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Embrace change

People ask me for how long I will continue to climb 8000ers. I get a little bit older every day, so one day, climbing will be over for me. But other factors are at play. In Nepal, there is social unrest among the sherpas that demand their place in mountaineering. In Pakistan, there is a lot of political unrest. Climbing K2 is dangerous enough without the Taliban. Climate change can make climbing more dangerous as well. These factors have nothing to do with mountaineering itself, but they can have a big impact. Above all, none of these factors are under my control.

It is not impossible that I will have to give up climbing 8000ers before my time. I can already prepare for that now, so I can shape the change myself instead of suffering it. This is why I already trekked to the North Pole, ran a marathon in the Sahara and an ultratrail in Madeira.

In 2016 it was clear to me that things were not headed in the right direction with my employer. I decided not to wait until I was presented with a fait accompli that I could only react to. I proactively sought change by starting out as an independent consultant. I chose the direction of the change myself. As I write this column, I am working on my third assignment and I am enjoying the healthy excitement of a new challenge.

The digital transformation releases powers in our society we do not control. When companies prepare, they become more competitive. This is good for shareholders, employees and society at large. Companies that deny the change will disappear without mercy.

You could replace older employees by younger ones. Without an appropriate company culture however, they will have the same problem in ten years’ time. On top of that, you would be buying into the idea that age is inversely proportional to resilience and flexibility, which is not true.

Or, you could take care of the basic digital health of your employees, regardless of their age. This goes beyond teaching them the newest digital fads. It includes stimulating a curiosity to learn by not staying in routines because they have worked before. Seek the change, by experimenting and exploring before change catches up with you.

The consequences of the digital transformation will not be pleasant for everyone. For people and organisations that manage to adapt smoothly, the transformation will be easier and the benefits greater. Transformation can be compared to a marathon. If you have not been training for years, both are terribly painful. With a solid basic condition however, you can manage to run or walk a marathon.

Nurturing a basic digital condition is a challenge in which individual employees, employers and the government have an important role to play. The war on talent is raging on fiercely in Flanders fields. A digital war indeed, albeit with less bloodshed.

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