Overcoming digital difficulty #3: Tough questions

“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers”. Voltaire’s maxim was never more important. Organisations starting out on digital transformations find themselves confronted by tough questions. Simple questions about ‘what should we do?’ quickly lead to hard questions like ‘how will we make money in a post-digital world?’ and even ‘why are we in business?’ This is the third post in a series building on 10 reasons why digital transformations are difficult. How should you deal with the tough questions? Here are some tried and tested approaches:

  • Build in time to think. Digital is synonymous with speed. But forging ahead without taking time to understand the bigger issues is risky. For example, for a motor insurer, it’s easier to frame questions like ‘how can we deliver a seamless digital customer experience?’ than ‘how will we make money once cars are driverless and there are no drivers left to insure?’ Surfacing and framing all the relevant questions takes real time.
  • Ask the questions formally. All too often the tough questions get shelved whilst management teams focus on short-term targets. Getting the tough questions formally asked (often by the board) ensures that real time is spent developing thorough answers.
  • Sequence responses. Some questions need immediate answers and action. Others benefits from months of research and consideration. A question such as ‘how can we stop customers leaving us in droves for competitors with a better experience?’ demands a swifter response than ‘what will be critical capabilities to compete in 2020?’ But urgency should not be confused with importance. 

In summary then, deal with tough questions head-on, whilst getting on with simpler stuff in parallel. Most importantly, don’t allow these questions to go unanswered. 

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