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Laptops and Lederhosen: digital provides digits

11 Dec 2012

Laptops and Lederhosen

At school, digits wasn't my forte. I went to a German School in Stockholm and my inability to make sense of Herr Vanderleeden's Year 9 maths was not popular. We had all been sent to this school to become logical, rational and practical. Numbers was part of that story. A 4 on your end of term report indicated a ‘Genuegend' [sufficient] but it was very close to a 5 ‘Mangelhaft' (deficient), and I was nervously treading a fine line. The fact that my German was not great in Year 9 might not have helped my understanding of digits either. Shifting to education in Canberra, Australia helped slightly, as digits in English seemed to make a little more sense to me downunder. However, I had to sit back after school with a special Maths tutor, Mr Still, who under a watchful eye awarded me with a D+. The D connoted capability, the + indicated effort. 'A' was the number everyone strived for. Anders - sufficient capability, big effort. Trying hard, but still not getting it. Tough news. So rather than educate myself about digits, I have tried to make the digit savvy part of the population talk to me in my language - visuals, metaphor, trends, patterns, graphs and diagrams. To this effect, I have fired 3 accountants in 6 years, and let go off 4 different book keepers. Now, my finance team - a financial advisor, two accountants, and a book keeper - all know how to translate digits into a language I can understand. Something that is more analogue. Excel doesn't compute with my brain. I apologise.


Digital, however, provides digits. It is based on data. Numbers. 1s and Os. It's crucial in a digitally disrupted world.Ouch. And I love the digital age.


I am fascinated by Digital Disruption. The great thing though is that data can be beautiful. Data is only beautiful when we turn it into information, into knowledge, and into insight, however. The translational sweet spot between digital information and analogue transformation and understanding happens on a computer interface. Through programs like Roambi, Mint, and Amex financial overviews. These translational sweetspots and graphical user interfaces are seriously important. Without them no convergence would be taking place. Apple's success largely lies in their ability to take something rational, logical, numerical and practical, and to make it beautiful, empathic, intuitive, and fun. They essentially package 1s and Os, and it just works. No instruction manual. Just have a crack. Nike+ takes the millions of bits of information that your run, sweat and tears generates and they turn it into heat patterns, GPS co-ordinates, and Dirk Nowitsky cheers. Powerful. I imagine what would happen to education, if more teachers had this translational capacity. How much education wouldn't get lost in translation? Intelligence only flows when we can decipher patterns, see trends, and view the digital forrest that the digital data constructs. The convergence is only powerful to the extent that it translates understanding, and two different - digital and analogue - modes of thought. Digilogue.

Laptops and Lederhosen Digital Minds Analogue Hearts Futurist Anders Sorman-Nilsson


Thus it is perhaps ironic that I refer to German convergence as an example of this translational sweet spot. The state of Bavaria. The fiercely independent, Catholic southern province of Germany, just north of Austria. The Texas of Germany. A place that you may as associate more with tradition than technology. In Year 4 I was asked to pick a German Bundesland (state) to give a presentation on. I picked Bavaria, or Bayern as it's called in German. I cannot remember exactly why I picked it, but I think my dad might have had something to do with it. I do remember dad helping me out with the presentation, and as I recall it the cover of my binder was Blue and White, the colours of the state, and we even pimped the presentation booklet with some blue and white ribbon. It was a geography assignment, and I remember scoring well on this assignment from Frau Eriksson. In the assignment, I referred to aspects of Bavaria's geography, but also it's culture and history. Lederhosen, Oktober Fest, the Alps, strange hats, awkward foot slapping dance moves. Old school companies like BMW, Audi, Munich RE, Siemens, Adidas. Tradition. Old school manufacturing. Heavy industrial base.


The assignment did not once refer to technology. Bavaria, however, now personifies the convergence of tradition and technology. The analogue and the digital. It's not just that a retailer launched a pair of Lederhosen with in-built Mp3 technology at the Consumer Electronics Conference in 2007. The state has had an outspoken policy of ‘Laptops and Lederhosen' since the late 1990s. Technology and tradition. This policy of combining the old and the new, the analogue with the digital, is credited with the re-emergence and relevance of Bavaria as a German economic powerhouse in the digitised 21st century. The state is renowned as having the highest proportion of its workforce employed in the high tech sector in all of Europe. In 9 years, under the governance of Edmund Stoiber, the state grew its GDP by 18.5%, which was the biggest increase of any German state in the same time period. It is now the 4th largest biotech centre in the world after Silicon Valley, Boston and London-Oxford.23 Laptops and Lederhosen, eh. Convergence and combination. Tradition and technology. A translational sweet spot that goes hand in hand with the digital disruption we are currently experiencing.


There is a deep story of transformation in this convergence.


In our strategy consulting, and the work we have done with organisations on change leadership, what we find across the board - from FMCGs to retail, from pharmaceutical to high tech - is that when the organisation recognises the old school, the traditional, the analogue, transformation can happen. Acknowledging the hard work that got us here. Paying respects to the old guard whose sweat led to historical successes. Paying credence to the culture and brand equity built up over generations. Imperative. This is a critical component to get people to buy-into and accept new behaviours as a way of meeting Digital Disruption head on. Could Bavaria have gone high tech, without remaining high touch? Maybe. The combination of ‘Laptops and Lederhosen' attracts both hearts and minds. It provides value to digital minds, and it connects with analogue hearts. Gen Ys and Xers can get behind it. It makes sense and it is inspirational. Boomers and Veterans feel respected, and are re-energised. The policy becomes an identify for the emerging Gen Zs. The old guard don't feel like someone is about to throw out the analogue baby with the digital bathwater. Analogue tradition can be told via digital media. The policy recognised that the more some things change, the more other things stay exactly the same. Adaptation can begin when it sits on a solid footing of hearts and minds, and at the convergence of hearts, minds, and adaptation lies the Digilogue. Digital Minds / Analogue Hearts. Helping Bavaria to adapt to changing times and position it for the future. Inspiring.

Check out this video on Digilogue: the convergence of the digital and the analogue. 

What do you thinque - how does Laptops and Lederhosen inspire you to become more Digilogue?


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