Without a cultural change, no digital transformation. But what are the essential components for change? During Snapshot Breakfast: The Culture Cure for Digital one thing was stated: if people aren’t onboard, it is money wasted.
From loom and textiles to computing and digitization – as technology switches up, there will inevitable be changes in how work is done. According to Euan Davis, analyst at the Center for Future of Work, we’re right at the start of a major shift about how we capture value. As the pressure grows, organizations must act to remain competitive. How to thrive? The new era demands a velocity of innovation, experimentation and collaboration, both inside and outside the organization.
Step-by-step approach to cultural change
The question is how you make that happen? This is something that Lars Ederström, Head of Business Innovation, Sandvik Materials Technology, thought a lot about as increased competitive pressure, speed of innovation and new disruptive business models challenged the traditional R&D process.
When realizing that 75% of all companies on the S&P top 500 list will be exchanged by 2027, his team set out on a radical internal change journey going from innovating inside the box to no box at all. So far, they have established an external innovation portal and a platform for internal idea generation, they initiate hackatons and challenges, and ongoingly reach out to entrepreneurs and startups. Is everyone happy
Tapping startup creativity
Pursuing digital transformation in the core business, is critical to creating value. However, the speed of change together with complex transformation of the operating culture and business model, can challenge any company. For a large organization, the best option can thus be to cultivate contacts outside the organization to tap into the mentality of a startup.
That’s why SEB Singular was established. It addresses the digital ecosystem and the dynamics between large companies and creative initiatives/startups. There are many different models of how digital ventures can work to bring technology and creativity into business; strategic partnerships, independent subsidiaries and acquisitions. However, as Jan Amethier, Head of SEB Singular, points out, any change is really more about how people work than the technology itself.
AI conquers the experts?
Another trend affecting work culture, is the entry of intelligent technology at the workplace. What’s AI’s impact on work processes, culture and professional identity? Frida Pemer, Assistant Professor at Stockholm School of Economics, knows. She is researching about digitalization of expertise, and sees that some incumbent professional services firms, especially auditory and management consulting, is beginning to use AI.
The shift requires new internal competences, skills that in their turn will lead to cultural and structural changes. To keep up with the transformation, companies need to recruit, reskill and retain new competence. This is not without obstacles though; an engineer or a data scientist might not want to work for a law firm, and the new competences might not fit with the traditional system of advancing within the organization.
What to do then? Get inspiration from leaders in other industries, focus on bilingual roles (e.g. someone with both tech and law knowledge) and reversed mentoring (e.g. when a tech savvy junior teaches a senior), and make sure you really understand your own culture’s underlying values and norms.
If you'd like to learn more about Frida Pemer's work, please check out When AI and Algorithms Moves Into the Office.
The millions of dollars invested in a company’s digital journey, is money wasted if the workforce isn’t onboard. Work cultures, however, can be complex, slow moving and complacent. Leaders need to intentionally reshape the organizational culture.