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WEBSTOCK: Leadership in an ever-changing, relentlessly demanding and occasionally frustrating digital world.

Katy Miller

Last month Bekah and I flew to Wellington to attend a full day workshop with Janet Hughes, "Innovation through digital transformation. Leadership in an ever-changing, relentlessly demanding and occasionally frustrating digital team/ organisation/world". Presented as part of Webstock 2018.

The mere title of this Webstock workshop elicits an undeniable need of a PhD. But, with open minds, 5.30am coffee, a smooth flight,  and the sun in full glory we quickly found ease. The workshop was centred around how we can apply the same attitudes and methods we would for leading digital transformation to everyday organisational problems, developing sound solutions, uncovering the real issues and leading change. The workshop aims to help people to affect change within their organisations to make them effective, relevant and resilient in a digital age.   

In a nutshell, the attitudes and methods we speak of:

  • Accepting and celebrating experimentation, change, and failure - wholeheartedly.
  • Without users you have nothing - Users are fundamental, be relentless in your focus to make things better for users (at every level), never settle.
  • Fostering an open, collaborative and responsive culture - It is only with our collective knowledge and skills we are able to create, innovate and advance. Other people will be key to your success.
  • Be Bold, have empathy and humility, fail early and fail often. Ask questions. Don't be afraid to collaborate with the competition. Stand on the shoulders of those who have been before. Identify, dismiss and confirm your assumptions early.
  • Ask Why - Challenge the question or problem you are trying to solve -  Ask Why? then ask why again, and again, and again and again, until you are sure that you are asking the right question and are doing it for the right reasons.
  • Embrace Speed - you will be and need to be, working at a much faster pace than most organisations are used to or even capable of. 
  • Trust your gut - You know your world, team, product and industry - trust that you will be able to preempt your core failures and key learnings,  don't wait to the end of a project when asked 'what went wrong? to say - we should have done this or that, talked to this person earlier. 

For the workshop, each participant was tasked with bringing a "problem" they face, for some this was how to develop or implement a digital strategy, how to fight tradition and the "its always been done this way" mentality. Other common threads included dealing with succession (the generational difference) and how to beat the disruptors to the punch. We then tackled these problems throughout the day allowing each person to develop real solutions and action plans. Some of the "problems" we brought to the table were:

  • In an ever-changing industry, how do we ensure graduates and ourselves are equipped with the right skills, for today and tomorrow?
  • We create phenomenal marketing strategies, but how do we better service marketing implementation making it simple, easy and attainable for our clients?
  • We all know that content will be the reason your new website won't launch when you want it to, what can we do to make content development easy? 
  • Knowing that we are not just designers and developers, how do we increase early engagement for greater innovation and more effective solutions?

Stay tuned as Bekah and I continue to find ways to solve these in time. For us what we took away not only focuses us on what we can be doing within our own organisation but also what we can offer our clients and ultimately their end users. 

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Janet Hughes is a well-regarded UK-based expert in digital transformation, she has helped define and deliver complex digital programmes and strategies to governments and other large institutions, organisations include Open Data Institute, doteveryone, NHS Digital, the Royal Academy of Arts and the UK Government (Government Digital Service).