How would we react if we knew the Chief Financial Officer of a well-known global brand couldn’t read or write; if their “literacy” was well below average?
I ask this rhetorical question because we all know instantly how ridiculous and impossible such a scenario would be. But what about their “digital literacy”? What is their level of digital intelligence or digital IQ?
The reality from what I observe in many medium or large organizations is that it is still considered tolerable (almost amusing) for senior leaders to have the “digital reading age” of a six-year-old when it comes to technological competence. But this is far from a joke. It is unacceptable and becoming more urgent to fix by the day.
At a recent gathering that Digital Workplace Group (DWG) hosted at Cisco’s HQ in Silicon Valley, we used our new “Digital IQ” assessment method to get a range of leaders from well-known organizations to chart their strengths and weaknesses. Admittedly, this was a skewed group coming from digital roles, so they were all proficient but, even so, no one (myself included) scored a perfect 10!
The level of digital literacy among leaders is seen generally to be a major impediment to business success, since today’s technology and its power are central to all business strategy.
How can we address this issue? Here are a few options I have observed to work:
- Upward mentoring, where technically capable colleagues buddy up with leaders and coach them for a year.
- Embedding digital literacy as a skillset into leadership development programmes.
- Ensuring key senior leaders who have raised their “Digital IQs” continually demand similar levels of digital leadership from their colleagues – like a “digital stuck record” in making the point.
- Using evaluations to help individuals see exactly where they are, as a baseline for improvement.
The bottom line is we need to make being digitally illiterate as professionally humiliating as any other “traditional” form of literacy.