How to develop a digital mindset with decision dilemmas

You give me a dollar for every time I hear the word „mindset change,“ and I’d be rich. Whether it’s the development of an agile culture, the development of digital competencies or a specific change process. Mindset is a very popular buzzword. But changing universal mindsets in companies is a Herculean task. In this article I would like to show how it can succeed.

Mindsets influence behaviour

The „mindset“ – or the „attitude“ of a person – is something that characterizes an organizational culture. It influences individual behaviour.

Example: Let’s assume I have the „mindset“, customer satisfaction is the most important goal for my work. With this attitude, I will act differently in concrete decision-making situations compared when I am convinced that the fastest possible processing of customer orders is my central goal.

If there are such attitudes that are shared throughout the company, then these universal „mindsets“ shape the collective behavior. Culture, in other words.

Example: Let’s assume the generally accepted mindset in my team is that the fastest possible processing of customer order is the top priority. Someone with the attitude that customer satisfaction is the most important goal will not always act the way the group wants in moments that matter. Social pressure will, in most cases, lead to an alignment of individual behaviour in this group (Krapf, 2017).

Influence collective behaviour instead of gritting your teeth from mindset-change

It is therefore not surprising that the „mindset“ is cited as a central lever for facilitating cultural change in organisations. The difficulty, however, is that the „mindset“ is basically an individual attitude. Individuals develop such attitudes over several years and are characterized by their lifelong socialization. It is therefore a Herculean task to change such deeply rooted perceptions.

Changing the mindset is not only difficult, it is also a means to an end. It is therefore very questionable to what extent a „real“ mindset change is necessary in order to achieve the intended goal.

Example: In the above-mentioned case with customer centric vs. efficiency. For example, the company now wants a team to give more weight to customer satisfaction than to the speed with which orders are processed. Is it now more important for the company whether the individuals have changed their „mindset“ or whether in decision dilemmas the customer satisfaction is weighted higher than the processing speed? It is probably the latter.

Why it pays to develop behavior before mindset

It is therefore more important for most companies that collective behaviour changes than the underlying mindsets. For this reason, it is already worth focusing on behavior rather than individual mindsets in development programs. At the same time, it is also easier to thematize and develop behaviors. These are observable and concrete. They can therefore be directly influenced.

After the collective behaviour has been successfully influenced, individuals develop so-called „inner dissonances“ with contradictory „mindsets“. These lead intrapersonally to a confrontation with one’s own attitudes. At this point the possibility opens to change the „Mindsets“ sustainably.

It is therefore much more promising to focus on collective behaviour than to grit one’s teeth from the word „mindset“. Or in other words: focus the behaviour, the mindset follows almost automatically.

How „mindsets“ can still be developed in a practical way

Nevertheless it is worthwhile to deal with mindsets. Especially when dissonances arise between „old mindsets“ and „new behaviour“. In another article I have already shown three methods for developing mindsets. These three methods can be supplemented or deepened by using decision dilemmas as development tools.

Decision dilemmas can be used in reflexive role plays by simulating contradictory „mindsets“ in decision situations. In this way, collective behaviour and the „mindsets“ behind it are trained in a practical way.

Decision dilemmas for mindset change using digital competencies as an example

I would like to illustrate the use of decision dilemmas using the example of digital competencies. As mentioned elsewhere, I differentiate between competences and mindsets for digital competences (Krapf 2018).

Concerning the mindsets, I have not only named the „new“ mindset, but also always a corresponding opposite pole, which can lead to a dilemma in everyday working life. This comparison helps to discuss the „Mindset“ more concretely.

Using the mindsets listed in this model as examples, I would like to show four decision dilemmas that can be used for the mindset change.

The decision dilemmas can be used according to the situation. A potential application is to perform these in an appropriate team with a role play. To reflect on the role play together and then to play through it again if necessary. For reflection, well-known reflection instruments such as the Starfish model can be used.


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