Technology & Innovation

Fundamentals 2 + 3: Channelling digital, people and organisational power

May 14, 2015


May 14, 2015

Riva Richmond

Former editor

Riva Richmond is Director of Digital Media at The Story Exchange, a nonprofit digital media project that tells the stories of women entrepreneurs in articles and videos. Previously she worked as a Senior Editor with The Economist Intelligence Unit's Thought Leadership team in New York. She has reported and written about technology more than a decade, much of that time focused on information security and privacy issues. Prior to her current position, Riva was a freelance journalist writing for The New York Times,, The Wall Street Journal and other national publications.


Mapping the cloud maturity curve

It’s no secret. Digital technology and the people who thrive on it are in the ascendant—both in society and in the workforce.

Their rise is driving and accelerating massive change. As digital advances and technology adoption gather speed, our culture, organisations and economy are changing quickly in profound ways.

Digital power

Young people have in many ways led the charge. Back in 2001, American educator Marc Prensky talked about deep differences dividing “digital natives”—young people raised on digital tools whose use of them is innate—and “digital immigrants”—their elders who are adapting to this new world.

But generational divisions are slowly losing significance. Every day, more people are born native and more are going native, according to Pew Research Center. If the new things that technology now lets us do, such as gather, create and share information rapidly, aren’t enough, there’s always simple necessity. How else will boomers communicate with their kids or hold their own in a fast-moving workplace? 

People power 

By 2009, Mr Prensky was already looking ahead to the day when his concept would be obsolete. Next, he argued, we will become “digitally enhanced humans” who are not just smarter, but wiser, due to technology. “Digital wisdom”, he said, would come both from using technology to gain new cognitive powers and using those powers prudently. Technology supplies access to more and better information as well as tools for filtering, understanding and weighing solutions to problems, in his view. Humanity provides good judgment, problem-solving abilities and a moral compass.

Just six years later, legions of digitally enhanced humans are everywhere—connected to each other on the street by sophisticated mobile devices, guided in cars by real-time mapping and information systems, monitored by wearable devices while exercising, and assisted in swift and easy research, shopping, business and communication by all manner of online tools. These advances are largely made possible by increasingly powerful machines accessing ever more vast data stored in the cloud.

All this people power has been disruptive. New products and services are rising. Old industries are being upended, and new ones are being born. Governments are opening up—or cracking down. Digitally enhanced humans, whether incarnated as consumers or employees or citizens, are reshaping businesses, governments and the larger global economic and political landscape.

Organisational power

The most successful companies will be those that embrace and harness the people power created by growing digital power. 

Indeed, many companies that once resisted employee demands for the same powerful technologies they had at home are now arming them at work with those tools and many more. Today the management conversation is all about ensuring that IT departments understand business needs and goals, in large part through a strong dialogue with business users, so they can provide the tech tools that fulfil them (see Fundamental 2 in our research paper).

With IT and the business working together, business and technology leaders must then focus on ensuring that the entire organisation is also working together and harnessing technology for a common purpose. As long as a divide remains between digital natives and digital immigrants, corporate leaders will have to take proactive steps to bridge any divides and ensure that the emerging digital and established workforce work together seamlessly (see Fundamental 3 in our research paper).

Companies that harness technology power and their employees’ energy will manage these changes and develop high-performance companies where ideas, too, are “born digital”.

Have your people adapted to rapid digital change? How are digital-savvy employees changing your organisation? Leave your comment here or share it on Twitter with .

By Riva Richmond, former Senior Editor, The Economist Intelligence Unit

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited (EIU) or any other member of The Economist Group. The Economist Group (including the EIU) cannot accept any responsibility or liability for reliance by any person on this article or any of the information, opinions or conclusions set out in the article.

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