How to survive and thrive in the digital world
Like many good things, digital tools and media may cause stress, confusion, and even life-threatening situations for some of us. We need to learn to control digital deluge, similar to preventing ourselves from fire's harmful effect. My premise is digital intelligence.
We are experiencing an information explosion everywhere. Using information is resembled drinking from a firehose. Unless we have a specific type of intelligence, dealing with the plethora of information sources can be challenging for personal and business reasons.
I researched human intelligence extensively in scholarly settings for long. I recently started studying and publishing about digital intelligence. I have been mentoring aspiring entrepreneurs who want to transition from technical professions to the greener pastures of business and leadership by leveraging digital intelligence capabilities.
During my interactions with these transforming individuals, I noticed that one of the critical attributes of contemporary entrepreneurs is being digitally intelligent. They need to understand the digital world at personal and business levels.
This article aims to provide an informative background, set the context, and create a shared understanding of digital intelligence for the audience. This perspective can apply to many professionals struggling with the challenges of the digital world.
Many people keep asking me what digital intelligence means.
I have not come across a standard definition for digital intelligence in the literature yet. Even more depressingly, I have not seen an established body of knowledge or influential publications directly researching digital intelligence phenomena in traditional settings, let alone within entrepreneurship and business context.
Therefore, I took the plunge to study the field and share my insights.
Even though not many studies exist, digital intelligence is an essential success factor for entrepreneurs, business leaders, and many other professionals.
During my preliminary studies, I came across a few case studies using the term “digital intelligence”. I skimmed through the content mainly in marketing brochures, sales pitch, short articles in trade magazines, and aspiring blogs discussing digital quotient in a fragmented way with ambiguous definitions and unclear context.
It was good to see some artifacts depicting thought leadership to the topic in the industry. I believe at least it is better than nothing now.
Considering my preliminary findings, I made an effort to define digital intelligence. It is a powerful term and one of the essential characteristics of entrepreneurs, business leaders and other professionals, at the most fundamental level.
My goal is to provide an understanding of this term and add clarity to the desired context. Just to level set, my purpose is to create awareness and show some thought leadership based on my professional experience in digital transformation initiatives, not to credit myself unrealistically as an expert in the field, as the field does not fully exist yet or it is just about to emerge.
My definition of digital intelligence, at a high level, is the ability to convert or represent the physical world in digital format.
Even though this definition sounds simple and straightforward, these two critical defining verbs (convert and represent) have a loaded meaning and pose enormous complexity to the topic.
The terms - convert and represent - can extend to multiple disciplines and professional domains as far as entrepreneurs' digital intelligence is concerned. The term “ability” covers a broad spectrum of processes, people, tools, and technologies in the entrepreneurs‘ capability agenda.
Physical and digital are two distinct worlds, with dissimilar entities and complex relationships. These two different worlds have their inherent capabilities and limitations.
By leveraging the established and emerging body of knowledge in computer science, material science, data science, information technology, artificial intelligence, and engineering disciplines, finding innovative ways to represent the physical world in digital formats is possible.
Therefore, these two distinct worlds (physical and digital) are now interrelated and can enhance each other’s scope and functionality for new capabilities. I discussed this topic in my article titled "Digital Twins Simplified".
When I was exploring general human intelligence compared to artificial intelligence as part of my doctoral studies, I discovered that intelligence is simply the ability to acquire knowledge and skills and apply them as required.
Later through my computing and information technology engagements, I found unique ways to transfer this traditional definition to explore further digital intelligence which appears to be a game-changer nowadays.
After years of experience in digital transformation engagements, I understood that digital intelligence is the ability to acquire and apply digital knowledge, skills, and capabilities encompassing the innovative platforms and compelling services of the digital world.
The digital world consists of unique processes, technologies, tools, techniques, methods, and systematic approaches. We all are knowingly or unknowingly engaged and immersed ourselves in our personal and professional lives.
There are one-way, two-way, or multiple-way relationships amongst the components of digital intelligence. This takes us to the critical point that our digital intelligence relates to understanding all relationships for these components, sub-components, and elements.
This top-down understanding involves an enormously complex mental task hence requires in-depth knowledge of the digital world and cross-discipline skills to make sense of this fascinating world.
In other words, for entrepreneurs and business leaders to be digitally intelligent, they must have in-depth knowledge of the process and acquire practical skills relevant to the growing digital business and technology disciplines.
To gain digital intelligence, entrepreneurs and business leaders must have a clear vision and flexible strategy to effectively use digital technology, processes, products, tools, services, including commercial and open-source offerings to achieve their business goals.
After this background, I want to highlight a few practical points.
Digital media is ubiquitous, and it relates all of us. It is inevitable.
The most significant impact of digital media is creating enormous stress for some of us. The new generation is much more adaptable to the digital world as they grew up in this new world. Those who are from older generations still struggle.
From my observations, I understand the frustration of some business leaders who don't want to be slaves of digital process and tools.
I help them to increase their digital intelligence by understanding the nature of this world.
When these business-oriented people start understanding the fundamentals and look at the digital world with fresh eyes, I can notice the relief they feel.
Digital process and tools create tremendous stress, anxiety, and frustration due to information overload.
Constant notifications from multiple sources attempt to capture our attention and raise alarms bells in our amygdala. These destructive emotions can have a tremendous impact on our health and well-being.
Our brains have not evolved to cope with the speed and volume of information. We are still primitive creatures with our ancient DNA trying to figure out the digital world quickly surrounding us.
If we leave things to default in the digital world they may ruin our lives. We need to find smart ways to control the digital world before it controls us.
By improving our digital intelligence, we can learn how to drink from a firehose. Otherwise, we cannot survive without drinking enough for our needs.
Thank you for reading my perspectives.
Reference: Digital Intelligence
About the author
I'm a writer and published author with four decades of content development experience in business, technology, leadership, and health. I work as a postdoctoral researcher and consultant. My background is at https://digitalmehmet.com.