Play with Tech or Play Catch Up

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Guest post by Gerard Verweij, PwC’s US Advisory Technology Consulting Leader

Have you ever seen a child walk into a toy store? At first, they pause and scan the room with eyes as wide as saucers. Certainly, the endless array of choices is as exciting as it is daunting. Where do they begin? Which toys will be the most fun?

These questions zip through their minds in a matter of seconds before they dive in and start trying things out. If one toy doesn’t hold their interest, they quickly advance to the next shiny object. It’s not many times in my life when I will say that CEOs and CIOs can take a lesson from kids. But, when it comes to experimenting with emerging technology, there’s a lot senior executives can learn from the professional players among us.

Like children in a toy store, senior executives are reeling from the amount of technological choices they have at their fingertips: Robotics, Internet of Things, Virtual Reality and many new ones to come. But, rather than starting to play or experiment as children do, they stand paralyzed with fear they will choose wrong.

According to PwC’s latest CEO survey, 78% of U.S. CEOs say that the speed of technological change is a challenge. They worry because they know they aren’t doing enough to run faster than the competition. They aren’t playing hard enough. Our Digital IQ survey preview found that only a small fraction of companies are investing in sensors, wearables and NoSQL databases.

Take the car industry as an example. Overseas manufacturers played with turning their cars into sophisticated computers packed with sensors that drive innovation. Now, American manufacturers are getting left behind on the technology front. You can either play with technology or play catch up.

Failure has been a big topic of conversation over the last few years. Experts have thrown around terms such as “fail fast,” “fail forward,” “fail better.” Let’s face it. No one wants to fail and everyone avoids it at all costs, no matter what consultants preach. We need to take the focus off of failing, and put it on experimenting.

That’s why PwC has designed the Experience Center. We integrate the physical and virtual worlds to facilitate the freedom of exploration, collaboration and co-creation. Executives can tinker in workspaces, experiment in labs, debate in war rooms and test their ideas in “real world” studios.

When executives play, they stop being frozen by their fear and start getting motivated by their imaginations. They stop thinking about what they shouldn’t do and start planning what they should do.

Of course, not every piece of technology executives pick up is going to be relevant to their business.
And, that’s why they quickly put it down. But, pondering the possibilities for a moment gives them the power to move on to the next technology with confidence. They don’t have to wonder if they are missing out. Exploring enables them to clear their minds to make room for the innovation that suits their business goals.

Children don’t need to learn how to play. It’s simply wired into their DNA. Playing or experimenting is something that executives need to relearn. Because, you can either play with technology or play catch up.

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