Fear could be holding your organisation back from digital success

Paul Boag

Many organisations fail to succeed in digital. They fail not because of underinvestment, vision or any one of the normal culprits. Rather, it is the fear factor that causes them to fail.

A wise man once said “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Admittedly he was a puppet, but he had a point. Fear does lead to the dark side. Fear is why many organisations fail to embrace digital.

Fear holds people and organisations back. But it is not always easy to spot, and it manifests itself in many different ways.

Fear of the unknown

When it comes to digital a fear of the unknown can be a huge barrier, especially for executives. Senior leadership teams are comfortable with being more experienced than others. They have a greater depth of insight because of their years of experience. After all that is how they reached their current position. That is what people expect of them.

But this group does not understand digital. Their business experience came before the digital age. Digital is not weaved into their lives like a millennial.

Because digital is unfamiliar they shy away from it. Like all human beings they fear the unknown and that makes them hesitant.

As digital professionals it falls to us to make the unknown, known. We have to learn how to communicate better and educate our colleagues about the nature of digital. Only then will they overcome their fears.

Fear of change

Related to the fear of the unknown is a fear of change. Large, well established organisations are particularly susceptible to this.

Some of my clients have existed for hundreds of years with the same business model. It has worked for them and so they are reluctant to do anything that might threaten that established norm.

This fear of change stretches from the board room to the individual employee. Employees that fear change will threaten their job or make that role more challenging.

It is our role as digital professionals to show them that change is inevitable. That the world has already changed around them and that standing still is no longer an option. We need to show that the dangers of not changing are greater than taking that risk.

Fear of risk

Many fear change because change brings risk. As humans we are risk adverse yet adopting any new approach has inherent risks. Digital is no different.

If we are to change this mindset we need to learn how to minimise the risks. This is down to education because most fears are born out of ignorance.

That said, it maybe necessary to spend more time addressing perceived risks than we would like to. It is important to have our colleagues on board. We cannot always just push ahead regardless.

We also need to take time to outline the opportunities. If you minimise the risks in peoples minds and paint a positive enough outcome from taking the risk, people will follow.

Fear of failure

Often a fear of risk is a fear of failure. If you want to minimise the risk in people’s minds you need to minimise the impact of failure.

This is easy with modern digital practices. The price of failure is low in digital, especially when working in an agile, iterative, data driven manner.

The problem is that colleagues expect the cost of failure to be high. Get a building project wrong or even a print run and it can become expensive. But with digital that doesn’t have to be true. Changing pixels is cheap and we need to get that message across to our colleagues and management.

Turn fear to your advantage

Without a doubt fear is one of the biggest challenges we have to overcome as digital professionals. But fear can be a useful tool as well. We can use fear to motivate. Because although our colleagues and managers fear, they are afraid of the wrong thing.

They should be afraid of their competition adopting digital faster. They should be afraid of changes in consumer behaviour and needs. They should be afraid of new digitally savvy competitors entering the marketplace.

If we want to see digital adoption within our organisations we need to turn fear to our advantage. We need to focus our colleagues on the right fears. Only then will we see a willingness to change.