Mike Brearley, the one-time England Cricket Team captain was once asked what it meant to be a leader, this was his response: “To comfort the troubled and trouble the comfortable.”
I’ve been reflecting on this seeming paradox for a few days and wondering how it fits into the journeys After Digital embark on with our clients as we enter our Digital Evolution process and prepare the endgame of that process - the reporting, action plans and milestones. There is remarkable resonance between Mike’s thoughts on leadership and the role we play in developing, then delivering, a compelling digital roadmap for our clients.
Why is comfort the death of leadership? Or in other terms; “Why is comfort in a rapidly evolving digital age the death of your business?”
Quite simply, the moment you and / or your business feels comfortable it is likely you have lost the competitive edge and the drive that constant digital evolution demands. The world, the consumer, the expectations, the “requirements” are changing at an ever increasing pace. A few years back consumers were delighted to receive next-day delivery guaranteed by online retailers. I actually remember leading a project to deliver the online sales experience and data management for SoundControls Next Day offer. Now consumers are being offered ‘Within the hour’ delivery in major cities. The same hour… what is the world coming to?!?
This seismic shift doesn't just happen - it has to be developed in line with organisational development, IT, finance, customer service, and indeed all aspects of a business, in order to engineer business processes to sustain consumer experience innovations. All of this needs to be considered, planned and piloted (with constant testing and iteration). It needs to be lead and engineered. BUT it doesn’t happen if you remain comfortable. It happens if you embrace discomfort and engage your staff to embrace change.
After Digital’s role is to lead that conversation. To chair the debate, facilitate the discussions and offer expert insights into what is achievable and realistic, as well as innovative. I see our role as comforting the troubled, and troubling the comfortable. We need to offer assurances to worried staff, whilst challenging received norms. That takes experience and a firm hand allied to emotional intelligence, cultural intelligence and a deep knowledge of all things digital. Indeed a deep knowledge of everything that’s After Digital.
In the words of our client Robert Gordon University:
“I was impressed by the way in which AD’s consultants sensitively handled potentially political questions with a whole range of stakeholders, whilst still challenging us to think beyond our existing parameters.”
Robert Gordon University
So get After Digital involved and get yourself challenged. Aim to build an environment that actively pushes you beyond your comfort zone. And embrace change, as a positive and incremental part of your business model.
The paradox, in my eyes, is that you need to get comfortable being uncomfortable!