5 Familiar Fears of Digital Transformation in 2019

5 Familiar Fears of Digital Transformation in 2019

Digital Transformation is no stranger to companies, however, it is a huge buzzword these days, and although it can liberate us, it can also create something entirely different, and in most cases the opposite. Fear, sometimes it keeps us safe, sometimes it holds us back. The following 5 common fears below have been stated in many articles (i.e. www.psychologytoday.com) as well as published by Terry Floyd and Tammy Floyd in Dynamics of Life Expression III in 2016). The connection between digital transformation and these common fears are somewhat surprising, as the path to digital transformation can expose them all in the work place. Digital transformation has the ability to create a sense of fear. In psychology, the topic of human fear is broken into 5 categories. It is of no surprise that fear of extinction is the first.

Extinction—the fear of annihilation, of ceasing to exist. This is a more fundamental way to express it than just calling it ” fear of death.” The idea of no longer being arouses a primary existential anxiety in all normal humans. Consider that panicky feeling you get when you look over the edge of a high building.

  • Artificial Intelligence taking your job. Having no purpose. Replaced.

Mutilation—the fear of losing any part of our precious bodily structure; the thought of having our body’s boundaries invaded, or of losing the integrity of any organ, body part, or natural function. Anxiety about animals, such as bugs, spiders, snakes, and other creepy things arises from fear of mutilation.

  • Invasion of privacy. Wearable Devices, Dependency.

Loss of Autonomy—the fear of being immobilized, paralyzed, restricted, enveloped, overwhelmed, entrapped, imprisoned, smothered, or otherwise controlled by circumstances beyond our control. In physical form, it’s commonly known as claustrophobia, but it also extends to our social interactions and relationships.

  • Reliance. Loss of Control.

Separation—the fear of abandonment, rejection, and loss of connectedness; of becoming a non-person—not wanted, respected, or valued by anyone else. The “silent treatment,” when imposed by a group, can have a devastating psychological effect on its target.

  • Loosing Value. Out Smarted by Technology. Useless. Not Cared For.

Ego-death—the fear of humiliation, shame, or any other mechanism of profound self-disapproval that threatens the loss of integrity of the Self; the fear of the shattering or disintegration of one’s constructed sense of lovability, capability, and worthiness.

  • Out Performed. Loss of Self/Self Worth.

Understanding the fears of technology advancements are straight forward and easy to identify, the difficulties come in executing a strategy that educates and provides a personalized approach. There is something called “the fear of fears”, it is the idea that there are learned or perceived fears experienced. Certain events can cause a micro fear to occur; when this happens, one can experience the idea of fear without experiencing the fear itself. You either know what you experience, or what someone tells you, however, fear resides in the unknown of assumption.

So how do we begin to digitally transform our work place and services in an environment that breeds human emotion and resistance? We don’t. We don’t digitally transform at all, we transform our environment and ourselves. Artificial intelligence, when perceived as a replacement is a frightening thing for most, but when AI is embraced as a enhancement to Human Intelligence, it is welcomed.

There are 4 thought processes I place any technology driven decision through:

  1. Does it improve an existing product or service?
  2. Does it Enhance an existing product or service?
  3. Does it Replace an existing product or service?
  4. Does an existing product or service become Reliant on this technology?

Replacement is the word that people tend to focus on the most, causing everything else to remain a blur.

We have come a long way.Last month, 12 years ago, the 1st iPhone was released and I am reminded that simplicity and speed are two of the keys to digital success. Over 125 years since the telephone was invented to connect people, we are now reverting back to writing. According to TextRequest.com, 78% of people would rather have a text conversation with a business than pick up the phone. You see with chatbots, social media, and hundreds of texting applications hitting the market, the desire for simplicity and speed is more relevant now than it ever was. The way we are communicating and digesting more and more information combined with the robust nature of our ability to adapt and evolve, only makes us more reliant on technology to perform at higher levels than ever before.

Speed gives us the ability to create time.

The interesting thing about advancements in communication technology, is that no one seems to be fearful of it, maybe this is because of choice, maybe because we can still talk and make expressions, or maybe it is simply viewed as an enhancement not a replacement.

