Digital transformation requires growth mindset - not just tech

People need to be comfortable with the speed of the digital era, and they must be willing to make quick and risky bets instead of slow and safe bets

When embarking on a digital business transformation, too often organisations ignore the need to change the mindset of their staff, notes Gartner research analyst Aashish Gupta.

A technology shift not backed up by a corresponding cultural shift puts the success of a digital business initiative at risk, he adds.

"For any transformation to be successful, people need to buy into your vision," says Gupta.

"The culture aspect and the technology demand equal attention from the application leader, because culture will form the backbone of all change initiatives for their digital business transformation.

Staff trapped in a "fixed" mindset may slow down or, worse, derail the digital business transformation initiatives of the company, says Gupta.

While every organisation has its own unique culture, it must understand the nuance of attracting and retaining talent with values and mindsets aligned to the mission and culture of the organisation.

"This requires a healthy and psychologically safe team environment within a growth mindset organisational culture," he says.

"Psychologically safe" means making co-workers and team members feel that they will not be punished or humiliated when taking interpersonal risks, such as asking for help, admitting mistakes and vulnerabilities, or expressing concerns.

Applying a growth mindset culture has been a success in well-known online companies.

An online clothes and shoe retailer instructs all of its new hires to experience its call centre.

The involvement, which includes training and time spent on answering customer calls, allows employees to gain a holistic view of the business and understand that customer service is the backbone of it.

Critical steps for change

"Cultural change requires significant investment," says Gupta. "Organisations need a way to measure the value that investment is delivering."

To help application leaders implement mindset change among their staff, he says Gartner has developed a four-step plan:

  • Vision

Create a compelling vision that can be shared as a story to inspire and motivate desire for the change. Everybody should understand what is meant by a growth and product mindset. "A growth mindset demands people to be comfortable with the speed of the digital era, and they must be willing to make quick and risky bets instead of slow and safe bets. A product mindset requires people to own what they create and take full responsibility in its success and failure," says Gupta.

  • Define

Define key behavioral attributes that reflect the intended mindset change. These can be individual accomplishments that contribute to the team, business or customer results; a greater number of projects owned; or acquiring new skills.

  • Implement

HR should be involved to ensure that performance metrics, as well as the descriptions of roles and responsibilities, are updated to include these key behavioral attributes, before rolling them out to all departments. "Acceptance will happen only if the change is visible throughout the organisation. You should incentivize people to share knowledge or learn new skills," says Gupta.

  • Measure, monitor and wait

Allow some time for the changes to percolate, he advises.

Continuously measure and monitor the changes through anonymous surveys. "You can ask employees if they understand the company's messaging around culture, or if they see their leaders practicing it and if they find their colleagues taking the initiative seriously," says Gupta. "Also, remember to track performance measures."

"Be patient. Fostering a growth mindset culture that requires behavior changes among your staff takes time," he says.

"However, the rewards are considerable as everyone perseveres, learns, grows and accepts that potential is nurtured, not predetermined."

Related stories on digital transformation:

'Cultural change requires significant investment'

Get the latest on digital transformation: Sign up for CIO newsletters for regular updates on CIO news, career tips, views and events. Follow CIO New Zealand on Twitter:@cio_nz Join us on Facebook.

Send news tips and comments to

Follow Divina Paredes on Twitter: @divinap

Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.

6 digital transformation success stories