Digital Literacy – A Corporate Perspective?

A recent blog post by Vincent Rousselet entitled “A Tale Of Digital Literacy”  resonated greatly with me.  I particularly liked the discussion on whether Instagram was a force for ill between his daughters!  However, it starting me thinking about two questions: what exactly is the definition of digital literacy and how does that relate to the corporate IT?  A quick meander around the Internet courtesy of the ubiquitous Google and I found this excellent blog post by Cindy Plunkett, “What Is Digital Literacy?” .  There is a wealth of excellent material on this site and on many others debating the societal imperatives in the digital age.  I particularly liked the quote from Alvin Toffler I came across on what being illiterate in the twenty first century means, namely “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those that cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn”.

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I do despair of those in the corporate world that equate mastery of the digital world with knowing all about the latest and greatest technology, generally focused on the latest end user device. I tend to label the technology fad obsessed senior executive as being a devotee of the “Magpie Approach” to technology.  These technology enthusiasts sadly confuse the allure of the latest shiny thing with considered adoption of technology to derive business benefit with an appropriate assessment of the associated risks of being an early adopter.  Now I am not arguing that being an early adopter of a new technology is a bad thing, what I am arguing is that sitting at the pointy end of technology advances is a high risk strategy that needs to be underpinned by a clear sighted assessment of the risk to reward equation.  Generally my heart sinks in the corporate context when I hear people enthusing about the latest tablet, smartphone, laptop, application or business solution.  In my view once people view technology with the same perspective most of us apply to a new pen or other commonplace tool they are probably taking a balanced view. If they enthuse first about the business benefits that the new shiny IT object can deliver and then make a passing comment to exercise their inner geek, my alarm sensors see nothing worthy of triggering an alert!

Digital literacy in the corporate context needs the senior executives to be focused on leverage exciting benefit from the unexciting and the workforce trained and empowered to make effective use of the technology tooling. Clearly a sense of buzz generated from shiny new devices can be a powerful motivator as part of the adoption process within the business change programme, but it should just be the means to an end not the means in itself.  So ultimately I am arguing that the digitally literate senior executive is someone that understands the value to be gained from the digital world but is not unduly driven by the glittering latest shiny new technology.  I am arguing that once you view technology as a tool to be deployed in the digital age to enable and empower your business, then that is when as a business leader you are digitally literate.

Image via Shutterstock.com

This post was previously published on the Business Value Exchange.

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