Will You End Up as Digital Roadkill?

by Caroline Rook, Lecturer at Henley Business School, and Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries, INSEAD Distinguished Professor of Leadership Development and Organisational Change |

Most of us are so digitally connected that we have become utterly disconnected.

Michelle, the COO of a multinational corporation, was one of the most respected executives in her industry. A true workhorse, she was famous for her ability to multitask and constant online presence. While her staff admired the way she worked, they felt pressured to do the same. Recently, several of them were signed off from work, citing burnout, and two others had handed in their resignation.

During a session with her executive coach, Michelle described how she exercised every day before going to the office and used that time to discuss work with colleagues over the phone. Similarly, she optimised every minute of her travel time in her car or on planes. Any spare time was devoted to maintaining a strong presence on LinkedIn and other social media. She took pride in replying to all the messages and comments she received.

Michelle wondered whether this busyness had begun to hurt her ability to concentrate and think for the long term. She found it hard to sleep at night and had a creeping sense of feeling overwhelmed. She believed this caused her to make more mistakes and be less productive than usual. “Could mindfulness training be of help?”, she asked.

The heavy toll of tech-enabled productivity

Given Michelle’s work habits, what is happening to her and her team should come as no surprise. They suffer from technostress, the inability to cope with the digital world in a healthy manner. Digital technology was supposed to make us more productive – and it has to some extent – but those benefits have not come without costs.

The combined pressure of constant virtual presence and continuous information bombardment have had negative consequences on our health. Aside from creating potential work overload, technostress has paved the way to anxiety, feelings of frustration, job dissatisfaction, poor job performance, absenteeism and retention problems. Burnout and mental health problems, including digital addiction, always lurk in the shadows.

When RescueTime (a time management software company) ran a survey on the use of digital technology in the workplace, only 10 percent of respondents said they felt in control of how they spend their days. Data from more than 50,000 RescueTime users showed that people have only 1 hour and 12 minutes a day when they aren’t using communication tools or being distracted by them. The survey also found that 70 percent of employees keep their inbox open all day and only 20 percent have a deliberate strategy for dealing with their e-mails.

The tricks our brains play on us

Why are we obsessed with being constantly connected? Why do we find it so hard to resist the beeps and alerts of incoming messages and notifications? Obvious explanations include the fear of missing out, the need to feel (or be perceived as) productive, procrastination and the compulsion to feel connected in an increasingly virtual world. The latter is especially true for senior executives who often suffer from the loneliness of command.

Underlying these motivations are deeper biochemical and psychological forces which bear a strong resemblance to those seen in gambling addiction. Just like compulsive gamblers who live for the thrill of the occasional win, we feel compelled to constantly check our inbox as it may contain a message we are eagerly awaiting or some other “nice surprise”. In both cases, random rewards stimulate the release of dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter that motivates us to repeat the triggering behaviour.

In the corporate world, there is a growing awareness that people must disconnect in order to carve out time for reflection. This shift is great news, but we must guard against quick-fix solutions. For example, a high performer like Michelle cannot work manically and then expect a few mindfulness sessions to save her from impending burnout.

Learning to self-manage

The challenge for people like Michelle is to learn how to keep technostress at bay. This requires self-control. Leaders must create environments that satisfy the human need for connection while also enabling their people to disconnect at times. It is about recapturing what was once a sacred space – the one reserved for reflection and creative thinking.

To free themselves and their staff from the prison of technostress, executives must define clear boundaries for how and when to use digital communication tools. This could include guidelines about appropriate response time to different types of contact. Some suggestions are:

  • As a rule, e-mails should not require an immediate response. Truly urgent issues should be resolved through a phone call.
  • Staff should refrain from accessing e-mail outside of working hours or whilst on holidays.
  • People should not stay in the office outside normal hours unless absolutely necessary. The same applies to virtual meetings out of hours.

