As usual the national Digital Leaders conference in London last week was a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and new, listen to and learn from some first rate speakers and consider some good food for thought.
One of the activities during the day was an interactive, dynamic word cloud that encouraged everyone to feed in one word in answer to a question about the key themes of the day, which updated in real time on the screen in front of us. It was no surprise that the words ‘digital’, ‘transformation’ and ‘collaboration’ were some of the largest. I thought I’d try the same with my notes from the day and came out with this…
Again, I expect there are no surprises here. Most of the digital events I’ve attended recently have focused on a changing organisational culture, breaking down barriers and silos and developing the skills and creativity to really innovate and transform the way we do business and deliver services.
I was struck by the story of Wigan Council’s transformation journey. Alison McKenzie-Folan, Deputy Chief Executive, told of the need to reduce demand for services and build self-reliance in the community. Digital technology and tools have formed key enablers to do this. Recently the council has invested in a new innovation fund for community-led digital projects.
I particularly liked the story of the YouTube video that received 300,000+ views; this resulted in 11 inward investment enquiries, which ended up with a new depot being built and generating 500 new jobs for the area. It was great to hear about the positive impact social media can have.
I also enjoyed listening to Maggie Philbin and Lord Knight in the last session of the day. Both are interesting storytellers and provided entertaining and thought-provoking insights. The idea that we should see what are traditionally known as ‘soft skills’ as instead being ‘core skills’ – things like creativity, collaboration, bold thinking and adaptability. And of course, lifelong learning, which indeed, takes on a whole new meaning when you start to consider ‘the 100 year life’.
The title of the conference was building digital DNA, but at the end of the day, this Digital Leaders conference was not really about ‘digital’ at all, it was about people. And it was the better for that. People were at the heart of every conversation, whether we were discussing future digital skills needs, culture change in organisations or the need for new ways of working and innovation. But perhaps that’s right. DNA is what makes up every human being, so being more people-focused about the way we do digital is surely the way forward.
For more information about the conference, visit the ND16 website. Visit the Digital Leaders website to get involved in future events.
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