What is digital transformation to me?

When branding specialist Fintan Collier signed up for the Digital Strategy course at Hyper Island he expected to be studying Big Data and Blockchain. What he experienced was something quite different.

Nine weeks ago, I signed up to take the Digital Strategy course at Hyper Island. A few friends had attended the school and while I hadn’t heard about their studies, I had noted a positive change in their demeanor. Given the digital deficit in my working experience I thought it was time to learn something new. I was not a bad student at school or university but I really struggled on this course, not to learn, but to unlearn what I already knew.

For me, the first fundamental learning was that “digital” is the relentless pursuit of a friction-less user experience. On reflection, the majority of my previous work has not improved any consumer’s experience, but where I have, those have been the most successful/rewarding projects. Even with an understanding of this concept, many companies have failed at digital transformation because they have relied exclusively on new technologies or innovative business units to meet consumer’s expectations while their organizations as a whole remain unchanged. While it may be easy for a start-up to focus every member of a team, including agencies and customers, on the consumer experience, the real challenge is for traditional companies/industries to make this switch.

Photo credits: Emarsys Craftlab & Johan Eriksson

Photo credits: Emarsys Craftlab & Johan Eriksson

My misconception that I would spend the duration of the course studying Big Data and Blockchain was quashed early on. I was there to learn, but I didn’t realise I was there to learn how to learn. Relying on companies that are digital to make the connection to your consumers is short sighted in allowing them to take your learnings. It was a humbling experience to create an idea and then have our assumptions crushed by 100 consumers in less than three minutes. Learning by prototyping could speed up the journey to an organization that learns. Even more humbling to realise that I had omitted learning as a performance metric in my projects up until this point.

I struggled even more with how this shift of focus on the consumer could be achieved. As a business student, I’ve been conditioned to get from A to B in the most effective way possible. Turns out we actually don’t need to go to B and what I thought was effective, was as equally frustrating for me and everyone else. I’ve learnt that if our goal is to improve our consumer’s experience and learn from it, then maybe the process for the people who can make the change should be created in the same way – frictionless. I look forward to the challenge of leaving the PowerPoint presentation behind and move to designing collaborative workshops that can actually support this change.

Photo credits: Emarsys Craftlab & Johan Eriksson

The creativity of the group grew as every new member joined. Thriving in this learning environment, ultimately it was the people that made the process as enjoyable as it was. The discussions were always open, invariably honest and often frank. My new friends have forced me re-examine the experiences I create, and for that I am grateful. My one reservation would be to think twice about this course if you don’t want to start thinking about all of life’s frictions that digital could solve. In Stockholm, why can’t Google Maps tell me the best tube exit to take for my final destination, why?   

Special thanks to our thought leaders: Johan Eriksson, Liene Leimanis Bartlett, Olle Svensson, Stefan Wendin, Joe Coppard, Owen Pringle, Donna Hanafi, Niklas Huss and Sarah Gregersen.

This post was originally shared on LinkedIn on December 4, 2018 by Fintan Collier.