Here’s Good News: It’s Not Ageism, It’s You!

Sometimes, one must title their blog and then duck, or they might get hurt. What do you mean it’s not ageism, it’s me? And, how in the world is this good news? The blowback can be pretty harsh, but you can’t solve a problem if you cannot properly define it. And, I am speaking from my own experience, my own denial, my own pain and my own coming to grips with a new understanding.

Thus, I stick to my title. And it is Good News! You see, many people over 40 (and especially over 50) see ageism is a major threat to their careers and livelihood. Others over 60 are just trying to hang on until retirement. Somehow, during this experience, those claims that 50 is the new 30 don’t ring true. It’s not a pretty sight when a company lets an older person go. This person may face extended unemployment, underemployment, having to start over and worry about what tomorrow brings. Bills pile up while paychecks don’t. The financial and emotional pressure can become severe.

By Allan Thomas Chiulli, DigElearn
www.DigElearn.com

November 15, 2018

Sometimes, one must title their blog and then duck, or they might get hurt. What do you mean it’s not ageism, it’s me? And, how in the world is this good news? The blowback can be pretty harsh, but you can’t solve a problem if you cannot properly define it. And, I am speaking from my own experience, my own denial, my own pain and my own coming to grips with a new understanding.

Define your Digital Savvy starting point with a FREE
Progress to Digital Savvy Quiz at www.DigElearn.com.

Thus, I stick to my title. And it is Good News! You see, many people over 40 (and especially over 50) see ageism is a major threat to their careers and livelihood. Others over 60 are just trying to hang on until retirement. Somehow, during this experience, those claims that 50 is the new 30 don’t ring true. It’s not a pretty sight when a company lets an older person go. This person may face extended unemployment, underemployment, having to start over and worry about what tomorrow brings. Bills pile up while paychecks don’t. The financial and emotional pressure can become severe.

The 2017 McKinley Marketing Partners study focuses on marketing careers, but summarizes the challenge many older employees face:

  • The people most in demand are those who can engage the right target audiences online: Digital advertisers get messages to a target audience, content people make sure messages keep consumers’ attention, and data scientists monitor results and interpret buyer behavior data.

 

Demand greatly exceeds supply for these skills.

  • On the other hand, supply exceeds demand for traditional marketers and advertisers, especially for those with ten years of experience or more.

In fact, the study shows that the market for traditional marketers with ten years of experience or more is virtually nonexistent, suggesting that a mix of low digital skills and high compensation history does not bode well in today’s job market.

So, we need to properly define a correct cause, and cannot afford to cling to a widely accepted correlation that may hide the true cause. You see, ageism is discrimination on the basis of a person’s age. And, while such discrimination may be illegal, it is difficult to prove in a job setting and almost impossible to prove during a job search. In other words, there is not much hope you can claim you did not get hired due to ageism. Realistically, how many of us are comfortable suing an employer before we even worked there? Not exactly a great resume enhancing tactic: I am suing the last company I interviewed with for discrimination!

We need to properly define a correct cause, and cannot
afford to cling to a widely accepted correlation
that may hide the true cause.

First, let’s step back a bit: Many of these ageism-type events relate to one’s lack of sophistication in the digital world. That is, we may not be Digital Savvy. Digital Savvy means we can understand, evaluate and anticipate the impact of digital transformation.  You know as well as I do that there is a digital divide between the younger and older. And, as we get older, our compensation increases and we are expected to deliver commensurate value to our company. But, many of us older types tune out of the digital discussions. Our thinking is: “Leave it to the others; or, I don’t get this stuff”. Twenty years ago, this approach may have been valid. The digital impact was at the edge of the business discussion; an afterthought for the recent college grads to figure out, like updating a website.

Digital Savvy means we are able to understand, evaluate
and anticipate the impact of digital transformation.

Today, however, the digital impact is at the core. The digital impact and the business decision are often one and the same. Those recent college grads of twenty years ago are now senior managers. We cannot tune ourselves out of digital discussion after digital discussion and expect to remain, highly compensated, at the table. Things do not work this way, anymore. The millennials understand this; many of us older folks do not. And, these same millennials do not think it is fair that we older, highly compensated folks may not be pulling our weight.

