In medieval Japan, the Ninjas were the Samurais’ counterparts. The Samurai was an honorable official soldier, while the Ninja was a mercenary who served alternate magistrates. The Ninjas were known for their high, and sometimes unconventional, level of competence. They were the best in what they did, and the enemies feared their sharp skills. They would train for years and years to master even the smallest details, and they developed their competences throughout their lives.
I use the term “ninja” because it symbolizes the ability for anyone to master something to perfection (leaving their bloody history aside for now). And when you add “digital” to it, it symbolizes the winner of the digital future – namely the digital ninja!
A digital ninja has nothing to do with being a super nerd. A super nerd works with technology for the sake of technology, whereas a digital ninja uses technology to reach his/her goals. The digital ninja sees technology as a means to resolve a mission.
The journey towards becoming a digital ninja can take different ways, depending on your competencies, personality, experience and ambitions. In short, a ninja excels in 2 dimensions:
Firstly, a ninja has strong digital competencies in data analytics, social media, IoT etc. Digital competencies are crucial in order to survive in the digital world. If you do not master parts of the digitalization, it is like sending a ninja on a mission without a weapon. You do not have to know everything, but you have to know which technologies that can be useful in your job now and in the future. It is about building bridges between business and technology.
Secondly, the digital ninja has personal readiness with curiosity, readiness for change, robustness and decisiveness. Personal readiness is not about personality. You cannot change your personality significantly, but you can easily develop your personal readiness.
A digital ninja uses these two sets of competencies to produce a very clear transformative digital vision for him-/herself – and develops a plan to fulfill the mission. The ninja always thinks digitally first and does not need time to translate from the old to the new world.
In partnership with Tune Hein, I have developed a model inspired by the book Leading Digital from Harvard Business Review, which we call the Digital Ninja matrix. The model has two dimensions. The X-axis represents your digital competence and the Y-axis represents your personal readiness. Depending on where you find yourself in the matrix, you can start developing a strategy to move towards becoming a digital ninja.
If you are a novice, then you have not started the digital journey yet. Digitalization, disruption and technology are things the IT department takes care of. They are certainly not in your area of work. If this is where you are (unless you are retiring tomorrow), then you should begin to upgrade your knowledge and mobilize all your (missing) capacity to avoid being left alone on the platform when the digital train has left.
On the other hand, if you are a fashionista, you have joined the digital journey a long time ago and you buy all the new tech gadgets and know all about new digital trends. You find technology exciting, but you do not quite know how it can help you in your work. Therefore, the task for you is to define the goal of all the “gadgetry”, think long term and use your passion to improve your job.
On the contrary, if you do not know much about technology and are a bit scared of it, but you have the power of action, the initiative and the robustness, then you are a typical conservative. The problem is that you do not know which digital competencies you are missing. Don’t worry, you probably know a fashionista who can get you started with the basics – just use your power and get started.
Finally, we have the digital ninja who has both strong digital competencies and mature personal readiness. You have probably already developed a clear vision and know the necessary steps to continuously educate yourself in new technologies and develop your personal readiness.
We can all place ourselves on the matrix – if we are honest and have a good self-awareness. Once you know where you are in the matrix, you can start developing a strategy for how to move yourself up to the top right corner of the matrix.
I believe the future employee has strong digital competencies, independent of the position and the industry. Digital competencies do not appear by themselves. You will also need to refine your personal characteristics such as robustness, decisiveness, curiosity and change readiness in order to remain relevant or indispensable in the digital world.
Thomas Honoré is Chief Executive officer and President of Columbus.