling behind in your Digital IQ and that will inevitably have negative consequences on your results.

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