3 much needed mindset shifts to thrive in a post-COVID-19 world

It would serve businesses well to also acknowledge that digital transformation is not a destination, and is instead a continual work in progress.

We live in truly unprecedented times. On 26th May 2020, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat unveiled the Fortitude Package, a S$33 billion supplementary budget that seeks to provide support for businesses and workers to adapt to the new normal in a post-COVID-19 world. DPM Heng also spent considerable time in his parliamentary speech expounding on how the government is putting in S$500 million via this package to drive digital transformation in Singapore-based companies


TeamSpirit is widely acknowledged as a thought leader in the field of digital transformation in Japan, with frequent appearances by our CEO Koji Ogishima in the media


Today, I wish to leverage on our extensive expertise on digital transformation to elaborate three mindset shifts that are needed for companies to thrive in a post-COVID-19 world. 


The journey of digital transformation starts with a brave first step, so let’s begin–


Defining digital transformation


According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), global digital transformation spending is expected to reach US$2.3 trillion in 2023, and this figure is likely to increase in a post-COVID-19 world.

Let’s start by clearly defining “digitisation”, “digitalisation” and “digital transformation”: 

  • Digitization refers to the conversion, storage, and usage of analog data to digital data

  • Digitalization refers to the usage of digital data to reconstruct business processes, often to increase efficiency and productivity. Note that there are no changes to fundamental business models

  • Digital transformation refers to the usage of digital data or emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence to create new business models or economic value. 

Remember the early days when people have to flip through the Yellow Pages to find out how to get from point A to point B? This is a classic example of analog data. On the other hand, with the popularisation of smartphones, people can simply head to www.gothere.sg or use google maps to key in the starting and ending points.

We can easily retrieve information such as the distance and time needed to travel between both points, and then make informed decisions about which mode of transportation to take. As a result, we progressed from an analog process into digitalisation– not only is data stored digitally (digitisation), it is also used to reconstruct key processes to increase efficiency and productivity for all.


Eventually, we witnessed digital transformation when new “unicorn” startups emerged that capitalised on digital technology such as Uber and Grab. Both companies are born out of completely new business models— neither Uber nor Grab owns the physical vehicles, and yet the economic value and wealth they create is enormous. 


Mindset shift #1: Accept that digital transformation is not linear


Now that definitions are clear, let us consider the first mindset shift that is needed in digital transformation. It is a common misconception that the process of digital transformation is linear. To address this, let’s use a pyramid to illustrate the relationship.


Only a few companies can reach the pinnacle of digital transformation after a rigorous competition, where the customer value is also higher. The state of technology in most companies will fall within the space of digitisation and digitalisation.


It would serve businesses well to also acknowledge that digital transformation is not a destination, and is instead a continual work in progress. This is because rapid changes are happening in the business and technological landscape every single day.


Along the journey of digital transformation, there will be mistakes and failures, yet this is completely normal. The key is to recognise that the process is not linear.


Mindset shift #2: Embrace a “digital first” mindset


For the past three months, many of us found ourselves participating in an unplanned global experiment on remote work. In April 2020, TeamSpirit did a company-wide survey to find out how our employees are coping with remote work.

And this trend of remote work is likely to continue in a post-COVID-19 world, as companies start to re-evaluate the function of a physical office.


In his Facebook post dated 23 May, Minister Lawrence Wong urged Singaporeans to “now embrace working from home as the new norm”. He made these remarks as Singapore seeks to reopen after Circuit Breaker ends on 2 June.


Tech companies like Facebook and Google announced that their employees can choose to work from home till the end of 2020, and Twitter’s CEO gave employees the choice to work from home permanently, except when they have to be in office for important meetings. 


If partial or full remote work is here to stay for a long time to come, then a digital workplace experience is crucial. According to Deloitte, a digital workforce experience is the “natural evolution” of the workplace. Systems should be in place to ensure that employees enjoy the digital workforce experience which is not constrained by geographical boundaries. 


As more and more companies start their journeys in digital transformation, employee experience is delivered through digitalised systems and processes. This will determine the success of employee engagement and elevate their productivity. 


The digital workforce experience is likely to become the new norm for many companies, as HR and tech teams strive to streamline digital systems and experiences. Therefore, it might be wise to adopt a mindset of “digital first” in a post-COVID-19 world, leveraging on the Fortitude budget to invest in platforms that allow a stress-free digital workforce experience.


Mindset shift #3: Towards a growth mindset


According to a recent 2020 research by Rohei, there are five broad reasons why employees resist new digital processes: 

  • Lack of understanding of the context — “Why are we going digital?”

  • Inadequate skills development design— “I haven’t been taught this, what should I do?”

  • Insufficient alignment and support–” I’m already so busy, why do I need to learn this?”

  • Fear of loss of identity–” Am I going to be made redundant by younger staff/ bots?”

  • Having a fixed mindset — “Everything keeps changing, I’m too old for this.”

In the past three months, many of us had been forced to learn digital tools because we were unable to work remotely otherwise. In other words, we confronted our fears regarding all things digital because we had to. We googled, experimented, and found that it wasn’t so intimidating after all. 


This is why a growth mindset is so crucial to success in digital transformation.

A growth mindset towards digital transformation also creates a space for creativity and collaboration. I have been particularly impressed by the “Trace Together” app, which the Ministry of Health, GovTech, and SGUnited came up with using Bluetooth technology. This application is designed to help facilitate community-driven contact tracing in the event of contact with an infected person. And because the software source code is open-sourced, collaboration can take place across borders. 


There are other examples of creative collaboration in Japan, fuelled by a strong growth mindset as well. At the start of the year, developers in Japan kickstarted a COVID-19 specific GitHub page and submitted pull requests to supplement information provided by the official government pages. Verified community news was then posted on the associated COVID-19 landing page


Similarly, companies can also encourage an environment where talented people can come together to find creative ways to solve problems, and not be afraid of failure. 


In the book On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin wrote, “it is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; nor is it the strongest, but the one that is most adaptable to the changing environment in which it finds itself.” 


Indeed, we live in truly unprecedented times. Yet, we can still focus on what we can control– our mindsets. The post-COVID-19 world will look vastly different from the world we used to know. Let’s choose to make the rest of 2020 a year of transition by embracing digital transformation. 


This article was written by Go Nakano, Managing Director of TeamSpirit, Singapore Pte Ltd.

This article can found on e27.co, e27 aims to foster thought leadership by publishing contributions from the community.

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