Inevitably, the day of reckoning comes, and we are shown the door. This may happen as a group. We look around at the people leaving and notice a lot of gray and thinning hair. The people letting us go are noticeably younger, often by a generation or more. So, we cling to the obvious age discrepancies and label this effect as “ageism”. We think of ourselves as victims of age discrimination and then conclude (wrongly) that all of this is beyond our control.

Here’s the truth as I see it: It’s not ageism if you do not understand the impact of digital transformation. It’s not ageism if you do not understand how digital transformation impacts your business and company or organization. It is not ageism if you are Digital Obsolete. And, the fact that becoming Digital Obsolete and being an older employee are highly correlated does not change any of this.

Now, and I need to duck again, this is Good News. You cannot prevent discrimination, but you have 100% control over your own actions. You can overcome becoming Digital Obsolete by becoming Digital Savvy. Furthermore, I know you can become Digital Savvy!

The reason I know that you can become Digital Savvy is that I went through the exact same experience. I remember telling myself that, as CEO of a start-up tech company, I cannot, by definition, be Digital Obsolete. Wrong! This thinking made sense only as long as I stayed in my small circle of like-thinking and Digital Obsolete friends!

It’s not ageism if you do not understand
the impact of digital transformation.

But, months after replacing myself as CEO, I was 60 years old and floundering in my search for my next opportunity. I wanted to hear a company tell me: “We love you and that you are exactly what we are looking for.” Here’s what I got: Silence, which is painful. Or, and this is where it becomes cruel, they told me that I am overqualified. Overqualified is polite language for “You are Digital Obsolete – too expensive, too little to contribute.”

I did have a couple of phone interviews with executive recruiters, but I never heard from the person again. How rude! I wanted to scream, “Does anybody know what is going on?”. Then, I wanted to shout, “What is wrong with the world?” Finally, I began to wonder, “What is wrong with me?” The outward pressure started to turn inward. This can be a very difficult time. If this sounds familiar, or is something you worry about, then it is time for you to take action..

What we need to understand is that we live in the Digital Tornado, that is, the rapid career obsolescence created by digital transformation’s enormous, unpredictable and accelerating disruption. The Digital Tornado has winners and losers. Sadly, the losers are the Digital Obsolete, who often believe they are victims of ageism. We become Digital Obsolete when we lack the digital knowledge base and perspective to effectively compete in a Digital Age.

The Digital Tornado is the rapid career obsolescence
created by digital transformation’s enormous,
unpredictable and accelerating disruption.

Once we are Digital Obsolete, no one is going to hire us at our accustomed level of responsibility and compensation. To me, this meant: Bye, bye CEO positions! What may also be surprising is that technical people can become Digital Obsolete. For example, software engineers can become Digital Obsolete through their continued micro focus in their area of expertise.

The Digital Obsolete also believe that their Digital Literacy is a valuable asset. They believe that Digital Literacy, that is, knowing how to use Office365, Google search, iPhone apps, Facebook and LinkedIn, somehow equates to an understanding of digital transformation. The reality: Digital Literacy is assumed for professional careers and is no longer enough for you to win in the Digital Tornado.

Here is the key takeaway: You win in the Digital Tornado by becoming Digital Savvy. And, better still, becoming Digital Savvy has nothing to do with age! Becoming Digital Savvy is not a deep dive into technology. Rather, it is about gaining a digital knowledge base and perspective for a business (and technical) person to make effective decisions in a Digital Age.

Here is the best news: The reason you can become Digital Savvy is because you want to. And I know this is because I went through the same journey and can show you the way. This is the same step-by-step, easy-to-understand and easy-to-follow path to Digital Savvy that I used. The path that I know works. This path works because when someone shows you what is important, and makes it simple, you can learn very quickly.

You win in the Digital Tornado
by becoming Digital Savvy.

Once you are Digital Savvy, digital transformation works for you, not against you. You hedge career risk and create career upside. You become and remain relevant. You create career confidence and enjoy peace of mind. And, if unfortunate things do happen in your career, you are much more competitive, prepared and can face your future with confidence.

