Technology as an accelerator for positive impact

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A telltale for technological and organizational health

Technology can be an accelerator for positive impact. As a tool in it's own right and as a telltale for organizational health.

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Your technology can help you as an accelerator for positive impact. Obviously, in its own right as a tool that can be optimized. And as significant, on a deeper level as an indicator of your organization’s preferences, actions and health. For it’s your organization that has bought, developed, implemented and used technology.

By assessing and improving your technology, you will untap valuable insights on organizational driving forces that reach way beyond the realm of technology.

This post is part of a series about technology and organizational positive impact

  1. A guide to organizational positive impact, tech edition
  2. Doing good drives profitability
  3. Major events and big statements
  4. Be consistent about your positive impact
  5. A strong purpose proposition requires agility and resilience
  6. Agility and organizational complexity, beware of the present
  7. How to create positive impact with technology? Foster critical thinking
  8. Technology as an accelerator for positive impact
  9. Assess how technology shapes your organizational positive impact
  10. Reframe technology’s purpose and strengthen organizational alignment

Technology can make or break your organization

I have written previously about how doing good generates distinct business advantages. And how a negative impact leads to a disadvantage. I also wrote about how technology can be a force of good or bad. Which is a choice, not an inevitability. Consequently, it’s clear to me that technology can make or break your organization.

Especially since technology is omnipresent. From the dashboards and communication tools used in business strategy to expert applications on an operational level. And also, touching all the different business areas such as procurement, HR, legal, customer service, marketing, production and finance. Lastly, technology connects your organization to many of its stakeholders like resellers, suppliers, customers and regulators.

5 key focus areas for positive impact and technology

Given the presence and impact of technology, it’s worth understanding whether your technology landscape is optimized to accelerate your organizational positive impact. I see 5 key focus areas:

  • Inclusion
  • Empowerment and collaboration
  • Personal safety
  • Environmental footprint
  • Data and privacy

Looking through the lens of these 5 key focus areas, you’ll find opportunities for technology to increase positive impact. For instance, to improve the digital community you may have in place to foster and enable stakeholder collaboration. Or to sharpen your software code to minimize calculations thus leading to lower energy consumption. As a final example, to create digital customer journeys that maximize contactless interactions in light of the COVID-19 crisis.

On a deeper level: human interactions and thinking shape your technology landscape

Obviously, it’s possible to change your technology landscape, for technology is a tool. A collection of ones, zeros and hardware. But what good does that do if the underlying and driving human interactions and thinking are left untouched?

Let’s say that there’s an unfortunate bias in your automated recruitment tool. From a technology perspective you want to fix the tool. With a wider lens, you want to understand if the bias is a symptom of prejudices within your organization. This is not necessarily the case. Perhaps there isn’t enough time and resources available to monitor, evaluate and improve vital systems and processes. Or maybe organizational goals are creating a perverse incentive.

Technology as a tell-sign for organizational improvement

You could take that next step and go beyond technology. Apply critical thinking and use a broader lens. Regard technology’s shortcomings as a likely sign of sub-optimal underlying processes, dynamics, actions, mindsets, or priorities. Change those. If you help your organization to improve on a deeper level, you will ensure not just more aligned and optimized technology, but a more aligned and optimized organization. Better equipped to make a positive impact on the planet and society.

The next post, “Assess how technology shapes your organizational positive impact”, will provide a framework to learn about your technology landscape and its underlying dynamics.

You’ll find my posts and more at SogetiLabs.


Tips

Setting the stage

To successfully perform an assessment, you need to set the right conditions such as vision, goal, scope and boundaries, access to resources and people. The technical side of an assessment.

You will also need to address the ethical and human side of an assessment such as creating a safe space. Perceived safety will in part depend on past experiences. So, identify relevant issues with previous questionnaires, investigations, reviews, retrospectives, research and assessments and use your learnings to improve on safety. The technical side of setting-up your assessment is important in this area too. Only accept a well-defined, open process.

Communicate with nuance

An essential part of your assessment will be to connect the dots. There will always be an element of subjectivity in your findings and proposed next steps. Respect that grey area and communicate in a nuanced manner.

Critical thinking

Your assessment will in part dive into organizational dynamics, behavior and mindset. This is the domain of organizational health, learning and development, organizational change. These topics are widely covered in articles, books, podcasts, case-studies and research. So, I’ll focus on the one key-element that is most fundamental to me. Which is the space for critical thinking.

Questions you might ask to get a first rough idea. Is your organization used to give and receive feedback constructively, are lessons learned translated into change, is their space for fruitful discussions? May people differ in opinion and are they still treated openly and with respect? Positive answers to these questions indicate a healthy organization that is capable of learning, improving and changing together.

Deep dive

For organizational health, you might want to read “Organizational health: The ultimate competitive advantage” in the McKinsey Quarterly of June 2011.

For organizational change you could read “A Causal Model of Organizational Performance and Change” written by W. Warner Burke and George H. Litwin in 1992.

Léon de Bakker

About

Léon leads digital transformations with a core focus on future-proofing organizations and putting purpose into action. Aligning teams, business and technology across all layers of the organization and its key stakeholders with a wide lens and an open mindset. He studied business economics, has technology experience since 2001 and has supported organizations with their transformation journeys since 2003. Léon is passionate about all that is tech, new gadgets and visual design. Currently, Léon is working on connecting purpose and technology as key drivers for organizational change. He’s exploring innovative ways to redefine and remeasure growth and success in a world in urgent need of more businesses moving positive impact front and center.

More on Léon de Bakker.

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