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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:

  1. Upward mentoring, where technically capable colleagues buddy up with leaders and coach them for a year.
  2. Embedding digital literacy as a skillset into leadership development programmes.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

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About the author

Paul Miller is CEO and Founder of the Digital Workplace Group (DWG). He is a business and social entrepreneur. His latest book, The Digital Renaissance of Work: Delivering digital workplaces fit for the future (co-authored with Elizabeth Marsh), was shortlisted for the Management Book of the Year 2016 Award. Paul’s previous book, The Digital Workplace: How technology is liberating work, helped to popularize and explain the term “digital workplace”. Paul has given many inspirational talks on the digital future of work, for audiences at Microsoft, IKEA, Google, Accenture, Harvard Business Review, Cisco, European Commission, IMF, Adobe and Oxford University. He hosts the Digital Workplace Impact podcast.

Paul was ranked one of the world’s Top 50 Social Employee Advocacy Leaders in 2015. For many years he hosted the pioneering internet radio show Digital Workplace Live and is Executive Producer of the 24-hour global digital experience Digital Workplace 24. Prior to founding DWG, Paul was Founder and CEO of communications company The Empowerment Group; Publisher and Editor of social and digital innovation magazine “Wave”; and, in pre-internet days, co-founder of the Ideas Café salon. He lives in the Cotswolds in the UK.

See more about Paul Miller on Wikipedia

Connect with Paul on Twitter: @paulmillersays

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