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5 minutes on Digitization


In the late 1990ies, a busy Silicon Valley pushed out one fancy start-up after another. The hype spread out in the world and everyone wanted to be part of the gold rush – and then the internet bubble burst and all vanished for a couple of years.

As a consequence, investors looked for better ways to ensure that their start-up of desire would generate value. And they had to do that in an environment in which most people did not understand the new technology. So the question was: “How can you control the emerging chaos when a new technology shows up on the horizon?” I am not only talking about money. It might be cool for a couple of months to invest day and night working in a garage space but if you do not see any benefit within a short period of time —  remember, it’s a gold rush type of situation — you are prone to stop your engagement and turn to the next “claim”, the next start-up, the next idea.

Silicon Valley came up with a solution. New ways of delivering products emerged, ensuring that one’s investment – either time or money – was not spent on the totally wrong idea. To ensure success, the technological innovation had to be followed by a social innovation – by new ways of working and collaborating. Scrum, Kanban, DevOps, Design Thinking – all can be summarized as „Agile Management Frameworks“ or „Agile working“.

Now we see those two streams of innovation – the internet and agile – converging into something new and it is transforming our society as a whole. This phenomenon is called „Digitization“. People are using smartphones to organize their lives, pay their bills and chat with friends. Companies use cloud services to improve their performance and productivity. Microsoft Office is reinvented which for me is the most significant proof that even a tanker can transform itself. But there are also some industries which seem to lack a real impetus to go the whole distance. In banking for example, the focus definitely lies on the technological part of Digitization but most banking institutions are missing the part of social innovation. Too much politics, too much hard-wired processes – often intensified by strict legal requirements – are blocking the new way of working.
Digitization as a phenomenon can only be understood holistically – it is a combination of technology, social innovation and an emerging societal change. If we look at digitalization this way, it will be possible to change organizations and institutions – for example our schools – fundamentally.

There is no need for discussion if pupils need tablets to do their work in school – they are Millenials! The real challenge is to find different ways of teaching than we were used to in order to emulate the new way of working (for example eduScrum). We will need to train our kids not only in understanding the impact of using digital tools. No, we will also have to train them in creating the next version of internet technologies by using Design Thinking, Scrum and Continuous Deployment. We have to show them how to program, create applications and apply this knowledge also in classes like physics, biology and even history. This will enhance their skillset on the one hand and on the other it will create a generation that has a deep understanding of the new VUCA world.