Younger generations entering into the work force have more advanced technology at home than they do in the work place. Are we paralyzing innovation from the start by not enabling a work environment that is conducive to thought stimulation and creative drive? Older generations have so much knowledge and younger generations learn and transfer information in a different way. They want the information when they need it, and that may not be right now. We have to create a medium to allow a transfer of knowledge to be archived and accessible when needed.

Rick Potts, director of the Human Origins Program at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History said, “Man has two key advantages, our brains and our capacity for culture.” This statement segues into the next point, which is that this digital transformation is less about digital and more about transformation. In the history of new and emerging technologies, not once have we created a technology that has not created more jobs than it has displaced. From typewriters, to telephones, from the computer and the internet and now A.I. and Robotics.

We cannot treat digital transformation as a threat and we cannot think of it as a single project or technology, it must become us. Health Safety and Environment is a prime example of what can happen when we become culturally mature around an idea. Although speed, accuracy, security, simplicity, and relevance are all important, Rome was not built in a day. Mark Twain said, “I would have written a shorter letter, but I didn’t have time.” We have to be diligent in our journey to take the time to do it right but also to have a sense of urgency in our effort to execution. We must have a willingness to fail, a tolerance for ambiguity, and a system of foundational technology. Too many companies start with the big data and the analytics and the shiny toys, but do not have a foundation to breed success long term. The biggest corporate struggle in this new digital transformation is HR. Why? Transformation has always been about people. Bill Gates wrote in his book, The Road Ahead, back in 1995 about how the internet would be the ultimate universal middleman and create a world of friction-free capitalism. We now know that the internet created some of the largest middle man companies in the world such as Amazon, Facebook, Uber, etc. I think Bill Gates failed to consider the single most important factor involved in transactions regardless of technology, trust.

David Horsager says, “The single uniqueness of the greatest leaders and organizations of all time is trust.” Trust is a human value and as we look at what makes us human we are able to understand digital transformation’s place in an organization. Trust has an innate ability to combat fear. If to have knowledge is to have power than to have truth is to have no fear. With so many buzz words these days, A.I., M.L., Digital Transformation, Big Data, Analytics, Augmented Reality and so on, it is easy to lose focus on what we are trying to do and how this can all be used pragmatically. Digital Transformation has always been about doing less with more. Artificial intelligence should improve and enhance our organizations and perform the repetitive and mundane task to free up managers and workers to do more human intelligent task. Humans deal with a lot of noise (i.e. reporting, scheduling, data entry), we can reduce the noise and allow for faster and more accurate decision making at all levels of the organization. If you have not affected a decision someone has made based on data that otherwise would not have been known, you have not created any value.

Knowledge not data, allows for a more predictable approach.

Knowledge is our time machine and data are the roads.

Transformation is not about what you are changing, it’s about where you are going and where you want to be. Artificial Intelligence only exist because of Human Intelligence. When we provide truth and transparency, we dissipate fear and we can achieve great things.


  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/brainsnacks/201203/the-only-5-fears-we-all-share
  2. https://books.google.com/books?id=qWQ2DwAAQBAJ&pg=PA197&lpg=PA197&dq=the+fear+of+humiliation,+shame,+or+any+other+mechanism+of+profound+self-disapproval+that+threatens+the+loss+of+integrity+of+the+Self;+the+fear+of+the+shattering+or+disintegration+of+one%27s+constructed+sense+of+lovability,+capability,+and+worthiness.&source=bl&ots=bdjV_Wi3jc&sig=ACfU3U3Fbv3Z9Z0aJEdEnpxxTrBs52ikPA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiGtJmAxaXjAhVlrlkKHcDXAVoQ6AEwCHoECAcQAQ#v=onepage&q=the%20fear%20of%20humiliation%2C%20shame%2C%20or%20any%20other%20mechanism%20of%20profound%20self-disapproval%20that%20threatens%20the%20loss%20of%20integrity%20of%20the%20Self%3B%20the%20fear%20of%20the%20shattering%20or%20disintegration%20of%20one’s%20constructed%20sense%20of%20lovability%2C%20capability%2C%20and%20worthiness.&f=false
  3. Photo Credit: https://www.progora.co.uk/About/Blog/Progora-Blog/August-2017/History-Future-Digital-Transformation

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