Creating your personal Digital Enterprise

Digital Native or Digital Immigrant

I was born before 1985, and so I am what Marc Prensky would call a digital immigrant (according to his 2001 article entitled Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants ). The immigrant part means I had to adopt this new technology and make it my own. For the natives it just comes natural, they are 'born to be digital'.

I am part of the last generation that will remember the world without the internet. Since then there has been dramatic changes in how the world is communicating and collaborating, and the way information impacts our daily lives.

In this blog post, I'd like to share with you a bit of my personal journey towards digital.

Technology

For me it started when I was about 6 or 7 years old, with green screens with blinking lines. In that age, in order to get some insights, the natural thing for me and my brother was to disassemble this new technology, and to just experiment with everything we could do. Many times our father cursed when we were trying out some new commands (what does this 'format c:' do?), or when after reassembling we forgot some cables or screws.

The devices since then evolved from static monoliths to portable and mobile devices. For me personally the setup is quite Apple minded. I prefer an intuitive interface that 'just works' over an open interface where I can keep customizing to make it my own (although I keep some unix and windows servers running for personal use in Azure!).

GTD

All this new technology (especially the internet) meant that information kept flowing towards me with greater velocity. How could I cope? Technology in itself offered no solution. I had to work out a system. Luckily for me David Allen already did it for me. His 5 step 'Getting Things Done' system (tweaked for me) helped me apply order to that chaos (if you haven't read it, spoiler alert: make lists people!). In the beginning it was mainly paper based, but even today I still keep notebooks around to write down my tasks / ideas.

For email it meant that since then I'm always trying to reach 'inbox zero' where all items have been done, planned or (for the bulk of them) classified. (Although I strongly recommend only checking your inbox 2-3 times a day.) It was 2009 when I started using the solution I still use today. I added my first note in Evernote (although I can't remember how far I got with 'How to hold your breath for 17 minutes').

Since then I've been 'externalizing' my commitments and ideas. The big shift was in 2010 when I was travelling back and forth to London a lot for work. I was tired of dragging papers along, so I bought the ScanSnap travel scanner that I still use today to keep my life as paperless as possible.

The latest iterations there have been using Wunderlist to share tasks with my girlfriend in an effort to keep our new life with a newborn organized (or as organized as our baby allows it to be).

The Quantified Self

In 2008 I discovered Tim Ferriss (If you haven't read any of his books, I highly recommend them: The 4-hour Workweek, The 4-hour Body or the 4-Hour Chef - spoiler alert: everything takes more than 4 hours) . He was one of the first in what is called 'The Quantified Self movement'. Devices are transforming from dumb terminals, to messengers that can monitor things and inform us. Tim Ferriss is one of the pioneers in this 'self-experimentation'. He sticked a needle in his stomach, injecting a chip that monitored his blood glucose levels. I would not recommend this of course, since he has, I didn't have to, and I just followed the conclusions in his Slow Carb Diet.

Some sensors are less intrusive to add to your daily life. From LoQutus we all got a Polar Loop wristband (ankleband according to the critics) so we can monitor our daily exercise activity. Rest assured, the data does not go to my employer, but is just for getting insights in my personal activity. And in some strange way, just having a clear view on my activity, makes me want to move more (is this the gamifications people are talking about?)

Just about any activity can be improved by measuring it, or breaking it down in to the core pieces and see how it can be 'hacked'. If you're looking for some inspiration, I can recommend Tim Ferriss' blog at fourhourworkweek.com/.

MOOC

One of the latest additions in my own 'digital enterprise' has been digital learning. Since YouTube came along, more and more quality courses have become available (I'm thinking for example of the Feynman lectures on physics). But it's only since 2011 a couple of Stanford, Harvard and MIT graduates started the whole Massive Open Online Courses that the big revolution came. If you want to follow a course at a top university (even Harvard, MIT, Stanford, ...), you can join them without the massive tuition fees.

And I have to admit: I'm a fan. No as much as the guy who followed 100 courses in a year, not so driven yet as the people constructing their own MBA's, but still, in my opinion it's the best alternative to classroom courses.

Currently I'm following a Coursera course track at the John Hopkins University on Data Science (in particular Data Science with R). I discovered R in London where the trading desk was using it to build quick solutions in the cases where even the agile speed of IT was not enough. Being part of IT first I was a bit offended, but I had to recognise the data wrangling and statistical advantages this language offers.

And I did not choose Johns Hopkins just to say that I went to the same university as former US President Woodrow Wilson, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, or even Dr. House MD!

LoQutus and the Digital Enterprise

All of the above effort with introducing digital has it's purpose. I think digital immigrants have a key role in the digital transformations that are needed today. The fact that we had to adopt this technology has given us a unique mindset in tweaking technology to suit our needs. Digital natives have the tendency to blame technology, since it 'should work out of the box'.

My main insight I guess would be the duality of Digital. Yes I mentioned some of the tools I use, because they are relevant and you have to make a conscious choice. But the digital tools are just the enabler, you need the right mindset, approach and behaviour to make it work for you. And this is not just 'online' but you need 'offline' effort as well. Write, sketch, doodle, relax, think, meditate, whatever! Maybe the 'on' and 'off' part is just the 1's and 0's that the Digital world really needs.

When joining LoQutus in May last year, I found a lot of like-minded people (presumably Digital Immigrants too, although quite a few Digital Natives are here too) who are scaling all of the above on the enterprise level. A lot of organisations today are looking for ways to transform their legacy ways into new digital solutions.

There is a lot of possibilities out there, but as with everything in life, you have to pursue it. So get organised, get inspired, take initiative and create your own digital enterprise.

And if you already have: tell me, what does your digital enterprise look like?

Thomas Michem