Neanderthals won’t survive!!

Published on Wednesday, February 12th 2020

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According to the most recent scientific findings, modern man - homo sapiens - was simply one version of the ‘homo’ genus tens of thousands of years ago. In addition to sapiens there were others walking around on the planet: homo erectus, homo floresiensis, homo neanderthalensis and a few more, and they all bashed each other’s brains in with some regularity. Clearly modern man has managed to outlive all the other kinds, and why? Not because we were more intelligent, or stronger, or better at finding the lions, mammoths and berries. No: we suddenly found a better way to deal with all that information. We transformed, began to tell each other stories and use our imagination. About 70,000 years ago homo sapiens developed a shared consciousness, plus myths to go with it. This created more efficient social behavior and a sense of connection. The other human genera did not develop this behavior and as a consequence the success of homo sapiens wiped them out.

Scientists refer to this development in prehistoric times as the cognitive revolution. You could also call it the information revolution, or better still: the first information revolution. Because the second one, that’s what we’re seeing right now in our connected society. This revolution affects all government organizations and all businesses. Digital Transformation is today’s buzzword in the boardrooms. All sorts of people in all sorts of companies are working with it. Let me state first and foremost that a Digital Transformation is crucial for our continued existence. We must adapt to changing circumstances. I began saying this ten years ago: we’re headed for an infinite complexity in the IT of our organizations. We seem to be stuck in it by now, and many people feel themselves sinking away in that squishy swamp. We have appointed the Digital Transformation to pull us out. But nobody seems to realize what that transformation really involves, and many stubbornly analog-thinking managers continue to stare like rabbits into the headlights of a car speeding towards them. How did we end up in this collective deadlock?

First of all, we still feel the urge to predict the future, even though we know it’s impossible. Operational management is entirely geared towards making detailed plans for the future. In addition, a lot of operational management is still hopelessly outdated, and also terribly hierarchic, so their business is about as efficient as a chocolate teapot. Second, the power of decision on IT support is often found in only one pillar of the business. The so-called enterprise architects had or have have a big finger in the pie there. Thanks to their robust way of thinking - meaning ‘cast operational processes in IT concrete’ - they’ve only made matters worse. Third, it turns out to be impossible to convince both business people and IT people that they both have a shared responsibility for the daily operational management. Fourth, there’s always a lot of talk about change but very little action. This is because we suffer from ‘prosperity idiocy’: nothing is in scarce supply and nothing seems urgent. It’s as if we don’t even have to think about survival. The fifth and last reason why Digital Transformation just won’t get off the ground is that everybody thinks they’re unique. From a technological perspective, and from the way we produce technology, that is obviously not the case at all.

In any organization, IT should be part of a continuous production process, based on open standards, that once started should never stop. It’s not a project, it’s a constant flow ‘from idea to IT’. Businesses in the ‘new world’, like Facebook and Google, are always working on innovating their apps and their digital environment. Any government service, ministry or business that wants to stay rooted in the real world will also have to grow along in the digital world. These days every organization is a digital one, with all that it involves. The transient nature of the IT landscape should be managed in such a way that it cannot deteriorate. At the start of creating IT in a flow, the emphasis should be on obtaining performance. After that you can look at the quality and the available budget. If there are queues or problems with production, you act fast and ad hoc, and learn from the small mistakes along the way. The boardroom should also be prepared to replace a strategic goal with a strategic intention; know what direction you want to go in, and be open to adaptation. A strategy that’s all written out is by definition an antiquated idea in this second information revolution. In short, a Digital Transformation is not a technical issue. It’s ‘between the ears’ and it’s an organizational matter. It’s about changing behavior.

The last Neanderthal man was wiped out about 30,000 years ago by modern man. Don’t be like him. Keep up with the times and transform!

Sincerely,

Hans van Bommel,
Digital Transformation Accelerator