The development of technology-related management training illustrates the increasing role that new technologies play in today’s organisational decision-making. However, it’s the impact on processes that managers need to grasp rather than use of the actual tools.
Is it essential for company management to be well-versed in the new technologies in order to understand all the challenges the company faces? As far as the Royal University of Leuven in Belgium is concerned, having this kind of expertise at one’s fingertips is increasingly becoming a strategic need. This is why the university has launched a programme entitled ‘Technology for Decision-Makers’, which is aimed at professionals from all sectors who wish to acquire operational and strategic expertise in technology and innovation. “Because of the scope and speed of evolution, decision-makers risk acting without a thorough understanding of the drivers and consequences of innovation,” explained Karen Maex, the person behind the initiative. This view is however not entirely shared by Anthony Poncier, EMEA Social Business Director at Publicis Consultants’ web unit Net Intelligenz, who argues: “If decision-makers learn to master the tools so much the better, but in no way is this a must”.
Understanding the issues is more important than mastering the tools
As far as he’s concerned it’s not essential for managers to know how to use the tools. They must however understand the challenges in order to keep the company on-track with the new technologies. If management does not understand the technologies, they will find it extremely hard to champion them vis-à-vis their employees. Which brings us back to the eternal debate on the purpose of using tools if you can’t see the strategic goal – whether on a business or personal level. “A tool is an enabler, not an end in itself,” stresses Anthony Poncier. What is vital, he reckons, is that staff and decision-makers attain their objectives. Understanding the challenges of innovation enables you not only to use the tools but, more importantly, to do so in full knowledge of the impact they will have on the decision-making processes.
Company culture comes first
So should company management be encouraged to undergo this kind of training?Yes, indeed, in order to get clued up on the new technologies and gain a solid knowledge base in this field. In addition to providing insights into strategic thinking and innovation management, the University of Leuven programme also offers a set of innovative tools – such as systems analysis – which the course participant is then taught to apply to a case from his/her individual experience. We should not forget however that at the end of the day the essential ingredient is the company culture – which can certainly be influenced by management. “If the trust factor is missing, that’s to say unless the atmosphere at the company is open to innovation and people are ready to help their colleagues, then the staff simply won’t be receptive,” warns Anthony Poncier.