'Human revolution' needs to be understood, urges Appelbaum

'Human revolution' needs to be understood, urges Appelbaum

Publishers need to move away from thinking about digital as a silo and instead focus on cultivating the mindset and behaviours needed to thrive in the digital age, Eva Appelbaum, digital strategy specialist at Digital Talent @Work has said. Publishers “really should have confidence” because they already “have the building blocks" needed for the new age, she added.

Speaking at The Bookseller’s Futurebook Conference on FRiday (2nd December) on the topic of 'How to create the publishing people of tomorrow', Appelbaum discussed the need to view the changes occuring in the digital age from a "people-centred" perspective. 

Discussing business model “disruptors” such as Uber, Airbnb and Amazon Prime, Appelbaum said that while the people and companies who are changing business and challenging markets are “vitally important”, they are merely “symptoms of the bigger picture”. To understand the disruption being caused, publishers need to understand that the shift from industrialisation to digital is at its heart.

“We are in the midst of a human revolution, and that’s why all these things are happening," Appelbaum said. “We hear people talking about the system being broken, but in the context of the shift from industrial to digital, it makes perfect sense. We’re in an awkward state: we have one leg in industrial, and one reaching forward to digital but we don’t know what the ground we’re stepping into is going to look like.”

Appelbaum went on to discuss how the world of work is being affected by the change from the industrial age to the digital age. She said: “In the world of work, a lot of us are still working in organisations that were forged in the industrial age, and that still have all the characteristics and attributes of industrial society: eight hour work days, five work week, hierarchies and siloes. All of these are past artefacts of the industrial age but we’re already living in the digital age and so we feel a huge sense of discomfort. We’re working in old systems and haven’t been able to move ourselves into new models, frameworks or ways of working.”

Appelbaum added that it is important that industries "accept and manage" expectations of what the world of work is going to look like, adding that change has become a "constant" for society. "This transition will not be a one or two year thing. It will take decades or possibly generations. We will constantly going through change, [and it will] constantly be turbulent", Appelbaum said.

Appelbaum discussed organisations and how they are “hugely difficult” to change because they’re finely tuned to work in a certain way. She said: “All the systems, processes, policies, and structures of organisations have been honed in a specific way and as soon as you try to disrupt that the organisation resists”, Appelbaum said. 

In terms of digital, the industry needs to have conversations away from technology and the creative opportunities, and instead towards the mindset, culture, behaviours and skills necessary to thrive in the digital age, she added. 

"Digital is not a silo, or technology, or channel or format. Digital is the age we’re living in, it's the culture we’re moving into, it's the society we’re going to all be part of. We can no longer have this attitude that 'it's someone else job' or 'I don’t know anything about digital, I don’t need to know anything about it'. This is no longer a possibility because we’re all going to be humans living in digital age. We need to start to understanding it. Regardless of our jobs it has become all of our responsibilities to understand the cultures, characteristics and attributes of this digital age."

Appelbaum concluded: “As an outsider who is looking in, [publishers] really should have confidence. You already have the building blocks you need to thrive in this age. Yes, you have organisational behaviour to work on and personal/leadership behaviours to cultivate but you're not facing an existential threat. The business of stories, ideas, the business of getting creative things to market - humans are going to still want that, regardless of whether we’re in industrial age, digital age, or age of robots. The publishing people of the future are pretty much already you - you're in the room right now.”