“MINDSET!” This was the emphatic word uttered by senior business leaders when asked what their biggest challenge was in pursuing digital transformation or in transforming customer experience during a roundtable I hosted. Arguably, it is also the biggest enabler.
That is how important mindset is. It is the first thing business leaders need to consider before even planning to pursue digital transformation. Do business leaders and employees have the right mindset? What is the “right” mindset?
A mindset, according to Mindset: The New Psychology of Success author Carol Dweck, is the self-perception or “self-theory” that people hold about themselves. It starts with a person’s belief system, e.g., “this solution will not work,” that translates into behavior, e.g., resisting change, and is followed by the result or consequence, e.g., failed projects.
At a minimum, employees need to have a growth mindset to ensure a high success rate for digital transformation initiatives in an organization. Dweck describes this as enjoying challenges, striving to learn and consistently seeing potential to develop new skills. Employees who display such attitude say, “This new program the company is implementing will work,” or “Anyone can learn this new technology.”
Business leaders — those who are planning for and implementing transformation initiatives — need to have a higher form of mindset. We call this the transformative mindset.
Transformative, by definition, means causing a major or radical change in something or someone. A business leader with a transformative mindset, therefore, is one who believes that major positive change is necessary for an organization to thrive and be successful in a highly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) environment, and displays this in planning, leading and organizing for digital transformation.
A transformative mindset does not define and plan for the destination and then rush toward it. There are five building blocks of a transformative mindset:
Holistic thinking. A business leader with a transformative mindset considers the whole organization and its parts, and stakeholders when planning for major or radical change. For example, when planning to implement a new system, the business leader will take into account its impact on the rest of the organization and adjust accordingly.
Human centricity. A transformative mindset considers the positive impact of any major change to the organization’s employees, customers and other stakeholders. It designs new processes and implements modern technology that makes it easier for people to interact, transact and communicate within and outside the organization.
Innovative thinking. This is the ability to create something new and come up with novel approaches to problems. It entails having both analytical and creative thinking to parse through ideas and select those best for people. It also embraces and recognizes failure as a necessary element in learning and improving. It promotes a culture of experimentation to continuously look for fresh ideas.
Urgency. This means doing what needs to be done immediately but methodically. It entails agility in thought and action but still considers the big picture and the impact of change to its many parts.
“Once you have a transformative mindset, then transformation is not a process, it’s a way of being; change is no longer what you do but central to who you are,” a January 2021 DiversityInc article quoted Philippe Konfino of EY Oceania Consulting as having said.
In a VUCA world where there is always constant and sweeping change, transformation does not start with just an idea, a new process or a technological innovation. Transformation begins with a mindset — a transformative one.
The author is the founder and CEO of Hungry Workhorse, a digital and culture transformation consulting firm. He is a fellow at the US-based Institute for Digital Transformation. He teaches strategic management in the MBA Program of De La Salle University. The author may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.