I’ve got a confession to make, I’m not an IT person, and I don’t have a computer science degree. I’ve got a degree in philosophy and psychology. I’ve spent the last 15 years of my career understanding what people need and what motivates them. Having said that, I’m also fascinated by technology and the potential it has for transforming how people interact. I’m a digital humanist.
Gartner defines digital humanism as using technology to redefine the way people achieve their goals. And that’s exactly where my passion lies. I’m fascinated by new technology, but only insofar as it can transform the way people live and work.
If you’ve read my previous posts, you already know that consumers and businesses are experiencing a paradigm shift. Customers and employees demand fast, sophisticated access to services and data. This is forcing businesses to transform from traditional business models to digital business models or risk being disrupted. But what does disruption really mean, and how can thinking like a digital humanist help companies stay relevant?
To understand, it makes sense to step back and look at some of the drivers behind the need to digitally transform.
Increased computing power increases expectations around speed and what is possible. The Internet of Things is revolutionizing what an interaction is and what or who is interacting. Universal connectivity means we are never off, and 24-hour service has a whole new meaning. Add to that seismic shift in technology what’s happening socially, economically, demographically. Millennials are changing the game. Asset light and thriving on a sharing economy, they demand that businesses interact with them in totally different ways.
Looking at all these trends in aggregate, it becomes clear that this isn’t just about technology. Technology is an enabler, but to truly transform and be digital, you must look across an entire spectrum and address multiple drivers across the value chain. That’s where disruption lies—in being able to reimagine experiences, change culture, rethink value, and re-align your entire company around core values.
Let’s take a well-known disruptor as an example. Companies like Uber and Lyft are in the news daily with stories about taxi strikes and threats of regulation from the transportation industry, which is feeling the pain of being disrupted. Controversy aside, let’s look at what Uber actually did. It used existing technology (text, GPS, and social sharing) and created a new experience.
Uber looked at the human component and addressed all the pain points in a travel experience. Will I be able to get a taxi? Will it be clean? How long will it take to arrive? How far is it from where I am now? How much will it cost? Do I have enough cash? They mapped the customer journey, identified those pain points, and developed a service that hinges on a great experience.
Putting experience before technology might sound counterintuitive to many in the IT industry, but as companies like Uber, Air BnB, Tesla, and others are demonstrating, starting with human need takes technological innovation from an expensive fad to a game changer.