What is Digital Intelligence?

As work becomes increasingly dominated by technology we need new ways of thinking to continue to be effective. Our ability to acquire and apply new knowledge and skill is what we call intelligence. In the process driven world of the industrial age this was dominated by concepts of logic, more recently we have identified other forms of intelligence such as Emotional Intelligence which are incredibly important in high human contact environments. As we enter an age of work that is increasingly conducted using digital tools we are going to need a new type of intelligence, Digital Intelligence, if we are to continue to be effective.

A simple definition of Digital intelligence is “the ability to acquire and apply new knowledge and skills related to digital technologies”. It is more than the ability to use digital tools, but rather the know why, know what, know how and know when of digital technology to improve effectiveness and outcomes. Digital Intelligence is fundamentally about our relationship with technology, just as Emotional Intelligence is about our relationship with others. Digital Intelligence is not about the use of digital tools at the exclusion of human ability but rather it is about the relative strengths of both people and technology and playing to those strengths.

Over the last few years access to digital tools has exploded. We have Facebook, Twitter and other social tools to connect and share with our friends, we have cloud backup services such as Dropbox and Evernote for making our information available everywhere and we have new tools such as tablets that allow flexibility in how and where we operate from. As we interact with all these different digital tools we are building our Digital Intelligence.

The only problem is, we are not building our Digital Intelligence intentionally, and as a result we are not doing it very effectively either. A prime example is our relationship with the oldest of digital tools, email. When I ask executive teams who thinks they are effective with email less than 5% would put up their hand. When you ask the same group who has ever had training to develop their email skills less than 5% would put up their hands again (and its not always the same hands).

We chance across new tools rather than seeking them out, we learn basic skills by playing rather than advanced skills through learning, we copy what our friends are doing rather than asking whether this is the best time and place to be using a particular tool. And we also have a fascination with what is shiny and new rather than what is effective. When something shiny and new is also effective then this is a bonus…but rarely our intent. As the role of digital technology continues to grow in business we need to grow our Digital Intelligence along with it.

What do you think of the idea of Digital Intelligence and have you done anything recently to develop yours? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Photo credit: CPOA via flickr