“Technology changes exponentially; organizations change logarithmically.”
Scott Brinker described this observation as “Martec’s Law” five years ago, but I think the same can be said beyond the world of marketing technology to digital transformation in general. Scott went on to write:
“I believe these two things are true:
“1. Technology is changing very rapidly, and those changes seem to be accelerating.
“2. Changing an organization — how it thinks and behaves — is still hard and slow.”
I frequently draw cartoons inspired by conversations with others. This one emerged fully-formed at breakfast with a few people at a marketing conference in Spain a few days ago. We talked about some of the universal organizational challenges that hold us back from actually accomplishing some of the heady exciting ideas that tend to come up in conferences. One of the guys at the table found himself unable to actually send his presentation on digital transformation because of technology limitations.
Recently a Gartner analyst named Graham Waller described the mindset that makes it hard for organizations to change — and he advised CIO’s to become “cultural hackers.” Here’s how the WSJ summarized part of his message:
“The tool that most needs upgrading is not software. It’s that soft squishy thing, between the ears. It’s the mind, or, to be more specific, the mindset, the unseen processes that automatically turn on and off in response to a task or a situation…
“In the world of digital transformation, there are two mindsets: The fixed and the growth-oriented.”
It is easy to get excited about the potential that technology can bring to business. But if we want to pursue digital transformation, we inevitably have to think about organizational transformation.
Here are a few related cartoons I’ve drawn over the years:
“Chief Digital Officer” November 2016
“Digital Transformation” September 2018
“We’re Going Digital” April 2012
33 CommentsJoin the Discussion
John Brooker says
Loved this cartoon! So true, feels like when I am talking to some clients! I heard a lovely line on TV the other day. “I could fax to you, the trouble is I’m living in the 21st century!”
John Miglautsch says
We were doing video conferencing 20 years ago over yahoo to a guy in Moscow working under a single bare bulb. Last week we had trouble doing one with a major brand. Change is happening so fast, its hard for it to change stuff… 🙂
Sulaiman Kamarul says
Fax still give revenue to our NGo’s… Although it is an old school method….
Allen Roberts says
You nailed it, again.
I work with SME’s and with most, the pace of change is way slower than in larger organisations that have the resources to engage new capabilities as they become common.
I am still regularly showing people how to use basic tools, like excel pivot tables, and they think it is magic, cannot believe it has been on their desks for a decade.
Andy Tiller says
Anyone who has tried doing collaboration calls with China will know this problem well 🙂 – WeChat is the default answer. Zoom also seems to work well.
I have even used Two Way Translator App running on my phone on to a Zoom Meeting to communicate for someone based in China. I succeeded!
Usen Vank says
So true! I’ve experience the same. 10 years ago! I joined this company and they had this huge database in csv and they wanted an organised view. Hired an excel specialist and the guy wrote like 100’s of formulas with mediocre results. I showed them pivot table and they were staring at me as if they saw a tsunami coming ?.
Stephen Booth says
Ah! But many large organisations have security teams with mantra of “That looks useful. Turn it off!”
Yes, it’s like that at our company too for “security purposes.” Whatever. LOL
That file type is blocked by our corporate firewall policies. I’m going to need you to rename it as *.txt then I’ll switch it back.
Funny and you still hit the point.
Luca Majero says
I cannot leave a comment because I am still crying for laughter… As soon as I stop I’ll think of something… then I’ll start laughing again…
Diane Brown says
I remember working back in the 1990s for a company where you had two computers. One for employee use that was so locked down you could barely use it and one to do actual work. Technology is supposed to help a company’s employees do their work not hinder them.
Hahaha! Me too. My boss bought us “shadow” systems so we could do real work outside the firewall. Thank goodness for his discretionary budget.
Kevin Munday says
Excellent, this so reflects a recent episode I had with an oil major, in the end we had 20 guys standing round a laptop taking turns in talking and watching a slide show
How offen we see Technology department is driving the business . I am still living in a company IT department said we are not authorise your new software request because we do not see the business need ‘REALLY’ I replied
The muddled grey mass between the ears is the single hardest element to change in any technology uplift
Technology implementation / integration can be achieved pro grammatically
People can’t be programmed
Changing organizations is like carrying custard in a string bag
Stick your fingers in the holes, stuff squirts out everywhere
Love your work, love the insights
It seems now one has to work for technology rather than technology working for an individual/team
James Brooks says
About once a week my printer/scanner spits out a FAX 10 years ago I would rail on about how bizarre it was that it was still in use. Now it provides a me a moment of wonder and a laugh. 1980’s tech that continues to be used – gotta be a tech hall of fame that it should be inducted into and surely a spot in the record books. Great cartoons Tom – been there and the irony is classic.
Mike M says
Still laughing. I have been at that meeting! In addition to not being able to share, no one could figure out how to project the presentation on the beautiful hi-def screen in the main boardroom of this company. Imagine 8 people crowded around a 13” laptop screen.
Jerry Tabbott says
Great cartoons and spot-on commentary… now, have you written an article on how to overcome such hardcore resistance? I could sure use it.
