If I asked you to tell me what your corporate strategy statement for next year was, there’s a pretty good chance, it would have the words, Cyber, Big Data, Cloud and IoT in there somewhere. This isn’t a criticism; it is an observation of the pervasiveness of technology terminology (now there’s a mouthful). If I asked everyone to rate these as important to the business, there is an equally good chance that these are all priorities at present.

We are surrounded by terms and phrases that are meant to describe the technological world around us, grouped into catchy buzzfeed style headlines (by Management Consultants) that grab our attention across all forms of media.

So what do I mean? Well let’s take the buzzword of the day ‘Digital’, everywhere we look we are bombarded about ‘becoming Digital’, Chief Digital Officers, ‘Digital innovation’, ‘Digital Cities etc. etc.

As if the normal tech buzz words weren’t enough we are now meant to equate the importance of ‘becoming or being Digital’ with the wider strategic aims of ‘ensuring our Cyber security is excellent’, ‘manipulating Big Data for business benefit’ and ‘leveraging Cloud for competitive growth’.

But have you ever stopped to ask yourself what does any of this mean to you on a personal level? Or to the staff in your business? Are any of these things real? Or are they abstract concepts?

I work for the Leading Edge Forum and look after our research in Consumerization and the employee. I also run something that we call the Xperience Lab for our clients, it is a hands on workshop that allows people to test their skills by building recipes of ‘digital things’ to really internalize how hyper connected the world really is. We aim to move from the abstract to the real.

So as I am the Digital Chef (shameless plug http://digitalchef.tv) let’s perform a little experiment to determine how ‘Digital’ we are feeling today. You can tap your answers into a tablet, phone or PC if you are being ‘Digital’ failing that….use a pen and paper (I appreciate the irony).

The Digital Chef’s Digital Buzzword BS Detector

First question?  Do you have a smartphone? Do you have more than one smartphone? If yes get it (them) out and put it (them) on the desk in front of you. Is it an iOS device? Or Android? Maybe even a Windows phone? Typically, in an Xperience Lab group of 30 people, 60% are iOS, 35-40% are Android and there will be 1 person with a Windows phone (everyone points and sniggers). So which are you?

Now i’m going to ask you about your comfort levels with Social Networks, think of 3 or 4 and say them out loud, then write them down…. i’m guessing it’s probably Facebook, Twitter, Instagram maybe Snapchat (depending on how down with the kids you are).

So do YOU have a Facebook account? Most people do these days. Hands up if you posted anything onto Facebook to your friends and family over Christmas? Yes?

How about Twitter? In my typical group scenario, the difference here is that 95% of people will have Facebook and around 15% will have a Twitter account. If you answered yes to Twitter (put your hand back up) next question is, do you post and engage in conversation on Twitter or do you just lurk? Be honest? Is your hand still up? Most people’s hands go down at this point in a group session.

In this question we have teased out that there are different ‘Digital’ behaviors present in two of the most common social networks.

OK moving on, we’ve established that we have smartphones and we know a bit about social networks.

So how comfortable are we with our digital skills around using new services? When you sign up for new apps and services do you bother to register a whole new account or sign in with a social logon if it is available? In an Xperience Lab I typically find that people are split, the majority of people are comfortable with using social logons. I do find the odd person who states ‘I would never do that as I don’t want Facebook/Google/LinkedIn knowing everything about me’ We then discuss from a security standpoint whether we really think our personal data is safer with Facebook or with the brand new startup app they’ve just sent all their details too.

I now require you to do some hands on experimentation. Pick up your phone (only you iOS and Android users, this isn’t for you Windows phone weirdos 😉 ) unlock your screen and put your hand up, right now swipe with your phone on the app screen either to the right or down. Keep your hand up if you can do this once? twice? three times? anyone left on 4? Typically the max I find in the Xlab sessions is 5 screens. OK cool, lock you phones and put them down.

I’ve got three questions left for you, but before I ask them lets recap. We established that most people are worried about Cyber Security, interested in Big Data and on board with leveraging the Cloud. We’ve taken our test and found we have smart phones, we are conversant with Social Networks and to a large extent skillful enough to use social logons to sign into services. The last test showed us that we are happy to use lots of apps in our ‘Digital’ lives.

OK next question and be honest. Is there anyone out there right now, reading this, who can tell me EXACTLY the number of apps they have installed on their smartphone? Anyone? For all you guys that got up to 4 or 5 swipes you are looking at near or over 100 apps. Don’t worry at this point if you can’t, in my experience virtually no one can. (I have 88 if you are interested). Follow on to this is, do you have any idea where to even find out how many apps you have installed?

Next to last question, we established that lots of you (you know who you are) have multiple screens of apps. How many of you have at least attempted to group these apps into similar functions. I’m not talking about default folders, rather ones where you have grouped apps together? Some of you typically will have done this, but most of you won’t have.

And last question, if we have established that most of us have signed up for lots of these using social logons, how many of you have turned on the free (yes free) Two Factor authentication services that Facebook and Google provide to help protect you, your data and your (i’m not calling it smart phone at this point) most personal, constantly connected Internet of Things device?


This is what interests me and my Xperience Lab research, the gap between the everyday skillset that we will all increasingly require to master our environments and the reality of our actual skills. The gap between the buzzwords and our skills is growing and here is where I deliberately choose to use the buzzword. What are you doing to increase your personal Digital IQ, or that of your employees?

p.s. feel free to use this Q&A on any management consultants who are trying to sell you ‘Digital’ services, they get paid loads they will cope with you breaking them down a bit.


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