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 upheaval, dislocation, conflict and control. Digital disruption takes many forms, some obvious and some not as much.

It’s obvious in sectors like transportation and accommodation, where taxi drivers and local bed and breakfast operators lose out to “platform” technology companies that don’t actually provide the service.

Some digital disruption is not as obvious – or as controversial. But you don’t have to be a driver or small business operator to experience digital disruption – you can be a working a desk job in a nonprofit that provides services or campaigns publicly on issues. Chances are, much of that work has gravitated to the online and digital space.

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.

Contracting out demands that organizational leaders spend a lot of money on digital agencies to make their groups “look” digital without building their actual ability to tell their own stories, themselves. At the end of the day, 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.

We need to disrupt the default position to contract out.

We need to disrupt the idea that organizations, of any size, lack the skills, talent or aptitude to build up their own capacity.

And we need to disrupt a mindset of digital scarcity and invite workers, members and volunteers to contribute to building digital skills and capacity – and to sharing in the digital telling of your organization’s story.

That’s why it’s vital to open the conversation about digital in our organizations as best we can.

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