Digital technologies are “hot” right now. That much is obvious. It’s amazing how fast the number of events around these technologies is growing.
Everybody wants to know more about new technologies and how they will impact their lives. Everybody has an opinion about them. Some love them, and many (still) distrust them.
This became very clear to me (again) at a conference in Japan last week.
Our lives more and more revolve around digital technologies. Algorithms and social media already “dominate” our economy, society, and culture today. They increasingly determine the way we work, communicate, and connect. Every aspect of our lives is now “tech-driven.”
As always, not every participant at the event in Japan was convinced. They cling on to the “old world” and deny that change is possible. What was interesting is that they referred to the volatility of the Bitcoin and the energy consumption of its blockchain to proof their point. It was clear that they simply don’t want to believe in the digitization of the world.
But they are wrong. The “digital transformation” is real and it is happening all around us.
There is no turning back. And we all have to think about how these technologies impact upon our lives and what we should do about it.
And here it is not about understanding all of the technical details behind the digital innovations. But, we do have to change our mindset and figure out how we can use the immense opportunities that are created by digital technologies.
If used smartly, digital technologies can make us happier and more successful.
They have the ability to “decentralize” and give us more autonomy and choice. This is what the “digital transformation” is really about: a cultural shift that affects all of us.
So, how we can change our mindset?
How can we develop the “digital mindset” that is needed to get the best out of this new world?
I think we need to be aware of the risks of a digital culture and get smarter about our relationship with new technology.
Here is what I mean by this.
Of course, we can all see the “dangers” associated with new digital technologies and the digital culture that has emerged around them.
Consider some of the potential risks created by such technologies:
Of course, I generalize here. But I think everyone — if they are being honest — can understand these risks. They are a constant temptation for anyone participating in the new digital culture.
One possible response to such risks might be to “reject” the technology and withdraw from engaging with the digital world.
Or, one might wait for the technology providers to find “technical” solutions to some of these problems. For example, technical measures designed to restrict screen time and reduce the risk of becoming overly-dependent on our digital devices.
The problem with this kind of strategy, however, is that by withdrawing in this way we risk losing out on the range of tremendous opportunities that the tech-driven digital culture has created.
And such digital opportunities are very real.
As mentioned, technology provides us with a variety of choice and freedom that humanizes us and can individualize us and results in much greater levels of happiness and diversity.
But, I do think we need to get smarter about new technologies. We have to “figure it out” to mitigate the risks and maximize opportunities to build and create a life that is personally fulfilling.
And, I believe this means developing a new sort of “digital mindset” that we need to work on continually. We all need to become active and positive users of technology that creates new opportunities rather than victims of the kind of harmful processes outlined above. And this is relevant for all of us (young and old), and also for businesses.
How then do we figure it out?
How can we be smarter in our relationship with new technologies?
What are the critical elements of this new digital mindset?
Here are five suggestions to get this discussion started:
We need to chase the moment and accumulate as many new experiences as possible. It is through new experience that we can build a better sense of “who we are” and “what we want to do with our lives.” And, in this regard, we shouldn’t become overly focused on outcomes but think about the process.
We need to “learn by doing.” This means practicing and getting better at whatever it is that we do. Of course, we have to be careful as we strive for continued self-improvement, but such experimental living is the only way to identify and create new opportunities.
We need to be persistent and consistent. We should avoid becoming disappointed or frustrated when things don’t go as hoped or intended (for instance, when social media doesn’t attract the expected traffic). Continued engagement is not always easy, but it is the best option.
We need to understand the importance of collaboration and sharing. The digital world puts a tremendous premium on “teams” and “teamwork”.
Finally, we need to look for communities of others that share the same interests as us. In this way, we can create a genuinely inspirational environment that allows us to become a better version of ourselves.
All of the above strategies can be connected to “soft skills,” which I’ve written about before.
In a digital age, technology does become part of our identities. In this respect, we are all becoming “cyborgs” now. But not in an unhealthy way, but in a way that is empowering and creates more opportunities to find personal fulfillment.
To take “social media” as an example. It’s a perfect means to become visible in the fast-changing world. However, it is surprising to see how few of my students are serious about social media. Yes, they have a Facebook or Instagram account, share many things about their lives, but don’t make a serious effort to build a personal story or brand that can help them in their future lives.
Also, all of us need to be humble and understand that we are constantly learning ourselves. Because of the exponential growth of innovation, a “digital life” is never entirely mastered.
Navigating this new digital world is not always easy, but the benefits of “figuring it out” and getting smarter are genuine.
Finally, one of the best things about our new world is that age, background, or prior experience no longer matter as much as before. It’s all about the “digital mindset.” This was my main message at the event in Japan.
Having the right mindset does create more significant opportunities for freedom, happiness and a greater level of humanity for all of us.
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