The Human Side of Digital Transformation

The world dances to the rhythm of digital transformation frenzy. Cloud, mobility, social networks, big data, block chain, robots, artificial intelligence, IoT (Internet of Things), quantum computing. Transforming business to become data driven or creating new digital native trillion-dollar company is a new gold fever. New business models, breakthrough productivity and innovation are the new “deliver or die” norm.

Getting stuff cheaper, better, faster; getting better overall experience in anything; obtaining innovative solutions - these are all goodies for all consumers. From that point of view, I see only benefits.

Digital Transformation, Human Challenges

On the painful side, technological unemployment is clearly the major source of job losses. People without income are on fringes of society, how can they survive, let alone thrive? One promising approach is basic universal income - every person should obtain a minimum guaranteed regular paycheck from the government. That could be top-down part of the solution, coming from the policy makers, if sustainable funding can be resolved.

So, majority of people are potentially torn by two forces - enjoying the benefits of technology progress if they can afford; if that same technology does not cut their source of income. Is this the best we can do? Could we all share some of the technology provided goodies to uplift the basic living platform? Who are (and who should be) the beneficiaries of digital transformations?

Society Changes, Where to Start?

Our global society is clearly in need of major transformation to implement good answers to the above (and other) big questions. Considering the complexity, including the number and frequency of moving parts in the modern world, I believe the main force is emerging bottom-up i.e. by many personal transformations forming sufficient critical mass.

Which personal transformations? The old wisdoms posed a challenge: know thyself. That simple statement is the most popular ancient Greek's Delphic maxim (check No 008). However, "know thyself" has many historical variants in different cultures and religions. Here is my take on it.

Almost every culture and religion has some ethical code of conduct, set of rules deemed beneficial both for an individual as well as for the society. In the root of all I’ve seen, there is the Golden Rule. There are many ways to express it, and my favourite (applies to consequences of one's intentions and actions) is "It is good for me and good for others."

That is where my "know thyself" starts - by examining my intentions, thoughts, expressions (verbal and physical acts) - are these good both for me and for the others? This simple question can be overwhelming. How can one possibly count and analyse all emerging thoughts, intents and actions? I propose to start with a few samples, e.g. focus on a significant action that you intend to deliver. Try and trace, how many times it emerged as set of thoughts, before it formed as a firm intent? Examine it, openly and honestly, by answering the following questions:

  1. If I perform that action, how do I expect to benefit? Can that action, under some circumstances, bring harm to me?

  2. If I perform that action, will there be benefits for others? For whom? Can anyone be harmed if I perform that action?

By answering the above questions, you will get sense of how well that intent or action is aligned with the Golden Rule. The perfect action will not create any harm to you nor anybody else; moreover, it has potential to create great benefits both to you and many people (feel free to shift from human-centric approach and include our environment, with other living beings).

Such perfect intents and actions rarely exist; moving down from the highest Golden Rule standard, on the opposite end, there may be a selfish view: "I will have great benefits from this act. I don't care about the others". The world is sick of this attitude disease, which can be diagnosed e.g. by observing global inequality.

My deepest credo - no benefit can result from harming anyone. To phrase it positively - great benefits come only from actions that are in line with the Golden Rule. I cannot prove it, so do not believe it. Instead, have some tests, by deeper examination of your own important experiences.

Change, One Individual at a Time

The hard question - if I wish to move towards the "know thyself", how to start? We are impregnated with zillions of habits of thoughts-expressions-actions, most of which we are not aware. Far from being able to count them and to remove those that are not in line with the Golden Rule, or to establish new ones supporting it. If we could only shed light to the inner workings of our thoughts-expressions-actions patterns, our deepest ingrained habits, to see their true reality, we could start working out by removing the weed and planting the good seeds.

Recently I stumbled upon an excellent book, a mind-opener in that sense, "Liminal Thinking" by Dave Gray (I am not getting commission if you buy one :) - easy to read and understand, with lots of practically applicable examples and guidance. It deals with recognisiong and changing our deeply ingrained habbit patterns. Perfect food for my hungry rational mind. But rational mind is only tip of the iceberg.

Eight years ago, after a long search and a number of different trials, I tried 10-days Vipassana meditation (it is free to attend, so I cannot get any commission if you go :) For me, this is the strongest experiential source of insight for my inner workings and positive change. There is no need to believe in anything (or give up any of your beliefs). I just had to follow simple and practical instructions, work and see what happens. It essentially teaches three disciplines in an integrated practice:

  1. Ethical code of conduct, which is an elaborated application of the Golden Rule

  2. How to focus and control one's own mind - as the source of all emotions, expressions, intentions and actions. The first two parts are basic pre-requisites for:

  3. Purifying one's mind - getting rid of deeply ingrained habit patterns that are going against the Golden Rule; as well as opening the doors to acquire new habit patterns that support it.

It is that simple - the whole point is in proper learning and applying that knowledge in practice, from moment to moment. The benefits are experienced immediately as one starts this practice, thus one gradually establishes trust in the technique, by working, experiencing and continuously testing all of its aspects.

For me, this is the clear, well-marked path towards delivery of "know thyself", in line with the Golden Rule.

Closing the Loop: Modifying Course of Digital Transformations

All the world's digital transformations will be truly beneficial only if global society grows in the Golden Rule fitness - and each person drives one's own. On the surface level (with all due respect), psychology, neuroscience and emotional intelligence knowledge will help a lot. Compassion has already entered the corporate vocabulary and this is great. On the deeper and deepest level, the tool is meditation.

Being IT professional for all of my working life and talking to my fellow professionals, the explosion of digital innovation is hard to follow, even for top experts, outside of their core specialisation. Consequently, new, unexpected stuff is happening at very high rate. 90% of the Fortune 1.000 CEOs are scared that they and their businesses will be disrupted. I suspect only few initiatives driven out of fear can deliver great results and compassion towards the others.

So here is an invitation to leaders, IT architects, programmers, users and all involved in digital transformation initiatives. Work on awareness of your intents and add some Golden Rule behaviour to all your digital transformation efforts. More important, meditate to start (or continue) your personal transformation by increasing awareness and improving your intents and acts. Your own contribution in that direction, however small it may be, will make all the difference.

Imagine a world where all human actions are fully in line with the Golden Rule. Sounds like a dream? Perhaps, however it is a nice, ambitious goal and you are in charge of your own dreams and behaviours. From my own experience, it feels good. Each one of us can start harvesting those benefits, step-by-step, from moment to moment.

About the author

Davor Jardas - Enterprise Architect and Programme Manager @European Commission

Davor Jardas -
Enterprise Architect and Programme Manager @European Commission

Davor Jardas' mission is to find and develop significant potential for business innovation and automation. He selects, implements and integrates advanced IT technologies. More information about Davor Jardas on LinkedIn

More to read