So, what is the key to becoming Digital Savvy? Well, we believe it is Continuous Bite-Sized Learning or CBSLSM. CBSL creates many continuous small improvements that add up to a big difference. Here’s are some highlights of our educational research:

  • According to Bersini’s Modern Learner Profile, busy employees have 5 minutes per day to learn and
  • Neuroscience shows learning is best when people are asked to absorb 4 to 5 pieces of information.
  • A 2015 Dresden University of Technology Study shows learning works better and faster with smaller slices of content. The study showed a 22% gain in Retention and Learning Efficiency from bite-sized learning.
  • A 2012 Study by Boyette concluded that 94% of learning professionals state Bite-Sized Learning is preferred by their Learners.

The educational research shows that people:

  • Have about 5 minutes a day to learn,
  • Prefer smaller bite-sized lessons, and
  • Have better retention and learn faster with bite-sized learning.

So, CBSL (Continuous Bite-Sized Learning) provides the best path to Digital Savvy. This learning is not only easy, but it is fun—when you start to Get Digital, your perspective changes—you see your career, business and life differently.

CBSL (Continuous Bite-Sized Learning)
provides the best path to Digital Savvy.

Here is your first step: Define your starting point with a free quiz.

Please take the free Progress to Digital Savvy quiz at DigElearn’s (my company) website www.DigElearn.com. There are 30 straightforward multiple-choice questions that should take you 10 minutes or so. Maybe your score will be good; maybe it will be horrendous. It does not matter because, now, you have a starting point to measure your improvement.

Then you have two paths to Digital Savvy: The first is self-study.

We provide free digital learning material on our web site. Also, you can download the Table of Contents from my book Winning in the Digital Tornado. These resources will provide you a path to become Digital Savvy. And, I’m thrilled I could help you!

Or, if you are pressed for time and prefer a more structured path to Digital Savvy, join the DigElearn.com Founder’s Club (www.DigElearn.com).

This is a great way to catch up and stay ahead of digital transformation. The DigElearn Founder’s Club uses Continuous Bite-Sized Learning through daily bite-sized emails, a 20-module step-by-step, bite-sized digital learning program and user forums. All of these materials are available 24/7/365 whenever and wherever you are. This easily affordable bite-sized learning program works for you.

Please check us out at www.DigElearn.com. You will Win in the Digital Tornado and dump ageism in the garbage bin.

Allan Thomas Chiulli is the co-founder of DigElearn, an online digital learning membership experience at www.DigElearn.com and the author of Winning in the Digital Tornado. Both are guides to digital transformation for business and technical people needing to catch up and stay ahead of digital transformation. Readers may take a free quiz to measure their Digital Savvy at www.DigElearn.com.

Needed: An Actionable Definition of Digital Transformation.

A good definition provides a clear picture of what an asset or concept is (and, by extension, what it isn’t). It is something you can cut out, tape to the bottom of your computer screen and stare at every time you feel you are losing your way. The best definitions are prescriptive, not descriptive, and provides actionable insight.

I struggled with the definition of digital transformation as I was writing my book on digital transformation, Winning in the Digital Tornado. I traversed Wikipedia, technology publications, management consultants and respected bloggers, but could not find a definition that placed its finger on the essence of this term. Yet, it was only as I approached completion of my book that I began to realize the flaw inherent within the existing definitions. My journey, however, was enlightening:

By Allan Thomas Chiulli, DigElearn
www.DigElearn.com

November 1, 2018

A good definition provides a clear picture of what an asset or concept is (and, by extension, what it isn’t). It is something you can cut out, tape to the bottom of your computer screen and stare at every time you feel you are losing your way. The best definitions are prescriptive, not descriptive, and provides actionable insight.

I struggled with the definition of digital transformation as I was writing my book on digital transformation, Winning in the Digital Tornado. I traversed Wikipedia, technology publications, management consultants and respected bloggers, but could not find a definition that placed its finger on the essence of this term. Yet, it was only as I approached completion of my book that I began to realize the flaw inherent within the existing definitions. My journey, however, was enlightening:

The best definitions are prescriptive, not descriptive,
and provides actionable insight.

Here is where I and many others begin: Wikipedia, who provides this definition:

Digital transformation is the change associated with the application of digital technology in all aspects of human society.

Then, I looked at CIO (Chief Information Officer) Magazine:

Digital transformation is application of digital capabilities to processes, products, and assets to improve efficiency, enhance customer value, manage risk, and uncover new monetization opportunities.

