The myriad of digital options and the speed in which information flows are causing people and organizations to spin in circles and make stupid decisions. Those two things are symptoms of diseases I’ve named as Digital Dizziness(DDZ)and Digital Dumbassness (DDA). I gave examples of and solutions to them during my keynote last week at the Twin Cities CIO of the Year awards ceremony in Minneapolis.
The first example I gave was a personal one. Now that I’m in re-purposement, I have more time on my hands. I decided to pressure wash our house instead of paying someone. I went online, saw recommendations and “How to” videos. With one keystroke, I purchased an industrial strength, high-tech pressure washer, which far exceeded my needs and competence. It cost me more money than if I had paid someone, but I really wanted the advanced technology (DDA). When I went to use it, I put the wrong tip on the end of the hose. When I turned it on, the machine took control of me, turning me in all kinds of directions (DDZ). When I finally got it to stop, I had taken the dirt and the paint off of a big section of our house. When my wife saw it, I said, “Don’t worry, I will re-paint it with one of those high-tech, air-spray painters I saw online.” She immediately said, “Oh, Hell No!” Thankfully, she stopped my DDA and DDZ from advancing. Fortunately, no one recorded it.
Organizational DDZ is far more damaging than personal DDZ because it affects more people. DDZ occurs when leaders don’t set clear, measurable goals of how their digital investments are going to grow top-line revenues, reduce middle-line costs, and ultimately expand bottom-line operating margins. Without that clarity, organizations spend a lot of money on high-priced, advanced digital tools that either aren’t the right fit for the job or far greater than their skill level. To make matters worse, infighting takes place within the organization because there isn’t clarity on who “Owns” digital. As a result, political walls go up and progress goes down. The wrong tools coupled with organizational politics result in DDZ.
GE was the example I used. The company was promoting and publicizing how digital they were; however, behind the curtain, the far majority of their digital “sales” were internal to their own business units, and they hadn’t used digital to optimize across business units to streamline and automate processes. GE isn’t unique. DDZ is happening within almost all established companies.
When it comes to organizational DDA, Equifax is the poster child. The missteps they made fall into the category of “You can’t make this sh*t up!” First, they got breached by a known vulnerability that a patch was available to fix it months earlier. Next, executives sold stock after the hack was discovered. They also initially tried to charge people a fee to protect their credit. Lastly, they directed consumers to the wrong website when they announced the breach. Equifax isn’t alone--their DDA got greater media coverage.
DDZ and DDA are widespread because digital technologies can turn thoughts into actions at lighting speed and then cause the results to “Go viral” where everyone will quickly know that you have made a dumbass decision. They are considered viruses because of how quickly they spread. Take comfort in knowing that there is a cure. The vaccine consists of: (1) Knowing what your goals, limitations, and the right tools for the job are; and (2) Getting the advice of someone wiser than you before turning your thoughts into actions.