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What’s your ‘DQ’?

I’m pretty sure you’ve taken (or were forced to take) an IQ (intelligence quotient) test at some time in your life. You may even have have done some sort of EQ (emotional quotient) test. But have you ever taken a ‘DQ’ test?

Try this quick quiz:

1. Can you accurately describe what Snapchat is?
2. Have you ever hailed a taxi using an app?
3. Do you subscribe to a cloud storage service?
4. Do you have an online music library?
5. Have you ever edited a digital photo?
6. Have you ever played an online video game?
7. Do you use a mobile banking app every month?
8. Do you work with your team(s) using smartphone chat groups?
9. Do you stream online content to your TV set?
10.Have you ever worked with a virtual digital assistant?

How did you do?

Let me be the first to say: this is not a rigorous scientific test in any sense. It does not measure your capacity or ability to understand (consumer) digital tools and platforms; it merely records that you have actually tried out some of the new technology that’s widely available, and are generally familiar with what’s going on out there.

The questions also have a single source (me) and are selected quirkily to cover most of the ways in which our lives are becoming technology centred. I don’t offer the quiz as a definitive assessment; merely as a first step to understanding where you might be.

So, caveats aside, let’s look at your score. Most people who have actively embraced the device-app-cloud ecosystem would have little problem scoring 7, 8 or 9 in the quiz above – or even a perfect 10 out of 10. For that group of people, the quiz is a cinch. It merely reflects the activities of their everyday lives.

If you scored 5 or less out of ten, however, it’s time to take stock.

You might tell me that you don’t care about all this digital nonsense anyway, so you aren’t even vaguely bothered by a low score in my stupid quiz. You believe in real human relationships and physical interactions, not virtual ones. Fair enough, I say – it’s a free world. But are you someone who needs to understand the direction of society? Do you have children whose lives you need to guide and understand? In that case you might just need to take pause and at least understand how these things actually work – even if it’s only to fight or reject them.

You might also tell me you are financially challenged and can’t afford fancy gadgets or internet connectivity. Again, fair enough. But if you’re young, you don’t want to become an anachronism in your own generation. You will have to think hard about your first spending priorities.

You might also say you’re too old for this quiz. Hmm. Perhaps. But you might be well served by coming up to speed on some of this stuff. Or do you not want quick, convenient and inexpensive ways to keep in touch with far-flung relatives and friends; to keep your mind engaged; to pass the time?

The low-scorers who would worry me the most, however, would be those who sit in senior management teams and on the boards of organizations. If you are someone who influences strategy and guides spending, you can’t afford to be out of the digital loop. If you really don’t do much of the stuff that’s in my list, you will not be able to understand how digital actually works in the lives of your employees and customers. And that’s very dangerous.

So important is digital understanding in today’s business world that consultants like McKinsey have created a ‘DQ’ tool specifically for organizations: to “measure an organization’s digital maturity and capabilities and to examine how they drive financial performance.”

So if your board consists exclusively of fogeys who don’t even get today’s consumer technologies, forgive me for wondering about your future when tomorrow’s disruptions like artificial intelligence, robotics and automated vehicles are the norm. And appointing one digital youngster doesn’t do the trick either; informed collective decision-making is what’s needed.

As anyone who’s used social media, cloud computing, instant messaging and mobile transactions will tell you: this is not stuff you need to get exhaustively trained in before you begin. You just have to throw yourself in and learn it by doing it. We’re all winging it, but we get better each day through the sheer experience.

Remember: I’m not suggesting you need to ‘do digital’ personally; just that you probably need to know how it works and what it means.

(Sunday Nation, 15 January 2017)

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