Reason 1: Understanding Employees
Reason 2: Decision Making
A C-Level person in the 1970’s who had never watched television, or a manager in the 1940’s who had not used a telephone, or a business leader in the 1990’s who had never purchased a product online would have a difficult time understanding how these technologies affected their business externally, or how they could be used to benefit their organizations. They would also be in danger of either ignoring the technologies altogether (“We don’t need telephones. Business is about face-to-face relationships!”) or they might be easily lured by a clever sales person into wasting money and time on less-than-useful efforts (like the people who spent huge amounts of money on expensive websites in the late 90’s when a simple web presence might have sufficed).
The same is true today. Great managers are digitally fluent (in case you are wondering, here is a post about what i mean by “digital fluency” and here is a book we wrote on the topic) enough to make smart, informed strategic, policy, cultural, staffing, IT or budgeting decisions in light of the changes occurring in the digital age. They aren’t easily misled by eager sales people, they understand the need for digitally fluent employees, and they are comfortable critically questioning any sort of hype either for or against the use of digital media in their organization. Importantly, their digital fluency, while bolstered by books on the topic, or advice from consultants or sales people, is best developed through active participation in digital culture and practices both inside and outside of the organization.