The digital unit as a game changer

August 30, 2017

German companies have caught the innovation bug. Because they now need to get a move on if they don’t want get left behind in the digitization game. The problem is that many companies don’t know where to start. And their employees are more skeptical than optimistic about digital transformation. Creating a digital unit can be the key to success.

Take a look at German corporations and you will see that almost every large company now has its own innovation hub, lab or digital unit. No matter what you like to call this concept, the intention behind it is the same – it involves developing digital ideas, and trying out new ways of thinking and working in a protected space outside the core organization. Because without the inhibiting processes and structures you find in every company, it’s easier to just try things out and you are also allowed to make mistakes. In this respect, setting up your own digitization unit is a useful first step.

From the digital unit back into the overall organization

However, the crux of the matter is transferring things from the digital unit back into the core organization. Because, all to often, the innovative ideas from the hub, lab or unit never find their way back into the organization. Sometimes employees even respond to the innovations from the digital unit with mistrust, cue “not invented here.” It is all the more important to use the successes of the digital unit as levers for digitally transforming the entire company, by corroborating the marketability and success of the new digital business models with figures and data. But also by passing on the expertise from the protected space to all employees.

Training courses and workshops can give them an understanding of startup methods and approaches for agile collaboration within the entire workforce. This knowledge transfer is crucial if the digital transformation is to succeed. Because only employees who understand the need and interrelationships of this change process will also support it. And there is even more pent-up demand in Germany for this, as the etventure study shows. In Germany, employees often react anxiously to digital transformation processes. In 45 percent of companies, digitization leads to the workforce splitting into advocates and refuseniks. And one in two companies is fighting internal opposition with regard to the digital transformation.

Digitization only succeeds if there is a culture change

These figures make it clear that successful digitization is inextricably linked to a culture change in the company. Alongside training, this also includes new, more flexible forms of team working, dismantling hierarchies and more responsibility, as well as more freedom for individuals. Employees need to understand that digitization does not present a threat, but rather an opportunity – not just for the entire company, but also for every individual. In order to arrive at this point, there is still a lot more convincing to be done in German companies. Of course, such a huge change process will not succeed overnight. But it can succeed.

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