Surfing the tsunami of digital change

26 March 2015
Katz Kiely
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Why is the road to digital fitness so hard?

Why is it so difficult to maximise the potential of marketing technologies?

I recently read a fascinating article that explains how people behave when faced with sudden and unavoidable change. It seemed really relevant.

On 27 September 1994, the cruise ferry MS Estonia left Tallin with 989 people on board, heading for Stockholm. It never got there. Within an hour it had sunk, taking with it 852 of its passengers and crew.

Why did so many of them die? Why did so many of them give up, or fail to adjust to the unfolding crisis?

It turns out that people behave in very peculiar ways when faced with catastrophic change.

In this disaster, and apparently every other disaster, people are rendered incapable of making rational decisions. In this case, even when fellow passengers tried to guide them, or shout at them, they still didn’t act.

A small proportion of people tend to freak out and actively obstruct other people’s escape.

According to research, the people who survive are those realists who have imagined the worst and visualised their escape strategy.

The article went on to refer to another tragedy: the Twin Towers.

You’d have thought that the impact of the plane would have sent people running to the exits. But no. The vast majority hung around to see what would happen, waiting for others to move first: tidying things into drawers, completing emails, changing their shoes.

One woman returned to her office to change into her tracksuit before trying to leave.

The thing is, they were sat in their little office in the 57th floor. They had no way of seeing the big picture. They had no idea about why they needed to act … and fast.

Large corporations are being faced by seismic change.

In the digital age, the way we communicate with stakeholders, internally and externally, is core to success - not a nice to have.

We have two choices: we ride the tsunami of change, or get drowned by it.

The key organisational challenge is that we are all looking after our own bit of the patch. We only see the world through our own particular lens. We have responsibilities for own brand, our unit, our own country. Every part of every organisation has its own cultures, its own languages, its own drivers. The natural state is to carry on doing things the way we have always done ..and lets not kid ourselves. Grasping digital opportunities in a fragmented organisation of change-resistant people is hard.

The culture shift necessary to fully exploit marketing technology platforms is not easy. It doesn’t happen overnight. It needs sufficient resources, buy-in from the very top and a clear roadmap that all stakeholders can visualise.

We can’t all sit in our offices on the 57th floor waiting for someone else to act. We need to be brave enough to zoom out, look at the big picture, visualise the road to success, and own the journey. And we need to bring every stakeholder with us along the track.