Bring the Outside In (MIT Sloan Mgt Q&A)

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Q: What are your views on dealing with senior executives who downplay digital? How can you create a change that goes in the right direction?

J: Bring the outside in. Show what’s going on in the world.

“So many questions, so little time!” This series of posts is based on the questions I had no time to answer after my MITSloan Management Review Webinar in July 2018: Don’t Let Politics Back Your Digital Initiatives. I suggest you first check out the slides I used in order to understand the context for the questions in this series. Or you can listen to the webinar ($).

My response to people who downplay digital is to bring them into direct, personal contact with their peers in other organizations so they see the reality of what’s happening in the external world. The ones I’ve met like those you describe have always tended to be focused inwardly, with blinders when it comes to the outside world.

I discussed with a head-quarters based board member in a large organization a couple years ago who told me he saw no reason to change how people work because their company has always been successful. He said it with a straight face, deadly serious.

The company in question had invited me to speak at a workshop where they had brought teams together from different countries. Team after team spoke about their challenges, the competition in their markets, and their ideas about how to renovate their own approach to digital.

Ideas flowed around the room and as the people talked, I watched the board member’s face. He never spoke in the group, but I got the distinct impression he was getting a wakeup call. In his case, the external influence had come from his own company, not headquarters where he spent his time, but rather from customer-facing teams in other countries in the global group.

So, to sum up, you need to find a way to bring the voice of the external world inside your organization. And make sure the right people hear it.

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