5 ways, 2 good tips, and 1 good reason to open the conversation about digital in your organization

Sometimes, our organizations need a little help having conversations.

Especially complex conversations that have implications for the issues we work on and how we work on them – how we organize, educate and communicate, and how we work together.

Digital is one of those conversations. Organizationally, it’s a whopper.

Digital is reshaping the landscape – technological, economic, social – and organizational. The new digital infrastructure invites us to work together in vastly more connected and powerful ways. It allows us to tell stories in new ways, teach and learn in new ways and publish in new ways. It invites previously disconnected departments (or silos) to connect, share and collaborate.

Invites us? Digital downright challenges us.

Digital has blurred the lines between departments and silos, making information and communications technologies the daily tools of people across our organizations. Information and communication used to be the responsibility of one or two departments, say marketing or communications. Not anymore.

Now, information and communication digital pathways are changing how we work together and how we shape the work together, no matter what department we’re in or what our areas of responsibility are.

These changes merit a good conversation – an open conversation. So, coming up: a series of blog posts to help kickstart that conversation.

There are 9 posts:

  1. This overview: 5 ways, 2 good tips, and 1 good reason to open the conversation about digital in your organization
  2. Get clear about why your organization should open the conversation about digital
  3. Ask questions like who owns digital in our organizations?
  4. Connect with like-minded folks
  5. Learn out loud
  6. Help your organization make the digital cultural shift
  7. Breathe
  8. Meander
  9. Disrupt or be disrupted

5 ways to open the conversation

Get clear. Define your purpose and create a rationale to have the discussion at your organization. What are your goals, what are your needs? Purpose is the real motivator. Making our groups more connected or more creative is a great purpose. Grasping for data and more click-throughs, not so much.

Ask questions. There’s no better way to spark a conversation than by asking good questions (or even inconvenient ones). Here are some to get things started:

  • Why do we want to go digital?
  • Who owns digital?
  • How can we collaborate better?
  • What skills do we have? What skills do we need?
  • How can we learn, teach and tell our story?

Connect with like-minded folks. Find allies across your organization. Chances are good that there are people around who want to have a productive discussion about all this. Find them. There are people who feel the same way, whether worker or manager. Don’t forget the managers: you might find a champion among them for moving your organization forward, digitally speaking.

Learn out loud. Taking action is one of the best ways to spur conversation. Learn out loud by organizing learning clubs or collectives to support each other to try things out. Organize casual lunch-and-learns. Share what you know at in-person skill-shares or online on webinars. Find out what people are interested in learning about and organize training and support. And most importantly: just do it. Be the media. Produce videos, podcasts, new websites – and showcase the work of staff, members, volunteers.

Help your organization make the digital cultural shift. This is where our organizations need diplomats and ambassadors, bridge-people, between analogue and digital, between old ways and new ways, across misconceptions about and resistance to change. This is where “change agent” asks our organizations to do things differently. It’s not always an easy road.

2 good tips to keep you going

Breathe. Prepare to move slower than you might like. Our organizations face incredible evolutionary drag, sometimes paralysis, in the face of the overwhelming enormity of the challenges before us – social, economic, ecological. It’s hard to make cultural change in this kind of milieu. It takes time. Breathe, even as you know the stakes have never been higher, the need greater, or the energy more incipient. Just keep breathing.

Meander. Remember that conversations can be like rivers: they meander. Be prepared for the conversation to happen organically and not necessarily in a preplanned, expertly facilitated way. You might see an opening here, a window there. It might go slowly here, and swiftly there. Don’t gird yourself for conflict with anyone, not even Soandso – they might surprise you.

1 good reason

Disrupt or be disrupted. Tech change has been disrupting work, workplaces and workers for centuries. Today’s digital disruptions are part of a long tradition of technolocical upheaval, dislocation, conflict and control.

Groups of all kinds are becoming digital publishers in their own right, publishing to the web in many different ways. But much of this publishing – video, audio, web design and interactive digital products and environments of all kinds – is contracted out rather than built in and built up.

This approach demands that organizational leaders spend a lot of money on digital agencies to make their groups “look” digital without building their ability to tell their own stories, themselves. Funnelling money to marketing agencies – rather than building organizational digital capacity – weakens our organizations.

It’s understandable. Digital is shiny and those agencies know how to make things look pretty slick. But that’s nothing that can’t be learned. There’s nothing stopping organizations from acquiring these skills – and building their own digital studios.

First thing to do? Get clear.

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