Another measure to combat technostress consists of a brief, automated e-mail response indicating that the message has been received but will only be addressed within a particular time frame (e.g. at a specific hour in the morning and in the afternoon).

There is a difference between a lightning-fast response and one that really adds value.  In this context, it is also worthwhile to clarify that nobody in the office is expected to know everything.

Working smart

It is up to leaders to promote a “work-smart” mindset that advocates taking breaks for reflection. Even when it seems that we are not doing anything, our brains are often working on important issues surreptitiously.

Considering this reality, is your commute really the time to check messages or call team members and clients? Or should it be ‘news’ time, a space to disconnect from work while staying abreast of political and economic developments? Could you use this time to read some fiction or just look out the window and enjoy the scenery?

If you can’t block time alone for reflection when you’re in the office, why not step outside to get some fresh air and have a stroll? A short nap can also be very helpful, as it is a proven way to restore our alertness, memory and decision-making ability.

There are many ways to disconnect from the virtual world to create the headspace needed to engage in truly important activities, such as rethinking corporate strategy or creating a vision for the future. These moments of deliberate disconnect are a countervailing force against dopamine-driven, compulsive behaviours.

Executives should do everything in their power to avoid becoming digital roadkill. They would do well to realise that the more digitally connected they are, the more they disconnect from their fellow human beings. Although communication tools have their uses, face-to-face interactions have the most potential for meaningful and durable impact.

Source: INSEAD

Digital Business: Three Core Concepts Exploded

 by Annet Aris, INSEAD Senior Affiliate Professor of Strategy

The digital world has pushed old curves off the whiteboard as new trajectories arise.

Even tedious jobs like cleaning out archives can sometimes lead to great insights. Sifting through my old files recently, I was pleasantly surprised to find a treasure trove of old memories and forgotten facts. Amongst these papers were notebooks from my engineering studies; I realised that I no longer remembered the math formulas I had so diligently noted. The everyday pressures of business have blurred these lines.

There are, however, some basic concepts that have stood the test of time. Most are simple intuitive relationships such as extrapolated trend lines, the normal distribution curve and scale effects that taper as volume increases.

For most of us, these stick in our heads and have been useful in an analogue world where goods were scarce and the cost of transactions significant. As business becomes digital, however, other rules and relationships apply. If the old curves and concepts are rooted too deeply, we run the risk of taking the wrong decisions based on our default ideas.

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DIRECTOR OF MARKETING

 

Our client is currently searching for an exceptional senior level, results-oriented marketing leader to drive all aspects of marketing. Our client director of marketing and serve as a key advisor to executive leadership. Our client is the recognized leader in this unique, fast growth industry with the broadest array of services, national footprint and reputation for unequalled service quality. We need to build on this success with a leader that can develop and execute marketing strategies and campaigns to drive growth. Top line growth is the primary objective and KPI for this role.

The successful candidate must have strategic business planning, leadership and strong analytical skills, with a results-oriented approach and proven track record of business innovation and growth. A passion for building brands and driving demand through customized and powerful marketing efforts, integrated campaigns, content marketing, digital initiatives, social media and new technology is key with experience in the latest social media marketing and content and brand marketing across multiple channels an absolute requirement for this position.

 RESPONSIBILITIES:

  • Exceed growth targets as assigned.
  • Develop and execute marketing strategy and campaigns across all channels, markets and services.
  • Develop and execute demand generation strategy and programs for new business, existing accounts, service offerings and acquired companies to significantly drive new, qualified leads for sales.
  • Analyze markets, revenue streams, clients and channels through analytical models to develop and execute go-to-market strategies that optimize our growth, marketing resources and spend.
  • Develop and execute marketing strategies that connect to local government and community needs with tactics that align with government budgeting and procurement cycles.
  • Advise the Chief Revenue Officer and executive leadership team on how to grow the company, position and brand competitively, latest marketing technologies and trends and staying agile and innovative.
  • Build and lead a diverse team of marketing talent across content management, digital-social media, inside sales, proposal management and marketing communications to achieve our growth objectives.
  • Attract and inspire top marketing talent to and foster an innovative culture across the firm.
  • Budget and optimize marketing spend across all channels to maximize ROI/ROAS and achieve brand awareness, sales, revenue and profitability goals.
  • Drive branding efforts nationally, across all companies, and manage all aspects of public relations.
  • Develop customer feedback cycles, survey and focus groups to better understand customer needs and drive demand through related efforts.
  • Make decisions based upon precedent and solve arising problems using sound judgment and experience.
  • Perform other duties as assigned by management.

