Memo to self
For years I have been observing the world and finding analogies to decode the foibles and dysfunctions of our industry’s struggle with itself as it tries to navigate the road to the future.
And I will not stop. Have no fear. But today, just for this one time, I want to do the reverse.
We keep looking at the industry’s digitisation journey and pointing out that it’s a journey of education and learning, which is hard… and then a fresh journey of applying that learning to choices… which is harder… and then yet another journey of executing against those choices… which is hard and messy and unpredictable.
And that sequential set of hard things that need to be done in quick succession while also starting fresh cycles of learning at all times while all other plates are spinning, is why the digital journey has not been linear… has not been painless… has not been uncomplicated.
But we have learned, the hard way, that obstacles are not final. That if you come up against the banks of a fast-flowing river, you don’t stop your quest. You reroute, for sure, but you don’t stop. When you bang your head against a wall, you don’t just keep doing so till your head bleeds. You scale the wall, you climb over, you circumvent. Or you demolish. But you don’t stop.
And there is more.
Our digital transformation journeys have taught us that being invincible and infallible was never the thing we needed to be most concerned with. That other people and other companies and other ideas are not part of a black and white world. They are not acquisition targets, customers or threats. We learned about partnership and collaboration. We learned that bridges are for crossing not burning. We learned that. And the industry had to change deeply for this to even be possible as a way of thinking. It was hard, but we did it.
We’ve come a long way. As organisations.
And there is more.
Because we spent a long, long time learning. Observing. Horizon-scanning. Looking for options and hoping that one of them will be the silver bullet, the magic spark, the deus ex machina, the unicorn, the solution that is neat and clean and painless. And we have learned the hard way that this is not how the world works. We have learned that we need to do a lot of work to generate options for ourselves. We need to learn. We need to make ourselves vulnerable. We need to strive to create options that are understood and viable, each of those small words carrying a multitude of proof points that need to be earned and defended.
It’s hard work, all this. It’s hard work to get yourself to a place where you have options.
We have learned that, in our organisations.
And we have got better at creating optionality.
But we have also learned the next thing. Which is as hard. And scarier.
We have learned that choices are no good if you don’t actually exercise them.
We have learned to understand opportunity cost. We don’t always value it as much as the fear of failure inside our organisations. But we have learned what it is, at least. We have learned to appreciate the heavy legacy of roads not taken. We have learned the hard way that choices not made are still choices. That not acting is still a choice. One that comes with no absolution.
We take time and energy berating our organisations for being slow on this journey. But you know what? At least we are doing it for our organisations. We are pushing and pushing and pushing to ensure we create options and then make choices.
Are we doing the same for ourselves?
Some of the most vocal, energetic change-agents in the industry often feel trapped in their organisational circumstances. Often, they will go to great lengths to build bridges and options and create choices and opportunities for the organisations they work and fight for.
But what about you, friends?
I know you know walls are for scaling. You are not ones for stopping.
I know you know bridges are for crossing. You are not ones for burning.
But what about choices?
Do you remember that in all the toil and strife and the sacrifices you make… the sacrifices we all make… the dinners we skip, the friends we don’t see… the books we don’t get round to reading, the naps we don’t take, the walks we don’t go on, the dishes we never get to make and the movies we don’t watch. The risks we don’t take. The things we decide ‘will have to wait’… The options we don’t give ourselves time to contemplate. Doing the very thing we protect our companies from: staying on the treadmill…
While making choices… do you actively remember that these are indeed choices?
And sometimes the price of those trade-offs is not measured in the same currency, and that’s what makes choosing hard. But choose you must. Not least because you have the privilege and joy of choice. You have created options for yourself.
When it comes to yourselves and not your businesses, #mytribe, do you remember that choices need to be made? When you are lucky enough to have them, when you are lucky enough to have choices thanks to all you are and all you have done to this day… do you remember that having choices is of no value whatsoever unless you make choices?
So, make choices.
For yourself. As a human being, not just a human doing.
Leda Glyptis is FinTech Futures’ resident thought provocateur – she leads, writes on, lives and breathes transformation and digital disruption.
She is a recovering banker, lapsed academic and long-term resident of the banking ecosystem. She is chief client officer at 10x Future Technologies.
Leda is also a published author – her first book, Bankers Like Us: Dispatches from an Industry in Transition, is available to order here.
All opinions are her own. You can’t have them – but you are welcome to debate and comment!
Follow Leda on Twitter @LedaGlyptis and LinkedIn.