And is there any marketing acumen that one can just mainline into an artery? At one point in my career I may have elevated my knowledge into the “novice” level… but that was pre-internet. The learning curve is much steeper now, and my fields of interest (what I wish to market) lie in completely new territories.
Richard Goodrum says
That Gray Matter problem has been around since people were saying steel buckets were better than Wooden buckets.
Just keep pushing until their ears and minds open up.
Ananthan Parthasarathy says
Digital world is so over-powering, that, deals that could be finalised over a cup of tea takes a circuitous route through cyber world adding more cost and adding confusion
– a layman’s view
The IT Crowd says
This is quite true, however a little naive, as in most of these companies IT are under increasing pressure to keep data safe, keep systems running, implement new initiatives and meet regulatory requirements – which are often behind the times. Yet all this can be achieved with a few Techs in the basement! Yes we need a mindset change, that change is for the business to understand the benefits of technology and invest in IT.
It’s true but it’s a tooling issue before anything. I had an interview with a web radio a year or so ago. It required google hangout. Never used this before. I tried it, it said “not supported on your system”. The guy told me “you have to upgrade your browser”. I replaced my browser (firefox), I lost support for the sound as firefox developers decided that LTS distros probably all use pulseaudio by now (mistake on their side, but it was not exactly the best moment to try to recompile firefox). I tried to install chrome, library dependencies issues. Finally I managed to get it to work with a slightly outdated chromium version!
The fun thing is that another guy interviewed at the same time had comparable issues with a very recent distro, where chrome was crashing all the time (so I was not the only one delaying the interview).
The problem with such fast-moving technology is that it tends to forget compatibility with tools which still work and are 1) necessary for people to do their daily job, and 2) are often exclusive between versions. So in the end sometimes you have to completely destroy your work tool just to support one such thing. At the end when you’ve spent valuable time fixing your tool a few times, you end up being extremely cautious about such quickly changing stuff that kill your ability to do your daily job and are never reused because next time it a new tool-of-the-day will be required with the same set of problems.
We definitely need to improve support for these tools in a way that respects users’ existing environments. Often it’s considered that 90% compatibility is enough, but this means that 10% of the people you want to communicate with will fail to use your tools. When you meet with 10 people it becomes a big problem every single time you engage down this route.
Brilliant article and cartoon captions that resonate truth.
Technology evolves faster than our ability to change.
Thank you for the article.
ERA Consulting Group says
This is very true! “Why simply when we can complicate things”, a common phrase we hear with our clients’ users!
Love this article. Forget presentations over Skype/ web meeting, many meetings still get started with “can someone get the computer to connect to the projector??”
I’ve always found technology changes to improve the way we do things and make them easier; companies change to negate that and (especially IT departments) try to make things more difficult or stay the same by banning all access to the new technologies.
Ralph Durant says
When I started in the industry, computer design programs were just coming on the scene and the hardest part of my job was getting the Older engineers and draftsmen to leave the drafting board. But I knew computers were going to make things so much faster in the future.
Here I am, now in the future, and we are even slower than we used to be, because of all the processes that have taken over.
And I am not really seeing the benefits we are supposed to be seeing. I am beginning to wonder if those older guys, way back when, were actually correct.
Call us perhaps, the minority opinion. Let’s talk about the billions of $ in lost productivity, even more in purchased & redundant software, application hosting fees, wasting valued IT support resources, missed business opportunities, re-scheduled meetings and more. Then add, countless hours to let’s make it “pretty” versions and revisions to get to the “perfect” presentation. Adding graphics, elaborate charts, using unlicensed artwork, and funny cartoons does not make bad presentation messaging content great. Finally, digital transformation is eroding common communication skills as people hide behind social media, screens and devices. We see it in the silos being built as people stay in their social media lanes rather than facing diversity. Get on a plane, car, bus or a train. Meet people “in person” and build relationships. Webinars and the like are just business tools, to be used judiciously. They are great; in the hands of untrained people, a disaster! Get outside your cube” today. Gather around the meeting table, physically, not virtually. You will be amazed what happens.
This kind of thing is a real headache.
“I sent you a Skype invite”
“We can’t use Skype, use this Webex link”
“She just Teams’d me, she can’t use Webex but she’s signed into Skype”
Repeat ad infinitum
Even simple things like presenting “Oh, you only have an HDMI cable, does anybody have a DisplayPort adapter?” or “So, you only have Clickshare, nothing else? I don’t have any free USB ports…”
On the topic of faxes, I had a fax number in my email signature for 12 years. I still don’t know the physical location of said fax machine, or even if it ever existed.
Thomas Field says
This will always be a problem while we have perfectly intelligent people walking around with smart phones that appear to be smarter than they. How many executives take the time to familiarize themselves with the awesome power they hold in the palm of their hands in the form of a smartphone?
Anyone here old enough to remember when fax machine were first introduced into the office? If yes, them you’ll recall that it had to be kept in the boss’s office and only he/she could use it. Actually, the secretary!