Digital Training: My Advice to Executives In the Middle of a Career Move

Digital training? But what the hell is digital in the first place?

digital training
GEM’s deputy director, Jean-François Fiorina, presenting on 07/04/2017 in front of my students. His master class was about his social media strategy for Grenoble Ecole de Management. After all, if the Boss can do it, students can do it too, can’t they?

Digital training in the information age seems pretty straightforward. And yet. The very definition of the digital domain is mind-boggling and fuzzy. Where does it start, where does it end? Also, choosing a digital training programme, like any other kind of training programme for that matter, in any area, implies that executive students spend quite a lot of time thinking about what they want to do in the future.

This is why I have written these few bullet points, in order to help them with their choice. As you may or may not know, I am programme director at Grenoble Ecole de Management (aka GEM, a leading European school) since I am in charge of the Advanced Masters in Digital Business Strategy which welcomes 40 students from various origins every year.

Approximately 30% of these are executive students. A lot of these executive students have questions and issues they are trying to solve through a digital training programme, which remains a means for them to put a stake in the ground and show both management and themselves that a career move is nigh. In this piece, I have put together some advice for them to ensure that they are choosing the right programme and to help them with their choice of career.

  • Number one advice is, above everything, to start focusing on your career move: an executive student’s focal point must be her/his career move. You have to avoid throwing everything away just because you are oping through a midlife crisis. In other words, the first thing I do when I interview executive students for my Masters is to check whether their motivation is positive and not negative. I understand that frustration at work can happen, and that execs may have enough of working with the same people. For somebody like me who has worked for more than 30 years, it’s not very difficult to imagine nor understand what’s behind the frustration. I have been there before. Yet, All negative motivation (I hate this!) must be turned into a positive one (here is what I want to do!). To put it in the words of Daniel Porot, think of your move as as runway and imagine you are landing and not just taking off. Landing is more important, it’s the end state that matters. As a recruiter if I do not understand where you will be landing I try to help candidates with their plan and if I still can’t understand what they want to achieve, I will try and evaluate a better solution with them. Obviously, digital training and digital in general must be part of the landing plan if one wants to join the masters.

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Digital transformation: one size fits all does not apply

What do a butterfly and the emission of water vapour have in common? At first sight nothing, except that both are the results of a transformation, the latter of a certain quantity of water, the former of a caterpillar. Nobody would usually compare both, since the nature of these transformations, the context in which they take place, their initial conditions and their internal mechanisms are totally different. Yet, against all odds, this is typically the kind of confusion organisations make when dealing with their digital transformation.

digital transformation
What do a butterfly and the emission of water vapour have in common? At first sight nothing, except that both are the results of a transformation – not a digital one however

Digital transformation and change management

It’s time to give up on the assumption according to which technology, supported by what we pompously call “change management”, is supposed to drive transformation through the introduction of new practices. More often than not, “change management”, in that case, is a mere glorified mix of communication (more or less inspired) and training (more or less eye-opening). A living proof of this new era is the recent name change of the Enterprise 2.0 Summit, one of the most prominent conference in Europe, dedicated to digital enterprise transformation, into Digital Enterprise Summit. This change is the logical outcome of the growing awareness among organisers of the need to consider collaborative practices not as an end per se, but as a key element of digitalisation, a process involving business, processes, delivery, and even organisational structures.

Digital transformation is everybody’s business

Another important sign that shows that digital transformation is definitely everyone’s business, is the October 27th-28th 2015 HR Tech Congress. This conference was previously held in Amsterdam (this year it will be taking place in Paris) and is dedicated to digital transformation from a Human Resources point of view. This is a significant event. It also serves the purpose of demonstrating that HR departments, previously known to resist change, are now moving ahead. If you can’t beat them, join them. The event will most probably attract 4,000+ human resource managers and professionals.

At the same time, an increasing number of organisations are appointing, or have already appointed, a Chief Digital Officer. A new role which stresses the growing need to transform all business channels whose aim is to interact with customers. It is yet unclear, however, whether businesses are moving ahead because of the fact that their customers are hyper connected and putting pressure on them in order to modernise or because of an internal urge to rethink the way they work. Too often, businesses rush to apply off-the-shelf solutions, as if technology were making it useless to adapt to both industry and business context. Read more