In my previous post, I talked about the transformation path and challenges that organizations are facing to evolve a digital company. One of the takeaways from this post is that enterprise digitalization is not only about changing your technology, the real challenge is about changing your thinking as an organization.

In this post, I’m going to look at corporate culture which is akin to the opening or initial phases of a chess game in the digital journey. Many companies are in the paradigm of how we manage the evolution of the existing cultural norm to a new philosophy based on innovation and entrepreneurial character. This is the real shift in terms of transformation and requires new ways of working encouraging an enthusiastic and collaborative environment — the main drivers of creative and pioneer thinking.

Obviously, there are challenges for big corporations that want to become digital, where the entrepreneurial mind-set in the company is non-existent or at most random, so… How can you achieve an innovative and entrepreneurial culture in your organization?

To answer this question we have to consider and understand the skills and behaviours that define an entrepreneurial mind-set including: initiative, adaptability, problem solving and creativity…, as well as the agents of change that contribute to the development of an environment that encourages entrepreneurialism and abilities in the corporate leaders and employees.

Not every person is born a natural entrepreneur or feels that they have the ability to innovate as part of their DNA. Organizations can create a climate that will inspire individuals to bring-out their inner entrepreneur.

So, how can organizations create such an environment and enable its employees? It has to be driven from the top by the CEO and supported by an inspirational leadership team. A team that understands and enables these agents of change promoting values such as: honest communication, positive principles, loyalty, a sense of purpose and collaboration. Let me break this down further.

Start the transformation via the digital leaders. First, the digital transformation journey and cultural reshape must be led from the top of business priorities by the CEO and the management team. The CEO and company leaders have to start their own journey and become digital leaders recognising that the organization is a living organism based on interpersonal interactions. Organizations are built around people making products or delivering services for other people. So, digital leaders must connect with their employees, lead them with a clear mission and values. Recognise their personal aspirations and enable alignment of ambitions with the goals of the organization to allow a contribution of greater significance from the people in the operation of the business. In other words, become inspirational, infuse a positive spirit of collaboration across all employees.

Creating corporate DNA and a sense of purpose. The CEO and management need to write down the corporate principles defining core values such as: innovation, collaboration and an entrepreneurial mind-set. Facilitate cultural values that inform a dynamic structure, the digital DNA for the company — across all employee age groups — not just Generation-Z. This digital vision will create intent, the associated strategy will provide a direction. Both are relevant to create a sense of purpose that will apprise the transformation.

Promote a transparent, enjoyable and collaborative workplace. Create a modern work environment that encourages, socialization and is transparent. Empower employees with greater freedom to take on tasks — be flexible, allow a work-life balance. 

Be transparent and create an environment that encourages collaboration, think about seating areas, running regular cafe sessions where employees can ask questions, share ideas directly to the company leaders. Company leaders should promote open discussion and cultivate strong relationships with their team members. Build a private channel where employees can ask anonymous questions such that all colleagues can contribute and provide feedback.

 Break or eliminate the interdepartmental and business unit silos by using collaboration tools to bring greater visibility and reach across departments. Schedule kick-off and after-work activities in which employees and leaders can participate and get to know one another better.

Take the initiative and enable innovation through technology. Give employees the autonomy and resources they need to experiment with new ideas, empowering collaboration with diverse teams — and train employees to solve problems and make decisions using data analytics and their knowledge rather than via a hierarchy. The idea is to ensure that employees are empowered to think of new products and services, new ways of working, to help the business operation.

The technology and knowledge must be available to anyone. The leaders must encourage their teams and themselves to enrol in educational initiatives that are conducive to digital activities. A promising approach is to schedule regular webinars and role-play sessions that introduce real use cases, show how to solve problems using data analytics and bring them to a viable business solution.

Of course for companies aspiring to be digital more elements have to be considered in the transformation journey - such as customer centricity - but all of them are dependent on the opening phase.

This transformation is not an easy task, management will need support such as from partners with strong expertise in business transformation that helps to provision the avalanche of digital initiatives, manage accelerating innovation cycles, and reshape the organization around new approaches — enabling greater agility within the operation of the business.