Digital Transformation Inner Game
“There is always an inner game being played in your mind no matter what outer game you are playing. How aware you are of this game can make the difference between success and failure in the outer game.” Tim Gallwey, creator of The Inner Game

What if you are a C-level executive and the name of this outer game that you’re playing is Digital Transformation? What does the Digital Transformation inner game mean in this context? Are you seeing results soon enough? Is the organisation and its people changing quickly enough?

Origins of the Inner Game

Let’s first have a look at the origins of the inner game. In 1974 Tim Gallwey published the ground-breaking work called ‘The Inner Game of Tennis’. In a nutshell, your body is smarter than you think and you can trust it to achieve the goals you’ve set. It was thought that relentless practice of physical skills combined with sheer will power made the best players. Gallwey however realised that will power and positive thinking were not a reliable basis for a great game. You cannot force your brain and body to achieve results. He discovered that there’s a much easier route to performance which involves letting the intelligence of the body and the unconscious mind express what it knows. It is based on equality between the teacher and learner. Being less focused on instructing the best way to perform certain actions, the focus is on raising awareness in the learner to collect as much sensory feedback as possible, which in turn can be used to change actions to improve results.

Conscious trying by the conscious mind often produces negative results. Following 100 instructions obstructs an efficient flow of actions that lead to results. Later on Sir John Whitmore used the foundation laid down by Gallwey to create the widespread GROW model for coaching.

To read more about the original Inner Game, click here.

Performance = potential – personal interference

The equation that Gallwey applies is the following: Performance = potential – personal interference (P=p-i). Your performance will be closest to your potential, and therefore maximised, if you minimise the amount of personal interference. To understand how we achieve this, we have to define the two personality types inside each and every one of us, Self-1 and Self-2.

Self-1 is our interference, and consists of our concepts of how things should be, our judgements and associations.

Self-2 is the enormous reservoir of potential that each of us possesses. Another way of defining these concepts is that if it interferes with your potential, it is Self-1, and if it expresses your potential, it is Self-2.

Trying to minimise the personal interference is what the inner game is about.

Everybody is in favour of change, until it affects them personally

So how can paying attention to our Digital Transformation inner game improve the performance of our Digital Transformation initiative? The point I would like to make is that people in charge of rolling out a digital transformation program need to be cognisant of the inner game that they are playing between Self-1 and Self-2, pretty much the same as in professional sports.

One of the challenges with digital transformation is that people need to change deeply institutionalised operational behaviour. Does that little voice inside you say ‘why would we need to change if our organisation has worked like this for the last 20 years?’, or ‘Will I ever be able to work with all these new technologies?’ If you yourself have some of these self-doubts, it is very likely that your co-workers have similar self-doubts.

Your Digital Transformation Inner Game relies on Maximising Self-2

The answer to the problem is that we have to maximise Self-2, while minimising Self-1 at the same time. This is a state that Gallwey refers to as ‘relaxed concentration’. To maximise the overall performance of your digital transformation program, the personal interference of everyone that forms part of this program needs to be minimised, and everyone’s potential needs to be maximised.

Only by maximising P for the entire group you will get the digital transformation results you’re after.

Awareness is the first and most fundamental skill to create the necessary feedback loop to achieve the highest performance possible of the digital transformation program. In the context of digital transformation, awareness levels would need to be raised around topics like:

  • What do I really think of these new technologies?
  • Do I mind what my staff thinks of me?
  • Is there constructive collaboration between the key stakeholders?
  • How judgmental am I and is it clouding my decision making?
  • Am I trying too hard?
  • Am I listening enough to my employees’ concerns?
  • Am I building the right skills in my organisation? (after all we know there is a looming skills shortage)
  • Is my employee community involved in technology strategies?

The other two key components besides Awareness (I process all the sensory feedback in a non-judgmental way), are Will (I know where I want to be) and Trust (I can do this).

Balance between Awareness, Will and Trust will lead to relaxed concentration and therefore improved outer game performance, heightened learning and greater enjoyment of the journey.

Organisations can’t transform to digital unless people do

There is no single, one-size-fits-all-organisation approach to implementing a digital transformation program. Unless you’re working in a fully automated environment where people don’t play an important role at all, this kind of thinking would be too mechanistic and does not do justice to the many complicating variables along your path to success.

But if you do work with people, and need their buy in, to persuade, to guide and to develop people then I hope my guide to the Digital Transformation Inner Game helps you along the way.

From now on, I’ll whistle Michael Jackson’s ‘I’m starting with the man in the mirror’ a bit more often.

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