How You Can Lead When Technology Is Overwhelming
I recently asked my marketing team to work on the rebranding of our website. I remember when you would hire a designer to create a site, and within a few weeks, you had it live. The last time we overhauled our site was about three years ago. In those intervening years, a lot has changed.
Flash forward to 2021, and my team's job descriptions have changed, not just in marketing and website design but in most areas. Now, not only do workers have to have the expertise related to their jobs; but what's most important is that they have to keep their skills in technology up to snuff continually.
For the marketing team of our shoe drive fundraising company, it means that they have to brush up on Google Analytics continually and know how it works. They also have to know Facebook analytics, WordPress, the social media management platforms we use, SEO, site development and maintenance, etc. Moreover, they have to work as an interdisciplinary team.
In short, this is one example to demonstrate how good practices that were good three years ago have evolved. When machine learning is achieving so much so quickly, almost every worker must educate themselves to remain at their jobs in the digital age. In other words, continuous learning is part of nearly every job now.
Why Is There So Much Technological Change?
As we know, Google changes its algorithms continuously. For nonprofits and businesses to retain their website rankings, it means their fundraising and marketing teams have to hustle and keep learning from companies such as Yoast or HubSpot. Fundraising teams have to understand the latest technology available to help them predict when and why a donor is likely to give.
But why is all of this happening so quickly? The answer is simple. With machine learning and deep learning by artificial intelligence and technology, humans can no longer keep up with the exponential growth rate. Moreover, new technologies used to take decades to get adopted.
For example, the telephone was invented in 1876, but it took a century to get adopted almost universally. Want to know how long new technologies take to get adopted by people now? The answer is about five years. Think of social media and how it seemingly exploded in use.
How Can You Lead During Enormous Technological Change?
Certain aspects of leadership will remain so, such as having a vision. In short, people remain human, and they care about the more significant ideas, dreams and direction of your nonprofit. But at the day-to-day level, it does mean that nonprofit leaders have to learn new skills.
1. Leaders Have to Fully Embrace Technology
We live in the digital world. Our offline and online experiences aren't mutually exclusive. Often, they are the same realities. So as leaders, we have to embrace technology within our organizations. Leaders need to do it, so their teams can follow.
Does that mean we have to learn all of the tech? No, of course not. But we have to understand how integrating technology within our organizations will improve overall performance. Also, we have to create an environment where we expect our team members to embrace learning.
2. Learning Is the Core Skill for Every Team Member
Once a leader understands that every team member's essential skill is the openness and willingness to learn — continuously — it's necessary to create that type of environment. That means you want people on your team who have curiosity and like to experiment and try new things.
What learning as the core skill means is that no one gets exempted from learning new technology. As a leader, you have to decide whether learning happens on your dime or theirs. More than likely, it's a combination. However, all team members (including senior executives) must accept that technological learning is part of their duties.
3. Creating the Human and Artificial Intelligence Teams
Sure, there's unease about technology. Yes, there's a lot of change, and certain jobs will get phased out, but then new ones get created. People just have to be willing to evolve, grow and push themselves beyond their comfort zones.
A core reality that leaders must understand now is that a "team" includes AI, but with human management and oversight. For instance, perhaps you want to see the integration of AI chatbots with your fundraising team. However, you decide to use AI within your nonprofit, you want to ensure that your human team properly integrates technology to unleash their own potential. For example, AI does mundane tasks so they could fundraise in person.
Finally, let's remember something. People usually enter the nonprofit sector because they care. While technology is great and should be at the center of how we make decisions (i.e. unbiased data instead of subjective ideas), it doesn't take people's place. Vision, passion, creativity, compassion, etc., are all human virtues and ideals. These are all necessary for leadership within the nonprofit sector. Artificial intelligence and technology don’t replace those aspects of our collective humanity.
Wayne Elsey is the founder and CEO of Elsey Enterprises. Among his various independent brands, he is also the founder and CEO of Funds2Orgs, a social enterprise that helps nonprofits, schools, churches, civic groups, individuals and others raise funds, while helping to support micro-enterprise (small business) opportunities in developing nations and the environment.
You can learn more about Wayne and obtain free resources, including his books on his blog, Not Your Father’s Charity.