The digital dissidents

Most businesses today are thinking about digital disruption. Either they are trying to unleash it, or they are seeking ways to avoid being victims of it, rendered irrelevant. Some are involved in both activities.

Most of their employees are on board with all of this. Research that I have been involved in at Ohio State University and the University of California, San Diego, shows that in organizations seeking to disrupt or prevent being disrupted, 89% to 97% of the workforce backs the disrupt/prevent disruption program. 

Those are impressive figures. They suggest that just 3% to 11% of the employee population is not fully supportive of digital disruption initiatives. Call them the digital dissidents. But don’t let those low numbers mislead you. In today’s workplace, the dissidents can carry a disproportionate amount of power — and, ironically, it is to a large extent the digital revolution that has empowered them.

In fact, once you think about the implications of that super-empowerment, you realize that 3% is a very large number. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman talks about that in his soon-to-be-released book, Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations. We have to come to terms with what he calls the “Power of One.” If you think that is an exaggeration, read up on what a low-level contractor named Edward Snowden accomplished at the National Security Agency. Not long ago, it would have taken at the very least the director of the NSA to cause an equal amount of disruption. 

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