And here is TechTarget’s definition:

Digital transformation is the reworking of the products, processes and strategies within an organization by leveraging current technologies.

What interesting is that, while none of these definitions are wrong, none of them provide actionable insights. By this I mean, what do you know after reading these definitions that you did not know before you read them?

Overall, I found these definitions offered a lot more about “How” than the far more important “What” or “Why”. So, my journey continued as I then examined what the leading management consultant firms had to say in defining digital transformation. Here is what I found:

Here is Gartner’s definition:

Digital transformation leverages digital technologies that enable the innovation of their entire business or elements of their business and operating models.

And Forrester:

Digital transformation is an enterprise-wide transformation — driven by the aggressive adoption of digital technologies but supported by equally important changes in culture, leadership, skills and processes.

And, finally, McKinsey:

Digital Transformation is creating value at the new frontiers of the business world, creating value in the processes that execute a vision of customer experiences, and building foundational capabilities that support the entire structure.

Of these three definitions, McKinsey by far does the best job. We’ll discuss why in a bit. Gartner and Forrester get lost in the How’s and skip over the What and Why’s. Finally, I looked at two highly-respected writers/bloggers in digital transformation to catch their insights:

Here is Brian Solis (www.briansolis.com):

Digital transformation is the realignment of, or new investment in, technology, business models, and processes to drive new value for customers and employees and more effectively compete in an ever-changing digital economy.

And Galen Gruman, Executive Editor, InfoWorld:

Digital transformation is the application of digital technologies to fundamentally impact all aspects of business and society.

One more time: Good definitions, but a lot more on How than What and Why.

What is missing in these definitions? I searched far and wide: These are the best of the best and I still found them wanting. In my humble opinion, either they are missing something critical or I am. Let me make my case:

The focus of these definitions (excepting McKinsey) are primarily on technology. At first glance, this approach may make sense. Isn’t our world changing due to technology? However, the result is that these definitions are limited, by this approach, to the How’s and not the What’s or Why’s of digital transformation.

A useful comparison might be defining an automobile by describing the manufacturing process without telling you what an automobile is used for and why. When you stop and think about it: Aren’t the reasons a person might want a car (freedom to travel) and how they would use it (to visit family or travel to work) far more important that the technology behind building an engine or constructing an assembly line? The What and Why are prescriptive while the How (technology) is descriptive.

The same is true for modern medicine. The technology behind a knee replacement is far less important than the new-found freedom of mobility and feeling of joy that a knee replacement provides to patients. Again, the What and Why are prescriptive while the How (technology) is descriptive. Nobody wants to see a video on how knee replacement is performed (except some surgeons), but tons of folks with bad knees are thrilled to watch a video of a knee replacement patient describing how they threw away their wheelchair and now enjoy long walks on the beach at sunset.

Digital transformation without a central focus on the
User Experience is like describing an ocean without water,
or human beings without love.

In my journey to Digital Savvy, it took me a while to understand that digital transformation is not about technology, it is about people. And, above all, how people interact with one another. That is the What and Why of digital transformation. Technology is one of the How’s. This is also true for business. So, we could conclude that digital transformation is about how a business interacts with its customers and other businesses. Still, it does not seem like we are quite there yet. And, that’s because we have not addressed the most important ingredient in the definition of digital transformation: The User Experience or “UX”.

Digital transformation without a central focus on the User Experience is like describing an ocean without water, or human beings without love. The core or essence is missing. We also call this the What and Why. The How (technology) comes later, much later.

Here is my and DigElearn’s (my company) definition of digital transformation:

Digital transformation is the impact on people and business from prioritizing and elevating the user experience (UX), through the convergence of enabling information, social collaboration and real-time connectivity.

We begin with “people and business”, the What of digital transformation, and then shift to the “user experience (UX)”, the Why of digital transformation. However, not just the user experience, but “prioritizing and elevating” the user experience. This means that, above all, digital transformation is about “prioritizing and elevating the user experience.” McKinsey, to their credit, also observed that the user experience reigns above all in digital transformation.

Now, we are beginning to have something you can cut out, tape onto your computer screen and stare at every time you begin to feel you are losing your way. A definition that is prescriptive, rather than descriptive. One that provides actionable insight. If you are working with digital transformation, then your user experience is your North Star, and prioritizing and elevating your user experience is your finish line (although you never reach it). Technology is a means to do this, not an end in itself.

