Digital Mindset and Self-Directed Learning: 2 Influencing Factors for Innovation and Transformation

The impact of a digital mindset and self-directed learning on organizations

How digital mindset and self-directed learning can influence innovation and transformation and move companies forward.

What do AirBnB, Lemonade and Peloton have in common? All three companies have disrupted and changed entire industries with their products. Digital mindset was the basis for this in each case.

Before the rise of AirBnB, the accommodation market worldwide was mainly dominated by large hotel chains and was relatively immobile. Huge investments were necessary to enter this market, because buildings had to be built, renovated and maintained. In addition, a lot of staff was needed to provide the service that was promised. As a result, the barrier to entry for new companies in the global accommodation market was really high. AirBnB was not deterred by any of this, and they entered the market with a digital platform that connects supply and demand, i.e., connects potential overnight guests with accommodations from private individuals. After a short time, AirBnB continued to grow as a platform for overnight stays worldwide and was able to scale quickly. Of course, this was much faster than with traditional hotels, since hardly any investment was required except for the technical infrastructure. But what is the secret of AirBnb’s success and the idea behind the platform?

Is it an ingenious technological invention that borders on rocket science? Probably not, because platforms for connecting supply and demand existed frequently even before AirBnB. The secret of success lies in a pronounced customer-centricity, an open approach to failure in the event of setbacks in the initial phase, a high level of proactivity in wanting to change a market, and creativity in how existing technologies can be quickly adapted for the project.

These are all dimensions of the digital mindset and are not only the core of success at AirBnB, Lemonade or Peloton, but rather a central influencing factor for innovation.

Digital Mindset – what is it and how does it influence innovation?

What is digital mindset and why does it have an influence on innovation? Digital mindset describes the six personality dimensions that are critical to success in dealing with failure. Thus, it is not about mastering technologies, software programs or even programming languages. It is about the following six personality dimensions:

  • Openness and agility
  • Customer centricity
  • Creativity
  • Critical faculties
  • Proactivity and entrepreneurial action orientation
  • Open approach to failure

Digital mindset is a fundamental factor influencing innovation, since successful innovation is less about technical know-how or in-depth expertise and more about the six personality dimensions mentioned above, which serve as the foundation for professional skills. Particularly with a view to the future, it will become increasingly difficult to predict exactly which specialist skills will be needed. This is because the digital transformation and ongoing exponential development of technology makes it impossible to say exactly which professional skills should be learned today in order to have the right skills in the long term. Therefore, the focus is shifting from the development of technical skills to the continuous development of digital mindset. Digital mindset then serves as the basis for learning the right and appropriate professional skills for the situation.

But how can digital mindset be developed? This requires a fundamentally different learning approach than learning technical skills. Digital mindset development does not work in a block seminar and then you have learned everything relevant to development. Development is more like a marathon that requires perseverance and continuity.

This is where self-learning skills and digital, self-responsible learning come into play.

Self-responsible learning as a future competence

According to a recent study by Kienbaum and StepStone, lifelong learning and learning agility are the second most important future competencies for the next 5 to 10 years. However, for lifelong learning to work, a high level of personal responsibility for learning is necessary. This means that companies must create the appropriate learning opportunities and framework conditions, but that employees must take responsibility for taking up these learning opportunities and thus develop themselves. The classic 1-day seminar per year, in which knowledge is consumed, is no longer sufficient for this. It is much more important to absorb new knowledge continuously and in smaller chunks. This can only be achieved through self-directed learning, because companies cannot offer and ensure permanent live learning support for all employees. Moreover, this approach would not develop the digital mindset needed for a successful future, nor would it impart the appropriate skills.

However, companies can promote self-responsible learning by creating the framework conditions within which employees can develop self-responsibility for learning. This self-responsibility consists of self-organization, self-direction and self-determination. These framework conditions can be roughly classified into two categories:

1. Digital programs

Companies can offer suitable and customized digital learning programs, so-called Learning Experience Platforms (LXP). These enable time- and location-independent learning, i.e. every employee can learn at the time and place he or she wants. In addition, learning experience platforms are in the best case not just any learning platform, but an individual learning companion that creates and plays out individualized learning paths for each employee. For this it is important that each employee receives an objective and valid assessment (e.g. with the help of valid diagnostics) at the beginning.

2. Supportive learning architecture

Companies can support self-responsibility in learning through a suitable design of the learning architecture. This does not necessarily have to be a digital offering, but can also be certain exchange formats, rule meetings or workshop offerings. These formats promote the social aspect of learning and thus also support personal responsibility in learning.

Strategic alignment of learning as a driver of innovation

The more strategically corporate learning is aligned in companies, the more it supports both innovation performance and the implementation of the digital transformation. This is the result of a recent Kienbaum and Stepstone study. The implementation of the digital transformation and innovation performance are significantly higher in companies with a strong strategic orientation of corporate learning. These figures show very strongly how important corporate learning is for the current and, above all, future success of companies. Learning opportunities are not just a nice-to-have for continuing education, but an important factor in the future viability of the entire company. However, at the same time, only 37% of Learning & Development managers report that learning is aligned with corporate strategy. This shows how much potential there still is in the Learning & Development area, on the one hand through a closer link with corporate strategy, and on the other hand through a focus on digital mindset combined with a high degree of self-directed learning.

It remains to be seen what exactly the next AirBnBs, Lemonades or Pelotons will be and what these innovations will look like. However, one thing is certain at this point in time: digital mindset, self-responsible learning and strategically oriented learning & development will lay the foundation for this.

Mit dem Fokus auf dem digitalen Mindset begleitet Julian Knorr Unternehmen im Rahmen zukunftsgerichteter Organisations- und Personalentwicklung und innovativer Recruiting Lösungen. Mit dem Digital Competence Indicator (DCI) entwickelte er mit seinem Unternehmen hierfür ein wichtiges Tool, um das digitale Mindset der Mitarbeiter messbar zu machen. Er ist Gründer & Vorstand der ONESTOPTRANSFORMATION AG und Gründer & Geschäftsführer der Agile Kitchen GmbH. Zudem ist er Keynote Speaker und Business School Dozent.

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