Business

3 tips for navigating tech anxiety as an executive

March 13, 2024
3 tips for navigating tech anxiety as an executive

This article was originally published in Forbes Technology Council.

Tech anxiety among senior leaders is a widespread concern, with 94% of organizations reporting its prevalence. Tech anxiety stems from the rapid evolution of technology and its impact on business operations.

C-suite leaders feel the pressure to increase the tempo of their digital transformations, as Statista predicts global digital transformation spending will reach $3.4 trillion by 2026.

What are the major concerns causing tech anxiety in the C-suite?

Cyber security, for one. Research shows that cyberattacks rose seven percent in the first quarter of 2023 alone, and executives hold the responsibility for protecting their companies against these threats.

Leaders also cited artificial intelligence and machine learning as sources of anxiety, fearing for the future of job stability, data privacy, and more with these disruptive technologies.

Not to mention all of the challenging economic conditions, global and political shifts, and residual effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While these challenges may induce fear, they also present significant opportunities for growth.

It's crucial for executives to look beyond immediate concerns and also anticipate future trends. By doing so, they can position their organizations to capitalize on emerging opportunities—not just navigate current uncertainties.

The importance of anticipating future trends

The key insight to taking the next step forward is to learn from others outside your industry—not just your direct competitors.

A famous story from Apple’s history illustrates the importance of anticipating future trends. In the early 2000s, executives at Apple were asked about the new Microsoft Zune music streaming player. The Microsoft device could hold more songs than Apple’s iPod and had extra features such as wifi capabilities and FM radio.

When Apple executives were told the Zune was much better than the iPod they laughingly said, “I’m sure it is.”

Why didn’t they care? Because Apple was already working on the iPhone.

To quote former professional hockey player Wayne Gretzky, Apple wasn’t skating to where the puck was, but to where it was going. Apple was anticipating the future and positioning themselves in the right place.

The Zune is now just a historic relic. This anecdote underscores the importance of anticipating future trends, rather than solely reacting to current challenges.

3 practical steps to navigating tech anxiety

To address tech anxiety effectively, leaders can take several practical steps:

1. Assess the digital maturity of your industry and identify areas for improvement

Understanding where your industry stands in terms of digital maturity is crucial for identifying areas of improvement.

Start by evaluating how much your industry has invested in digital transformation and compare that to the total market cap. By gaining insight into the current state of technology adoption and readiness within your industry, you can better understand potential vulnerabilities and opportunities.

2. Learn from successful digital transformation initiatives across industries.

What makes companies successful in digital transformation? Explore successful examples of digital transformation in your industry to learn from other’s successes. I believe there are three key aspects you’ll find in common:

  1. Clear purpose: They start with a strong “why” or reason for the project, often focusing on improving customer experiences.

  2. Incremental approach: The scope of digital transformations can vary from focusing on people and processes to overhauling legacy technologies and infrastructures. The most successful companies don’t try to boil the ocean—or do everything at once. Rather, they start with small, manageable steps to build confidence and momentum.

  3. Team commitment: Successful digital transformations occur when the whole team (yes, even the CEO) is committed. They have high engagement and alignment from their leadership teams. Leadership doesn’t view it as something outside their job description, but an initiative to embrace together.

3. Engage in a comprehensive product strategy phase.

Finally, develop a comprehensive product strategy to align resources and prioritize your initiatives. At Michigan Software Labs, we’ve consistently seen leadership teams make more informed decisions when they have a clear understanding of their business strategy.

There are many amazing tools available, such as the Business Model Canvas, that will help you ensure any digital transformation efforts you take are focused and effective.

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Can you see how these three steps will help alleviate tech anxiety? They offer a roadmap for addressing tech anxiety head-on.

By assessing digital maturity, learning from successful transformations, and engaging in comprehensive product strategy, executives can proactively navigate uncertainties—paving the way for growth and innovation.

Mark Johnson
Mark Johnson
Co-founder & Managing Partner

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