Building a High-Performance Digital Culture


Many CIOs look to the fast-moving retail tech markets for insights into the future of technology.


Here’s a cautionary tale. For over two centuries, the Encyclopedia Britannica was the world’s preeminent reference source. It epitomized a culture of rule by experts—a central authority determined the priorities, the work was conducted by a cadre of prequalified experts, the findings were centrally controlled, and a finished product was distributed to the masses.


In 2001, Wikipedia was born, using a revolutionary technology platform to create a completely different cultural model. Priorities and work assignments were generated by popular consensus. Work was distributed across tens of thousands of end-users. Most significantly though, Wikipedia instilled a culture of trust—end-users were trusted and empowered to create the content, to maintain quality control, and to adhere to minimal, but strict, standards set forth by management.


In 2012, after nearly 250 years in operation, the Encyclopedia Britannica shut down its print publications following a plunge in sales and lack of interest by its former customers.


The lesson for the CIO and the enterprise? Digital transformation is not just about devices and hardware. It must be accompanied by a shift in culture—one that trusts its workers, that empowers them with technology and that enables users to become the creators. This is a change in the equilibrium between the worker and management—a transition that the now marginalized Encyclopedia Britannica failed to make.


This article, which is supported by data from a Forbes Insights/VMware survey of more than 2,000 CIOs and end-users worldwide, highlights the changes that are driving today’s new “digital culture” within companies, and how CIOs can create an environment that allows employees to innovate and thrive in their digital workspace.


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