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What CEO can learn from a teenager?

Our civilisation has experienced several significant economic eras starting from the iron age, to the agricultural era, to the industrial age to the recent information age. The iron age lasted a few hundred centuries leading to the agricultural era of a few centuries to the industrial revolution of a couple of centuries before surrendering to the information age that is only a few decades old.

Our history not only shows the evolution of our economic patterns and growth and technology improvements that have dramatically changed the way we live and earn, but also illustrates the dramatic shortening of each phase of development.

We are already on the cusp of the end of the information age and heading to the augmentation and digital economic age.  The advent of this new Digital Transformation era cannot be ignored by any organisation that wishes to survive and thrive in this new age.

The irony I see around me is that most organisations are handing over the keys to this transformation to people who do not understand the current digital world, let alone the potential of our rapidly evolving digital future.  I recently met a senior official in the government sector who is leading the digital transformation journey in his department, and to my surprise he does not have a Twitter account, does not use any social media, still believes in storing his documents on a USB drive, and is scared to use his credit card online.

I left our meeting scratching my head wondering what sort of transformation he can lead when he hasn't even left the legacy thinking of the aging information era.  

My mantra of creating a digital transformation team is to hire in teenagers to your organisation and give them freedom to carry out the the required tasks. Organisations will quickly get their answers on where to improve and what technology to adopt.

Unfortunately, most organisations are treating Digital Transformation as merely an adoption of a new technology set, but that is the wrong foundation on which to build this transformation in society.

CIO's are presenting excellent business transformation cases to their business leaders showing the clear cost benefits of moving to the cloud, but in the midst of shaping their digital strategy they are failing to focus on how to make their organisations desirable places to work for the next generations of workers - the teenagers of today.

"Company success is an outcome of the talent they had in the organisation and offered freedom to innovate."

For years, few companies have even had a budget for innovation. Ability comes with a not only price but also the culture and liberty we offer in the organisation. Experiencing failure on the journey is the only way to sustainable success and should not be a reason to fire a CEO, or any employee for that matter.  The fear of reduced short-term investor returns has killed innovation in today's enterprises and resulted in lower sustainable long-term returns.

Traditional organisations that are too  focused on short-term investor returns and protecting their own patch at the expense of long-term vision and success have stopped innovating and finding solutions, and are often the ones creating roadblocks and problems.

In contrast, startup enterprises are gaining momentum because they begin with a different mindset to traditional organisations.  They focus on three fundamental questions:

1.  What's the problem?
2.  What's the solution?
3.  What's the vision?

So, my recommendation to all the CEO's who have the ability to change and lead their organisations to a successful and sustainable future:
Go and hire teenagers and let them show you how they would run the current business if they had the freedom.

With their significant experience in the digital world and their out-of-the-box thinking, the next generation will offer the perfect recipe for future success because what they’re doing is where the world is heading.

Learn from teenagers!!!


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