I’ve been struggling a bit recently with the names of things. Not in a getting old, way – well, no more than is usual. But more in the sense of what terms we use to describe things.
Words, very specifically like “Digital Transformation”. In fact, those two words. I hate them.
Digital doesn’t mean anything any more. It did when Nicholas Negroponte published Being Digital 25 years ago. But that was at a point when CD-ROMs still seemed like a pretty neat idea. As Nicholas obviously did at the time. Digital technology is so everywhere these days that we don’t even see it.
And Transformation just seems like another way of saying “change” but using up an additional three syllables for nothing like four times the value.
Put them together and you have a phrase that has become a hackneyed beyond belief, and a stock in trade of the worst kind of management consultant. It also both means everything and nothing, all at the same time. Schrodinger’s Buzzwords.
Now this is a bit of an existential crisis, as I have the word Transformation in my job title. It labels me. I am labelled by it. And I really don’t like that at all.
So what instead? Well, we can ditch the Digital. It should simply be assumed that the combined technologies of the Internet, World Wide Web, Personal Computer, Smart Phone and a bunch of other components will just be a part, somehow, of everything you do these days. Or more or less everything you do. It’s like calling out air.
And for transformation? Well, we need to change. We need to accept organisations need to continuously change on the same basis that a plant needs to continuously grow. You might go up, you might go sideways. A leaf might drop off but another will probably pop up in its place. It’s a constant process of regeneration. It’s perpetual other than for things that are dead.
Getting people’s heads around the idea of constant, regenerative change is hard. We crave certainty and the status quo. now more than ever. But the idea that we will get to a permanent state of changed at some point in the future is as disingenuous as the idea that somehow the world will go “back” to “normal”.
So instead of Digital Transformation, here’s to change. Like a plant. Growing, adapting, refreshing.
Thanks to Mel Ross for the conversation this afternoon that prompted this post.