QUALIFICATIONS:

  • Positive, high-energy, growth-centric marketing professional
  • 10+ years in marketing with experience across diverse functions in multi-channel, business to business services with a proven track record of revenue growth in prior positions
  • 3+ years of leadership experience in marketing at a Director or VP level; experience in both a large recognized national company and small to medium size privately held firms is a plus
  • Direct experience and deep understanding of digital-social media marketing and content development best practices
  • Direct experience and deep understanding marketing business to business services; outsourcing and marketing to local communities and government is a plus
  • Advanced analytical skills with talent for interpreting trends and data to make informed, data-based recommendations
  • Experience speaking at industry conferences to establish company as thought leader, and to solicit and nurture leads, while solidifying relationships with existing clients.

LOCATION: Colorado

If you are interested in this opportunity, please let me know!

Larry Janis

Managing Partner I Integrated Search Solutions Group

P-516-767-3030 I C-516-445-2377

ISSG I Twitter I LinkedIn

 

The Human Factor in Digital Transformation Projects

By Sami Mahroum

 

How the people working in government manage tech-driven innovation.

The public sector is the largest employer in the world. In OECD countries, nearly 23 percent of the total workforce is employed by government agencies. Around the world, this figure ranges from 5 percent in Japan to much higher in countries like Saudi Arabia (35 percent), Russia (40 percent) and India (55 percent). Small countries like Estonia and Singapore – leaders in smart government initiatives – also have sizeable public sector employment (22 and 32 percent, respectively). It is surprising therefore that few, if any, studies have been done on the effect of ongoing technology-driven governmental transformation on the people who deliver it. That is, of course, unless something goes wrong, like in the case of Phoenix, the Canadian federal payment system, SKAT, the Danish tax agency or the Obamacare portal.

To shed light on this topic, INSEAD and EY teamed up to launch an in-depth study of five major digital transformation projects in five very different countries. The study began with the Health Authority of Abu Dhabi (HAAD) and went on to study the Federal Tax Service in Moscow, the digitalisation foundation called BiscayTIK in Bilbao, the national ID administration AgID in Rome and the national employment agency Pôle emploi in Paris.

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The Structures That Can Support Your Digital Journey

by Charles Galunic

We regularly hear that digitisation efforts have to be driven from the top. They need management attention and an end-to-end plan that makes digital part of the organisational DNA. But what this actually means is rarely articulated. The structural arrangements companies make to digitise are as important as the decision to follow a path of digitisation in the first place.

As we discovered in interviews with executives at the forefront of the digital journey for a recent research article, digitisation often starts in small pockets, special teams or special units (often in IT departments, for better or worse). But these efforts are unlikely to become part of the core business until management sets some clear, high-level policies and structures (i.e. fully connected to line management).

The problem with budding digital projects is that they often lack legitimacy, power and integration with the core business. Therefore, concrete strategic commitments need to be made from the top that allow these pockets of growth to scale and become part of the firm’s core operations.

If we take e-books as an example, one of our interviewees from a large global publishing house told us: “Publishers were not positive about e-books… They didn’t think it was going to make them a lot of money, which it didn’t initially.” More importantly, it wasn’t part of their scorecard and incentives. It took substantial (widespread) changes in top management incentives and the creation of a common policy on how to deal with agents and authors, for electronic books to really take off in this organisation: “There was a certain tipping point where they just started accepting this as another format.”

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