Above all, digital transformation is about
“prioritizing and elevating the user experience.”

And, we go further “through the convergence”, because digital transformation is the result of people, technologies and data working in concert.

These factors converging include “enabling information, social collaboration and real-time connectivity.” Think of a rider using an Uber or Lyft app on their mobile phone and watch how digital transformation works. Information is enabled, including the rider and driver’s location, the rider’s credit card number, mobile number, destination, route and time of travel to arrival, the driver’s name, car make, model and year, mobile number and rating. All this information is immediately shared between the driver and rider and a fare is computed.

Enabling information also includes shopping platforms that use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to mine data about a shopper’s preferences. Their online shopping experience now conforms to their actual needs and desires. No more pushing baby formula on 70-year-old men. Brick-and-mortar shopping now relies on payment zones, not checkout lines. Friction is removed as information is real, alive and delivered on-demand.

Social collaboration is people or groups working together to accomplish a goal. For example, a driver decides to turn his or her car into a taxi and begins to earn money by driving riders to their desired locations. The ride is higher quality and lower cost than most taxi alternatives; and this in turn bring forth a greater demand for rides from riders that in turn attracts a greater supply of drivers, all a lower cost to the rider than before. Enhanced user experience at a lower cost—this is the essence of digital transformation. This new and higher market equilibrium of supply and demand for taxi services is called the two-sided network effect of platforms and is an integral part of digital transformation.

If you are working with digital transformation,
then your user experience is your North Star.

Real-time connectivity is the glue behind these digital transactions. A shopper in a grocery store turns down the pasta sauce aisle and immediately receives a text for a 20% off coupon for Bertolli’s marinara and garlic pasta sauce. Real-time connectivity also drives omnichannel marketing, whereby a customer’s online, brick and mortar, multi-device (phone, tablet and desktop) and multi-channel (email, text, website, social media and phone) experience is seamlessly woven into a single experience for a customer. The siloed interactions of the past, whereby the same information is repeatedly provided by a shopper, disappears.

Technology does fit in and is critically important, but as a How. We use technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and platforms, to prioritize and elevate the user experience. Now, we can view our technology needs with respect to the North Star of digital transformation—the user experience. If a technology contributes to prioritizing and elevating the user experience, then we may need it. Otherwise, it may not fit.

Still, we are not there simply because we have a prescriptive definition of digital transformation. The key become how the prescription is used, that is, how it becomes actionable. Culture is an important driver (once more, those dang human beings!) The emphasis on prioritizing and elevating the user experience becomes a company or organization-wide imperative.

This begins at the very top:

The CEO and Board Members need to systematically focus on how the company or organization is prioritizing and elevating the user experience. The same is true for the senior and junior executives, employees at every level, salespeople, admins and HR. This is equally true for the partners, suppliers, vendors and distributors. And, of course, user feedback is critical. Now, everyone across the entire value chain has the same focus—prioritizing and elevating the user experience. And through this complete focus, digital transformation occurs as technology is the enabler of many of these initiatives. That is, technology remains a How, but a very important part, of the big picture of digital transformation.

The emphasis on prioritizing and elevating the user experience needs to
become a company or organization-wide imperative.

Can you imagine? The big picture of digital transformation across a company or organization begins with a simple definition. But, only if it is the correct, prescriptive and actionable definition. That is why a proper definition of digital transformation is so important. In this manner, a definition becomes liberating, as it sweeps aside all other distractions and thereby creates a focus that is empowering and effective. Above all, a definition that always focuses us on the fact that digital transformation is about people, business and their user experience.

And, just to recount, here is the definition of digital transformation:

Digital transformation is the impact on people and business from prioritizing and elevating the user experience (UX), through the convergence of enabling information, social collaboration and real-time connectivity.

Allan Thomas Chiulli is the co-founder of DigElearn, an online digital learning membership experience at www.DigElearn.com and the author of Winning in the Digital Tornado. Both are guides to digital transformation for business and technical people needing to catch up and stay ahead of digital transformation. Readers may take a free quiz to measure their Digital Savvy at www.DigElearn.com.